Cheap Ways to Travel While Paying Off Debt

Julissa Treviño Updated on May 3, 2019

I've always loved the thrill of traveling and the chance to explore a new place and meet new people. But when I was a broke graduate with student loan debt, traveling was hard to do.

Not only did I not have the money, every personal-finance tip seemed to be saying the same thing: put every extra penny toward paying off debt. However, it doesn't have to be that way. 

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There are plenty of cheap ways to travel while still paying off your debt, especially if you can find ways to lower your student loan payments or refinance to get a lower interest rate on your student loans first.

Ready to hit the road? Here are a few of tried-and-true tips for traveling on a budget.

House-swap or pet sit

If you have a home or apartment in a desirable city, chances are you can find someone across the country or elsewhere in the world to swap homes with you for a certain amount of time.

Websites like are dedicated to this exchange. Most site like this charge a registration fee, but it can be well worth it if it makes it easier for you to find a good match.

If you don't have a place that you can swap, consider pet sitting for someone. Sometimes these arrangements can even be found through networking with your own social group.

Making this sort of arrangement can free up a lot of money, since accomodations are usually one of the biggest expenses on a trip.

Travel close to home

Your travels don't have to take you across the ocean. Especially when you're on a budget, finding a new city to visit in your own state or region is a great way to scratch the travel itch without breaking the bank.

Chances are there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of places nearby you've never been to. Since you likely don't need to fly, you can travel cheaply by bus (Megabus and Goto Bus offer incredibly cheap bus tickets, some staring at $5 or $10) or train (while this takes longer, a trip is mostly about the journey, right?). 

Find shared rides

Another way to cut costs is to find shared rides through websites like, and

On these sites, users post rides they're taking and offer to take passengers in exchange for a small fee or gas money. You can also find these groups on Facebook. 

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As a volunteer, you'll get a completely different travel experience — and potentially free. 

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one example of an online platform that links volunteers with organic farmers and growers around the world as part of a non-monetary exchange. Farmers and other hosts post their needs for help on the site, offering volunteers room and sometimes board. Interested volunteers can choose the location and host that best meets their needs.

It's a win-win and a low-cost way to travel.

Look for free activities

Big cities usually have no shortage of free cultural events and attractions.

In New York City, you can people watch at Central Park or the High Line, or explore the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

In Paris, Sacre Coeur and entrance to famous cathedral Notre Dame are always free. In Chicago, check out the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Chicago Cultural Center. 

Goes to show you don't need to spend money to have a good time. 

Buy groceries instead of eating out

Eating the local fare is among the top cultural experiences you can have while traveling. But if you're serious about staying on a tight budget, skip the sit-down meals.

This doesn't mean you have to forego local food; instead, buy street food or items from the groceries that are still native to that city or country. It all depends on how you prioritize your travel money, but this can save you a lot of cash for other parts of your trip.

Make some long-term travel plans

Now that you have some ideas for traveling on a budget, look for long-term ways to save on your student loans, like refinancing, so that you travel more in the future. Our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator can give you an estimate on how much you can save.

Published in: Financial Freedom

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño

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