Monday Money: How I Afford to Travel as a Student

I travel a lot, but at the end of the day I am just a University student who works casually as a gym attendant. I’m not exactly raking in the cash, and yet, I plan overseas holidays at every available opportunity without loans or credit card debt.

The biggest tip I can give you so that you can enjoy travel without falling into the credit card void is don’t organise holidays at the last minute. In order to travel as cheaply as possible while still maintaining the level of comfort I prefer, I like to start planning at least six months out, if not longer. This gives me time to pay for things as I go, rather than having one giant bill to foot all at once. It’s a lot less daunting to pay off a few thousand dollars over the course of twenty pay periods than it is to end up with a single debt of that same amount.

Take for instance my upcoming trip to the USA. I’ve known for about a year that my friend would be getting married in July, so I had a vague itinerary planned that was just waiting for official dates. As soon as she gave me the wedding date, I was able to confirm my itinerary and start the booking process. At the moment, every time I get paid, I pay for part of the trip. I’m currently still purchasing all of my transport, but after I book my next three trains, I’ll be on to my accommodation. Accommodation is different as all of the places I book are pay on arrival (in order to allow the greatest flexibility with cancellation, and also so I’m not stuck with huge amounts to pay at once – I don’t get paid that much each week and a girl’s gotta eat!), but I have a separate bank account set up that holds the money needed until I reach each venue.

I love a good spreadsheet, and so when I plan my itinerary I colour code each item so that I know whether it’s booked but unpaid, or whether I’ve booked and paid for it, meaning it’s one extra thing to cross off my list. I then keep a running total at the bottom of the spreadsheet of how much I need to pay, and the different sections of the trip those costs belong to (accommodation, transport, activities, etc.). This means that at a glance, I can see how much of the trip is paid off, and how much more money I need to have before I go. If you’re not going to have all your travel and accommodation paid for (or at least, have the money ready to pay) before you leave for your trip, it’s my opinion that you need to re-evaluate your planning. Travel is great, but not when it puts you into debt – it’s better to wait a bit longer and have enough to pay everything off before just putting everything on your credit card.

I do have a confession in terms of the above, however. While I don’t have a credit card and would never take out a loan to travel, those who know me know that I am guilty of relying on the Bank of Mum and Dad. My parents support my travel habits by paying for me on family holidays, and I did go a fair bit into debt to them during my last trip to the USA. That said,  as soon as I got back, I created a repayment plan and had paid the amount back in full before I began planning this trip. I’m lucky to have generous parents, but I also know that you can’t be unrealistic and travel outside your means. It’s my goal going forward to not have to borrow any money in order to travel, so we’ll see how that goes.

How do you prefer to pay for your trips – pay as you go, or all at once? Do you think it’s okay to rely on loans in order to travel?

And for a laugh, the Betoota Advocate were on point with this article relating to travel and debt. 


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