5 ways you can travel for the holidays even if you have student loans

4 tips for traveling cheap from a penny-pincher

With the holidays rolling in, many people are planning to travel to visit a loved one. And travelers with student loans, specifically, are expecting to spend nearly $2,000 each on travel expenses. So they're getting creative.

Student Loan Hero conducted a survey of more than 1,000 individuals to find the top five ways borrowers are planning to pay for their travel costs without digging into savings.

Nearly 21 percent say they plan to cut back on dining out and entertainment, 20 percent plan to travel to a more affordable destination, 18 percent will take up a side gig, 11 percent plan to sell unwanted items and 8 percent don't plan to buy gifts this year.

There are lots of good ways to cut back on travel expenses, too, Ben Luthi, lead researcher on the survey, tells Student Loan Hero. Here are five suggestions.

1. Road trip

"If you're unsure about whether you can afford holiday travel, rethink your approach. Taking a road trip can save you hundreds of dollars, even if you need to stay overnight along the way," says Luthi.

This idea has been embraced by the 43 percent of respondents who plan to drive to their holiday destinations. Two-thirds of those drivers expect to spend less than $200 on gas, the survey says. That's compared to 55 percent who plan to fly, with more than half of those flyers expecting to spend between up to $750 on airline tickets and 17 percent expending to spend more than $1,000.

The No. 1 travel hack from a CEO who has flown more than 500 times

2. Couchsurf

You could also stay with family or friends. 60 percent of respondents plan to pay for their own accommodations, and more than half of them expect to spend more than $500. Sleeping on someone's blow-up bed might be less luxurious but it'll save you a bundle.

3. Rethink gifts

Try cutting some pricier but less important items out of your budget, like expensive gifts. Try these 20 great gifts for under $25 instead.

4. Spend smart

The survey says that 36 percent of borrowers plan to use a credit card to book their holiday travel. If you're one of them, take advantage of any frequent-flyer miles, hotel rewards or other rewards points you may have. Just be sure you can pay that bill in full now to avoid having to pay lots of interest later.

Travel cheap without breaking the bank

5. Choose paper over plastic

After shelling out for the main expenses, consider using cash for the rest of your trip. Research shows it's "more painful" watching paper bills disappear than it is to swipe away digital funds, so using cash could lead to spending less.

More than 44 million Americans have taken out student loans to pay for school and their debt totals $1.4 trillion. "Adding more to [that debt] to pay for a vacation can exacerbate the problem," the survey says.

But if you stick to these rules and remain aware of your spending, you'll be able to travel for the holidays without breaking the bank.

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