At first glance, traveling for postgrads with copious amounts of loans seems like an unwise financial decision. With interest piling up, it’s tempting to put off a trip in favor of the decision to save money. I’ve recently discovered that in addition to being a wonderful experience, taking a trip once in awhile doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it’s actually inspired me to be even more vigilant with my loans while I’m working the nine to five grind (mostly because I fell in love with big cities while traveling, and am excited to move to a larger place – whatever works, right?)
We all know the benefits of travel at our age: it opens us to new experiences and new ways of thinking, we don’t have overwhelming responsibilities at the moment, and it gives us a reprieve from the stress of attempting to follow our chosen career paths. I’m not advocating for forgoing loan payments in exchange for jetting off to places unknown; rather, that the occasional trip can be a refreshing, inspiring time that doesn’t have to throw off your repayment plan. Here are a few tips to make your getaway as budget-friendly as possible:
1. Plan Your Trip in Advance
If you’re able, try to plan out your trip several months in advance. Plane tickets are usually cheaper when they aren’t purchased only a few weeks before the flight, and when you give yourself a buffer of several months, you have the flexibility to re-check ticket prices until you find the cheapest options. There are typically certain days that are more inexpensive to fly, so if you can, try to be flexible about your arrival and return dates.
2. Compare Hotel and Airbnb Prices
Thankfully, there are plenty of options these days for accommodations once you reach your destination. Between regular hotels and Airbnbs, you should be able to find an affordable place if you book it in advance. When reserving a space, be sure to read plenty of reviews to make sure the lodging is reputable. Your safety is worth spending a few extra dollars.
3. Downsize Your Travel Necessities
As a chronic over-packer, my speaking on this subject should be prefaced with the old adage “do as I say, not as I do.” I’m slowly but surely becoming a better packer, but I still tend to bring more than I need. As difficult as it may be, try your best to fit your belongings into a carry-on. Leave a little extra space for purchases, but really think hard about packing that fourth pair of shoes (as I recently found out, they’re usually not necessary.) By foregoing a checked bag, you’ll save money, time spent in the baggage claim, and the worry of an airline potentially losing your suitcase between planes.
4. Set Yourself a Budget for the Trip
Figure out what you’ll realistically need to spend on food, transportation, a few souvenirs, etc, and religiously keep track of your spending. If you go into your vacation with an idea of how much money you want to spend, it’ll be easier to resist making excessive purchases. Give yourself some grace if you do go over budget, but try to stick to your predetermined amount as much as possible.
5. Scout Out Affordable Eats
Sometimes local or regional restaurants boast some of the cheapest and best food. Do some research and find affordable places in the area. On my recent trip to the West coast, I happily ate In-N-Out in each of the three cities I visited, a decision that made both me and my wallet very happy.
6. Explore Transportation Options
While on vacation, check out the public transportation options. If those are non-existent or don’t appeal to you, download both Uber and Lyft and check before each ride to see which is least expensive. If your schedule is flexible, choose the wallet-friendly “pool” or “line” option. It’ll allow you to share your ride with several other people, and while you may wait a bit longer to reach your destination, it’ll save you a few extra dollars.