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Holiday Travel: 7 Questions to Ask Before Packing Your Bags

4 Minute Read

On the fence about that holiday trip? We get that.

You may be itching to go somewhere warm and tropical or you may just want to visit your Great-Aunt Edna. But you aren’t sure how to make it work. Your schedule is too full. Your bank account is too empty. Or you have a big upcoming expense that may trump the trip.

So how do you know if it makes sense to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Here are seven questions to help you decide:

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1. Can you afford it?

It’s a simple question, yet so many people just hit the road this time of year without thinking of how they’ll pay for their getaway. Will all those gas fill-ups, hotel stays, and fast-food visits end up on the credit card? If so, you’ll be lucky to have it paid off by Memorial Day. A better idea is to save and pay for the trip with cash.

2. Will you enjoy the trip?

Don’t go somewhere because you think you have to. The holidays are crazy enough without the pressure of squeezing a vacation into the mix. Feel free to cut yourself some slack. You shouldn’t feel obligated to go visit family if your budget can’t afford it. Santa won’t put you on his naughty list for passing on holiday travel.

3. Do you have existing debt?

It’s a lot easier to pay for a trip when you aren’t throwing your money at American Express or car payments every month. Worrying about bills back at home will suck the joy out of a vacation faster than you can say “fa la la la la.” Stick to short family trips that you can pay cash for until you clean up your debts.

4. Will the trip mess up future plans?

Let’s say you have a teenager who is headed to college next fall. You can see that coming. If you don’t have any cash saved to pay for it, then a trip isn’t a good idea. The same goes if there is a job layoff on the horizon, or a wedding, new baby, relocation for work, or some other big expense. Don’t spend now and wonder how you will pay later.

5. Are you behind on your bills?

Don’t spend money on a vacation when you aren’t even current on your credit card or student loan. You wouldn’t enjoy yourself anyway with collectors constantly calling your cell phone when you’re gobbling up turkey around the family dinner table. Instead of spending on a trip, why not get an extra job, make a budget, and clean up your financial house before the New Year? Then you can hit the road in late 2015 with more cash and less stress.

6. Have you seen these relatives recently?

If you had dinner with visiting family members in the last three months but can’t afford to go see them, then stay home for now. You can call or Skype with them. You can always make plans to see them next year when you are in better financial shape.

7. Will the cost of the trip eat up your income?

Say you earn $40,000 a year. For that income, a $5,000 getaway is over the top. If you can’t pull off a trip that is more reasonable, then don’t go. Or look for ways to cut costs by driving instead of flying, going somewhere where lodging is free (Hi, Grandma!), or packing a cooler of food instead of eating out.

Right now, your money situation may keep you from traveling for the holidays. And although that may disappoint you, use that emotion as motivation to get your money in order so you have more freedom next year. Holiday vacations can be fun—just make sure you don’t wreck your sanity or savings account in the process.

If you have decided to travel this holiday season, check out Dave Ramsey's Starter Special for various digital resources for your journey!

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