It would be easy to get the impression that travel is the most important thing ever from all the articles and social media posts about it. You constantly hear about how transformative travel is and that everyone should do it.
Although travel does have quite a few benefits, there’s also a drawback to the obsession with wanderlust. Those who don’t have the money to travel, especially young adults, can get the idea that travel is more important than financial stability. Some use all their savings to travel. Others take it a step further and go into debt to take a trip, either through credit cards or travel loans.
It’s understandable why you’d want to travel even if your financial situation isn’t the best, and there are plenty who would tell you, “Go for it!” or “Carpe diem!” But if you’re having money problems, travel is the last thing you should be considering. Here’s why.
1. It costs you money
Although budget-conscious consumers can find plenty of ways to save money on travel, trips always cost you.
Airfare and accommodations are usually the two biggest expenses. Even in a best-case scenario where you use points from travel credit cards to cover those, you still need to account for food costs. And not every fun activity you want to do will be free.
You’ll end up spending money you don’t have on what’s ultimately a luxury expense. Despite the benefits of travel, it’s a want, not a need. When your financial situation isn’t stable, a smarter approach is to avoid unnecessary spending.
2. You’ll need to take time off
Another consequence of travel is that it requires you to take time away from your other responsibilities.
If you have a job or any other source of income, you’ll be taking a break from that while you travel. Unless you have paid time off saved up at your work, you’ll miss out on pay for every day that you’re gone on your trip.
That means travel ends up hitting your bank account in two ways. The trip itself costs you money, and the days you take off cut into your income.
3. The financial stress will affect your trip
As you probably know, financial stress isn’t something you can turn on and off. It’s on your mind all the time, which we confirmed in our study on the psychological effects of debt. When we surveyed those with debt, more than 2 in 3 people reported that they think about their debt several times per week or more.
You may hope to forget about your money problems while you’re on vacation, but that’s unlikely. The more likely outcome is that those worries put a damper on what should be an enjoyable experience. Instead of being a source of pleasure or excitement, you’ll constantly be asking yourself, “Can I afford this?”
4. You’ll be in more trouble if anything goes wrong
There’s a lot that can go wrong when you travel. A pickpocket could steal your wallet or cell phone. You could get sick and need medical treatment. You could miss your flight home and need to buy an expensive last-minute ticket.
When you’re financially stable, these kinds of problems are frustrating but manageable. When your finances aren’t the best, it’s a different story. A lost phone, a missed flight, or any other unexpected expense will make your situation even worse. It could push you into debt, or, if you’re already carrying balances on your credit cards, the extra bills will mean you have even more to pay off.
5. You’ll be pushing off your problems for later
Whatever your financial troubles are, you’ll need to fix them eventually. And you’ll likely find that the longer you wait, the more difficult the task becomes.
You can go on a vacation to try to take your mind off these issues, but once it’s over, you’ll find yourself back to square one. The only difference is that your problems will be even worse because of the cost of your trip and the money you did not earn while you were away.
Financial stability first, vacations later
As tempting as it is to travel and escape from your ordinary routine, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress by making financial stability your priority. You don’t need to be rich to travel, but you should have a solid emergency fund, no credit card debt, and enough income that you’re comfortably paying your bills and saving some money every month.
Don’t pay credit card interest until 2021
The Ascent just released a free credit card guide that could help you pay off credit card debt once and for all. Inside, you’ll uncover a simple debt-cutting strategy that could save you $1,863 in interest charges paying off $10,000 of debt. Best yet, you can get started in just three minutes!
The Motley Fool owns and recommends MasterCard and Visa, and recommends American Express.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.