Now that the summer travel season is coming to an end, you may be left with more than the usual collection of sunburn, bug bites and embarrassing photos. You may also be stuck with a big pile of debt. Maybe you decided to splurge on a nice resort. Maybe the plane tickets were especially expensive this summer, or you had to deal with an emergency while en route.
Whatever the cause, the summer travel season often leaves consumers with a debt hangover.
"It wouldn't be unusual for someone to go on a trip and spend more money than they had expected to," says Gerry Detweiler, Credit.com's consumer credit expert.
If you find yourself with debt left over from travel, here are five tips for how to get out of it -- and avoid the same problem next summer.
Get started now. If you charged summer travel expenses on a credit card, don't get lured into making just the minimum monthly payment. Doing so could leave you stuck in debt for years over a trip that lasted just a few days or weeks.
And you might just need to use that same credit card sooner than you think.
"Pay for it as soon as you can, especially since the holidays are coming up," says Barry Paperno, Credit.com's Community Manager and a credit scoring expert.
Transfer the Balance. If your credit score is high enough, you may be getting offers in the mail that would let you transfer the balance from your old credit card to a new one. Usually these offers come with a grace period, during which time you pay zero interest. Sometimes the zero interest lasts for six months, but offers of 18 months with zero interest are not unheard of.
Taking advantage of a balance transfer offer like this could save you lots of money every month in interest charges. It's especially useful if you think you can pay off the entire balance before the end of the zero-interest period.
"Balance transfers could be a good idea," Paperno says. "If you have a good credit score, and you can get zero percent interest for six months or a year, it makes sense."
Personal loan.If you're paying a lot of money in interest, especially on multiple credit cards and loans, explore your options for consolidating all of your debts into a low-interest personal loan, Detweiler says. Start with your own bank or credit union first, and then shop around for the best interest rate you can find.
Find a Better Card. If you plan to do a lot of traveling next summer, consider switching to a credit card that offers better travel-related rewards. Different cards offer different kinds of rewards that can save you a lot of money on airfare, hotels and car rentals. To see Credit.com's latest ratings of the best travel credit cards, click on our recent story here.
Start Planning Next Year's Trip Now.Travel rewards the prepared. If you're booking your flight and hotel a week before you leave town, you'll probably spend a lot more than if you had started to make reservations a few months before.
So start early, and be realistic about what you can afford. If unexpected expenses came up this year, how can a little planning help you avoid them next summer?
"Taking on too much debt for summer travel sounds like a bad idea," Paperno says. "So maybe plan a little better next time for that emergency or unexpected expense."
By Christopher Maag. This post originally appeared on Credit.com. Christopher Maag is a contributing writer to the site.