How We Travel Without Using Credit

Last Updated on March 29, 2016 by Jody Halsted

Paying cash for travel. How we travel without credit. FamilyRambling.com

I’m going to tell you how my family can travel without using credit, but first I think it’s only fair to begin this post with a disclaimer…

Being a travel blogger has it’s perks- one of those being the ‘FAM trip’. FAM, or familiarization, trips seem to be the holy grail of travel blogging. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to travel for free?

But, like anything, the reality is not as wonderful as the dream. The ‘completely free’ FAM trip is rare. And forget the thought of relaxing… a FAM trip is usually a jam-packed itinerary designed to see as much as possible in a short period of time, barely scratching the surface of the places you visit, and often with a minibus filled with other writers. Days begin early and last well into the night as you write blog posts or, at the very least, short social media updates to post the next day, and edit images.

In other words- it’s work.

And while I love my work, when I’m visiting someplace I truly prefer to experience it, enjoying the destination at my own pace – and usually with my family.

Truth: I accept very few press trips. Less than 1% of my travel is comped.

Given that we travel quite a lot you’re probably thinking that we have loads of credit cards and debt.


So…  If I’m not accepting free travel and I’m not running up credit card debt how do we afford to travel so much?

I’m so glad you asked!

Family Zipline Adventure in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Ziplining in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

How We Afford to Travel Without Using Credit

No, we aren’t independently wealthy (wouldn’t that be amazing?) We just made the choice to have travel be a big part of our life. To travel without using credit, or let your vacation follow you home in the form of debt, means looking at travel a different way. Instead of it being something you ‘earn’ for all your hard work, it is something you work toward and achieve.

The first, and hardest part: No money, no trip. It’s harsh, but simple. While paying off debt can be hard, the benefits -less stress, more money in your bank account, freedom from bills- is so worth the short-term pain.

Two Methods to Pay off Debt (we used the snowball method)

Travel is a Lifestyle Choice

How does travel fit into your lifestyle? For us it is more important than cable TV, dining at restaurants, new gadgets & gizmos, and other non-essentials that are so easy to buy.

Look at your life. What can you cut out to help pay for travel?

Changing how you view travel makes a huge impact, as well. Travel doesn’t have to mean big, expensive trips. Day trips within a couple hours of home, or even quick overnight jaunts are travel! You don’t have to cross an ocean or visit an expensive destination to explore unknown areas or make amazing memories!

Make a Budget

The first time you make a budget and see where every. single. penny is going you will be shocked. It’s hard to see the raw truth of where your money goes. But it’s essential.

How to create a simple budget

Now that you know where your money is going it’s easy to see where you can make changes and save for travel.

Save and Pay Cash

While you’re working on that personal budget why not make a vacation budget for the next trip you want to take? The first step to any plan to to know where you wish to end.

You can use a debit card in the same way you use a credit card – but without accruing debt. Debit card tips:

  • Visa debit card has the same protections as a credit card.  That means zero liability on fraudulent activity.  Which means it is safe to take on vacation.
  • Let your bank know before you go overseas.  If they don’t know you are gone, or see a lot of overseas activity on your card they could freeze it.
  • Increase your daily limits before you leave on vacation- just to be sure you can buy that “must have” souvenir.
  • Take the time to speak to a person- and get their name- at rental car agencies and hotels when you make your reservations.  Get their debit card policies.  I’ve never had a problem using a debit card, but I’ve heard that some people have.  Take notes: dates, name of the person you spoke to (try to talk to a manager), any “hold” amounts that may be charged, and how long the “hold” will last.
  • Know your daily and total vacation budget, just in case you don’t have access to online banking while you’re away.  Knowing how much you can spend per day will keep you on budget.

Yes, I do Have a Credit Card

Full disclosure: I do have a credit card. It’s a Capital One World Venture Card. And I have it for a single purpose: it is one of very few credit cards that will cover car rental insurance in Ireland. I use it rarely and when I do I pay it off before interest charges set in.

Because I would rather have the money to travel than pay interest to the credit card company!

Do you travel without using credit? How do you do it? What tips would you share?


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