Traveling in retirement is the most common dream. Ask anyone about their retirement plans, and you will find something in common – a desire to see the world.
According to the Transamerica Retirement Survey, almost 70 percent of American workers want to travel the world in retirement.
Why? Because retirement is the ideal time of life to travel, enjoy and get a taste of places you could not afford to experience when you were younger. But travel as a dream often gets left unfulfilled because many people worry about the high costs of travel.
These 25 practical tips with help you get the most out of your money and still have an amazing travel experience in retirement.
1. Book in Advance.
Booking in advance is definitely worth it. Specifically, plane tickets do not get cheaper closer to the departure date.
The best time to book a flight is between 4 months and 3 weeks before the departure date when the tickets are most inexpensive. Similarly, you get extra time to compare hotel rates. Even planning as little as a month in advance is beneficial for your money because it gives you time to create a vacation budget.
2. Look for Last Minute Deals.
There are so many websites offering last-minute deals. In retirement, you can stay flexible so you can save a ton of money on travel expenses.
Here are a few sites to look at:
3. Be flexible with your travel dates.
When you are retired, you do not need to travel on a specific date and be home by a certain time. This flexibility can save you significant money.
In general, to get cheaper domestic flights fly on Tuesday or Wednesday or in the afternoon on Saturday.
Another tip is to avoid buying tickets on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday – these days are the most expensive to book airline tickets. Wait until Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday when there not so many people browsing the internet to book the flights.
4. Fly when no one else wants to.
Another way to save money is to fly an early-morning or late-night flight.
You can significantly cut the costs of your airline tickets if you choose to fly between 5 and 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Prices are also cheaper if you fly after the major holiday or on the day of a holiday.
Thanksgiving and the eves and days of Christmas and New Year are the most affordable days to fly.
5. Be flexible with the dates for your stay.
Having a flexible schedule can help you save money not only on airfare but also on lodging.
Traveling over the weekends will usually be more expensive. Choosing a destination’s high season will most likely cost you more money as well.
While doing your research, see what the accommodation rate is when just changing the date by a day, by a week, or more. I recently looked at a hotel that charged over $900 a night for a room. Then a few weeks later, they had the same room for $200 a night. That is a huge difference for the same room.
6. Sign Up for Email Alerts.
You should sign up for free email alerts from your favorite airlines or other travel sites to get an early access to coupon codes and flash sales.
7. Buy your plane tickets at the right time.
According to a CheapAir.com survey, for a domestic trip, you should buy your tickets 21 to 115 days before your trip.
Ticket prices within this window will be within 5% of their lowest price. For an international flight, you should book your plane tickets at least 6 months in advance.
8. Find more affordable travel destinations.
When you are on the road, it can be hard to stick with your budget.
Luckily, there are plenty of affordable destinations out there. Some travel destinations will always be cheaper than others, so you can travel on a dime and still enjoy yourself.
You may want to do a Google search for the cheapest places to travel to learn what your options are. You can find ideas for places to stay in the US or abroad. Research your destinations in advance to calculate potential costs.
10 Best Places to Travel on a Budget.
9. Get creative with transportation.
Transportation is often a deal breaker while traveling on a budget.
The hardest part is finding the right plane ticket. But there are a few strategies you can use to make your destination affordable.
Airplane tickets become very expensive with the additional cost of reserving a seat, extra fares for check-in luggage, carry-on bags, food, in-flight entertainment, and more.
The best way to find a cheap flight is to compare prices. We use Skyscanner, Kayak, and Expedia to compare ticket prices and make sure we get the best deal.
There are a few other ways to cut costs on airline tickets:
- Let the airline choose your seat.
- Bring your own food.
- Do not purchase in-flight movies and TV shows.
Once you get overseas, you can save money on popular budget airlines like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, or Wizz Air. You can fly between European cities for as low as 50 dollars.
10. Find cheaper ways to get around your destination.
Depending on where you travel in retirement, there may be many ways to get around.
If you are traveling on a budget in Europe, use their affordable public transportation. Nearly every European city has a fine network of subways, buses, trains, and trams. If renting a car is your favorite option go for it, just remember that in many cases it won’t be cheap.
Traveling by train is a great way to get around different areas, even to different countries. Reclining seats, Wi-Fi, and clean toilets allow you to travel in related comfort.
You might fly to Paris, Madrid or Rome and then travel by train to nearby countries or regions.
Keep in mind that traveling by train can cost more than by bus unless you have a rail pass or book your tickets a few weeks in advance.
The best way to buy European train tickets is through websites like Trainline, Omio, or RailEurope.
For example, if you travel around Italy, the high-speed train tickets will be more expensive (around 50-70 euros per ticket) than Italy’s regional trains.
Rick Steves gives a great overview of Italy’s rail passes and train tips.
11. Travel Overnight.
You can save money on a train or bus ticket by choosing an overnight route since they are less popular than day trips or flights.
Generally, bus and train tickets are often cheaper than plane tickets, especially if you are traveling long distances. In fact, sometimes it is cheaper to take a bus than to drive. Also, traveling by bus and train is often cheaper than flying because you can take more with you before paying extra baggage fees.
Additionally, if you travel overnight, you will save some money on accommodation as well since you will be spending the night traveling. However, it can be well worth the money, but it won’t be the most comfortable sleep ever.
12. Bring your own snacks.
If you are traveling on a budget in retirement, keep in mind that food makes up 16% of your travel budget.
Plan ahead and pack snacks to avoid making a hole in your budget fast. Granola bars, mixed nuts, fruit snacks, or cookies are never a bad idea to have in your bag rather than buy them at the airport.
Even when you go out on a tour or excursion, carry something to nibble, like fruit, nuts, or a baguette, so you won’t be starving every time you sit down to eat and order more food than you need.
13. Save on baggage fees.
Nobody likes paying for their bags when traveling by air, especially on a budget.
Check your airline policies and fees for both checked and carry-on bags. If you always fly with a certain airline, you may want to open one of its credit cards to avoid a checked bag fee. Plus, as a bonus, one of your travel companions on the reservation can enjoy a free bag as well.
Also, you can save money on baggage fees if you are packed light, and you won’t have to pay for checking in bags. Checking a bag may cost $30 or more for the first bag, and it’s even more if you have to check a second bag.
Packing light can also reduce your travel stress. Apart from avoiding additional fees, traveling only with carry-on means you don’t have to wait in line at the baggage claim, there is no lost baggage, and there is less to carry around. Real winner!
14. Find inexpensive housing.
Next to finding a cheap flight, finding inexpensive accommodation will have the biggest impact on your budget.
Everyone likes to splurge on fancy hotels but staying at the hotel while traveling on a budget is not the best option. Staying at someone’s house or condo can be more comfortable and affordable.
Consider staying at a pension (local boarding house) or B&B (bed and breakfast) so you can live like a local.
Depending on the type of accommodation you choose and the city (or a country) you are visiting, you could be spending from $50 to $300 or $400 per night.
15. Rent an Airbnb.
Renting an Airbnb is much cheaper. It is an ideal option for staying in one place for several weeks or even months.
This will allow you to save money on lodging and food because you will have access to a kitchen to cook your own meals. You can buy food at local stores and prepare it at home or ask your host for budget-friendly local places to eat.
Additionally, you can ask your host for some advice on places to see, shop and eat as a local.
Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Exchange are the websites that can help you save money on accommodation.
16. Cut travel costs on food.
Food is another big travel expense. Eating out three meals a day can take a big bite out of your travel budget.
According to Business Insider reports, you can expect to spend an average of $71 per person at fine-dining restaurants and that does not include tax and tip.
Many restaurants have the same menu for lunch and dinner, but they mark up the prices for dinner.
One of my favorite ways to save money on food while traveling is to eat a big lunch. Eating a bigger lunch will fill you up, so you can still have a small dinner at the end of the day.
17. Eat like a local.
Another way to cut travel costs on food is to go and shop at the local markets.
You can make your own breakfast or cook dinner with fresh ingredients instead of spending money at an expensive restaurant.
The best way to get a more authentic experience is to eat at local cafes and bakeries or find mom-and-pop diners.
18. Cut travel costs on activities and entertainment.
No matter where you travel, there are so many things to do that will cost you little or no money at all.
If you are first time in the city, check out the popular tourist attractions. Many historical buildings, churches, and sites do not cost money to view.
Hiking the trails, spending time on the beach, or checking out nature usually does not cost you money. If you bring your own lunch and water, you can have an amazing day outdoors without paying a fortune.
Many cities offer free local walking tours. But you need to do research and plan ahead of time to reserve your spot.
9 Best Websites to Book Free Walking Tours
19. Travel in the mid or off-season.
There is peak season and there is off-season for traveling. Traveling during the peak season is always going to cost you more than traveling during the mid or off-peak season.
You can cut the costs on plane tickets, hotels, food, museums, and tours. When places on your bucket list are less crowded, they are also less expensive.
Being retired means you can be flexible and avoid the touristy season with inflated prices so your trip will become more affordable. For example, summer (and winter in some places) is the busiest travel season for tourists in Europe.
Therefore, spring and fall are good for traveling on a budget. You can enjoy mild weather, smaller crowds, natural beauty, and low prices. However, the Caribbean islands are a good place to travel during the summer. It is cheaper because of the hot weather and hurricane season.
20. Go for longer trips and keep expenses low.
I would recommend traveling slowly if you want to cut the cost of your travel expenses in retirement. Staying put in one place longer will allow you to reduce the costs of tickets and accommodation.
For example, going on a trip to Paris would cost about $1,350 from Boston airport (round trip ticket), and a mid-range hotel about $250 per night. Overall, you can spend around $2,850 for transportation and accommodations on a one-week trip.
You can stretch that trip to two weeks and the price will only go up to $1500 for the hotel since you do not have to pay for the plane ticket for your second week.
The trick is to spend more time in one place so you can reduce your per-day travel expenses by spreading the cost of an airplane ticket over a long trip.
21. Sign up for a hotel loyalty card.
No matter where you travel, sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card so you can earn a free hotel stay in the future.
The loyalty programs are typically 100 % free. You can accrue points with your membership card and possibly your travel credit card too.
There are also other benefits to signing up for these cards. Sometimes you can get free hotel room upgrades, early check-ins, late check-outs, and additional discounts.
Best Hotel Loyalty Programs and How to Maximize Their Benefits.
22. Get a Travel Insurance.
The one thing that you cannot afford to do when traveling on a budget in retirement is to get sick. That is why you should seriously consider buying travel insurance.
This is an extra expense that can save you a lot of money if you were to get hurt or sick in a foreign country. Keep in mind that Medicare wouldn’t cover any medical/ emergency expenses when you are out of the country.
Make sure that your trip doesn’t turn up as a disaster and protect yourself from flight cancellations, delays, and lost luggage, especially when you consider flying with several stopovers.
The 4 Best Travel Insurance Companies.
Best Senior Travel Insurance by Forbes Advisor
23. Get a Local Sim Card.
Using roaming on your iPhone can increase your travel expenses fast.
Try to get a local Sim Card and use that phone plan for internet access while traveling. This way you can stay connected with family and friends back home without worrying about extra international charges.
When you arrive in a new country, just go to a local telecom store (the equivalent of Verizon or AT&T) and buy a temporary Sim Card.
24. Get a travel reward card.
If you do not have a credit card with travel benefits, then get one.
Travel credit cards are very popular because they give you cash back or points and travel rewards. You can collect airline miles and hotel points, or pay no foreign transaction fees while shopping.
A Chase Sapphire Preferred card is the most recommended by many travel blogs.
25. Rent out your home.
If you do not plan on selling your home, you can put it to work when you are away traveling.
The typical house exchange is an arrangement where you swap houses with somebody else in another country or city. It is a great way to vacation if you want to stay in one place for several weeks or a month.
For example, I live in Boston and am planning to spend three weeks in Madrid. If there is someone from Madrid who wants to visit Boston at the same time, we can do a house swap. That way, I will save money on lodging and get to experience a new city in Spain.