If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “travel while you're young,” I'd have enough money to actually travel while I'm young. Coming out of college, I was over $100,000 in the hole, and I'll be working for over 15 years before I can say I'm debt-free.
Without student loans, I've calculated I could afford to live comfortably in a two-bedroom apartment with a friend and to lease a brand new car. Without student loans, I'd be out of my parents' hair and their pockets.
Despite the pain I feel every time I pay off another loan bill, I've still managed to book a weekend in Toronto, a week in Florida and a week in Arizona. Vacationing is not impossible if you're in debt.
Here's how to enjoy summer vacation while paying off the most expensive piece of paper you've ever earned:
1. Book the trip in pieces.
I know it seems obvious, but booking a hotel one month and booking the flight another month won't make you feel like you're going overboard. You can pay for portions of the trip as you can afford it.
I used a small portion of my paycheck to pay for a place to stay in Florida about two months ago. A couple paychecks later, I used a small portion to book a flight. Over the next few months, I plan to pay for any entertainment available for pre-purchase.
Once I'm there, I'll only need to worry about paying for food. At that point, the money I've spent will be long gone, and I won't feel so guilty.
2. Make sure to pay credit card bills in full.
Before you even think about charging your credit card, be prepared to pay it in full when the bill comes in. You'll regret making small contributions each month when the charges pile up. If you can't afford to pay it all of now, don't book it.
3. Be patient.
I've been watching airline prices for a month and a half, patiently waiting for a low price. Don't jump on a flight as soon as you find something slightly satisfying. Use apps and discount websites to be sure you're finding the lowest price.
I spend my free time browsing the internet for travel tips and cheap arrangements. Researching low prices can be tiring and frustrating, but the amount of money you'll save is worth the effort.
4. Explore different options.
When you look to vacation in a popular spot, the prices will be inflated. A high demand means high prices. If you look, you will find hidden gems and things to do anywhere. Whether you're two hours from home or halfway around the world, you will find adventure. You don't have to go to popular vacation spots to relax, have fun and make memories.
There are many ways you can travel without digging deeper into debt. You have to be patient, creative and more willing to try something new, but it's not impossible. This truly is the best time to travel because you will discover a lot about yourself and the world.
Now is the time to save money to eventually move out of your childhood bedroom, but it's also the best time to splurge on yourself every once in a while. If you're lucky enough to be living at home without having to pay rent, take advantage of it. One day, you will be making enough to live on your own while paying your loans. By then, you may not feel comfortable enough to spoil yourself.
Take the first step, and look up your options now. Enjoy your youth, explore the world and escape the grip of debt.