The Cost of Travel – Is It Worth It?

by Beth Whitman (October 27th, 2008)


Over the last month, I’ve received several emails and a phone call from a woman (I’ll call her “L”) who is really interested in signing up for my Bhutan trip in April. She’s had lots of questions for me and I know that her desire is genuine.

Last week, L emailed me to say that she’s been daydreaming about the trip and trying to work out the financing. However, her car just broke down and her computer got a virus that she needed to deal with.

My advice?

As much as I would LOVE to have L on board, I told her what I recommend to everyone… Don’t go into debt in order to fund your travels (or anything else, for that matter). Ultimately, paying for your travels using a check or a credit card that you can’t pay off without incurring interest, only causes more stress while you’re traveling.

People have laughed at me over the years when I explain that I’d rather find a job on the road to pay for my expenses, than racking up credit card charges and having to pay them off when I return.

There are lots of ways to save money and tuck it away for your travels. To start:

1. Bring your lunch to work rather than going out daily

2. When you do go out to eat, don’t drink alcohol as there’s a huge markup on this

3. Make a commitment to not purchase any new products for a given amount of time

4. Pay attention to your grocery bills and shop at the cheapest store(s) for like-products.

Wanderlust and Lipstick blogger, Myscha, also blogs at Wisebread and has tons of tips for frugal living – use her suggestions to cut back on your monthly bills which will help pay for that next trip.

Look, I’m a huge advocate of travel and the value that it brings to our every day life. This trip to Bhutan might very well be the trip of a lifetime for L and the other women joining me. However, I’m not convinced that one should completely empty the piggy bank (and then some) to take a journey.

What do you think and how do you pay for your travels?

Travel Well!


Related links:
Beth’s Bhutan trip – April, 2009
4 Tips for Handling Money While You Travel
Sinking Dollar – 5 Destinations Where You’re Money is Still Good

MasterCard photo courtesy of SqueakyMarmot at Creative Commons

Read my travel blog on at the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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On October 27th, 2008 at 8:00 am, Lola said:

Sound advice!

On October 27th, 2008 at 10:50 pm, Marie said:

Beth, I know you’re right. But sometimes I feel like so much time and energy go to working and paying the bills that there is no money or time left to experience LIFE. I think traveling is living life to the full, so I occasionally rebel against the budget, take the trip, have the adventure, and figure out how to pay for it later.

Who knows? Maybe the well-traveled “me” will be better with her finances. Either way, I almost never regret the trip. I only regret that I don’t have more money!

On October 28th, 2008 at 2:16 am, Quinnette said:

I funded my trip around the world for a year by cashing in my 401K,(yes I know, you can all close your mouths now). The moon was in the 7th house and Jupiter aligned with mars and I decided I had both the time (I had quit my job) and a friend told me if I ran out of my money he would fund the rest, so I had this unique opportunity that I would have been insane not to take.

This trip has changed me in ways I never imagined and one of the ways now allows me to live minimally and more conscientiously. It has also shown me there are a number of places in the world I could live comfortably in retirement. I agree with Marie that travel is living life to the fullest, my only regret is coming back after only 1 year.

On October 28th, 2008 at 6:34 am, Craig said:

My wife and I have been living “on the road” for almost three years now. The longest we’ve been in one place is three months.

How did we do it? We worked very hard to become debt free before leaving then saved enough to buy what we needed and to have an emergency fund.

Then we made sure we had the visas we needed to work as we travelled. This is important for anyone who wants to do more than vacation.

We’ve put together a podcast on finding short term work overseas, which (if Beth allows the links) will be a good place to start.

On October 30th, 2008 at 7:38 am, Beth said:

@ Marie and Quinnette – OK, valid points. Travel does change us in ways that we could never imagine. But, I’d argue there are ways to cut back at home prior to a journey so we’re not in debt during the journey. Perhaps this doesn’t work for some folks…

@ Craig – Thanks for the links. I particularly like your suggestion about finding work abroad. I’ve taught English in Vietnam and worked several odd jobs in Australia to fund a year-long trip.

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