Traveling in retirement is the most common dream. Ask anyone about retirement plans and you will find something in common – a desire to travel and 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, to enjoy the views and taste of the places people could not afford to experience when they were younger. But travel as a dream often gets left unfulfilled because many people worry about the high costs of travel.
According to stats, an international trip typically costs up to five times higher and lasts three times longer than a domestic trip.
For those people who are still working, travel often means a rushed one-week or maximum of a two- week vacation. But when you retire you have more free time on your hands. And having more time on your hands means being more flexible. You can relax and enjoy your destinations at a slow pace. You can travel as long as you choose, and you can time your trips the way you want.
However, you have to be careful about how much you are spending because you are no longer receiving a regular salary and living on a fixed retirement income.
In this article, I have provided some helpful tips for your future travels in retirement and how to budget for it.
Pick destinations that off-season.
One of the biggest ways to cut your travel expenses is to travel during the off-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.
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.
Keep expenses low by traveling slow.
All travel blogs recommend traveling slow if you want to cut the cost of travel expenses. By staying put in one place longer will allow you to reduce the costs of tickets and accommodations. For example, going on a trip to Paris would cost me about $1,350 from Boston airport (round trip ticket) and a mid-range hotel about $250 per night. Overall, I will spend around $2,850 for transportation and accommodations on a one-week trip.
I can stretch that trip to two weeks and the price will go up only $1500 since I do not have to pay for the plane ticket for my second week. But if I choose to travel during the off-season, I will only pay half price for the same travel expenses.
Paris is a very expensive city, but you can keep travel expenses low by renting a room or an apartment instead of staying at the hotel. So, if I prefer to rent an Airbnb apartment the cost would go down to $100 per night and I can cut expenses on food and eating out.
Instead of rushing through the city or country, take more time and try to experience the destination more like local people would do. 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.
Cut travel costs on lodging.
The best way to avoid costly travel in retirement is to cut the costs of your lodging. Everyone likes to splurge on the fancy hotel. But if you are retired and traveling on a budget it is better to reduce your expenses by finding inexpensive lodging. 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.
B&Bs (bed and breakfast) often offer a better price than a hotel, homemade breakfast, and plenty of local flavors.
Airbnb is another popular option for travelers today offering to rent a room, a beautiful apartment, or the whole house. Renting an Airbnb is much cheaper and ideal for staying in one place for several weeks or even months. You can buy food at local stores and prepare it at home or ask your host for budget-friendly local places to eat. Every potential host has a profile with pictures of their accommodations and references from previous guests.
Debby and Michael Campbell have been traveling since 2013. They blogged about their travels at “Senior Nomads”. To help to budget their travels they stayed at over 270 Airbnb’s and called them home while traveling through 85 countries.
If you want to cut costs on lodging use vacation rental websites such as Airbnb and VRBO to stay in one place longer and cheaper.
Another way to save money on lodging is house sitting or house swapping. It became very popular among travelers of all ages.
House swap or house exchange.
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 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. Websites like Homestay.com and Lovehomeswap.com make it easy to find an available home and provide safety measures for your peace of mind.
Cut travel costs on transportation.
The cost of airline, train, and bus tickets, as well as renting a car or using a taxi, makes traveling expensive. But there are a few strategies you can use to make your traveling in retirement more affordable.
Airplane tickets became very expensive with an 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.
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 are not so many people browsing the internet to book the flights.
Even we are not retired yet, we always try to save money on airline tickets by flying during the middle of the week. We fly on Tuesdays or Wednesdays because no one wants to fly on these days and the airline tickets are the cheapest.
Another way to save money is to fly an early-morning or late-night flight. You can significantly cut the cost of your airline tickets if you choose to fly between 5 a.m. 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 the holiday. Once we flew back from Europe on the 4th of July day and Boston airport was completely empty.
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 fifty dollars.
Traveling in Europe is wonderful because just within a few hours you can be in another country. If you do not want to fly, you can choose fast and reliable public transportation such as a train or bus. If you are on a tight budget, buses are almost always your cheapest option. Reclining seats, Wi-Fi, clean toilets allow you to travel in related comfort if you do not mind spending hours on a highway.
Trains, unlike buses, go straight through the countryside. So instead of staring at the never-ending highway, you can see more of the quaint towns and scenic landscapes.
But 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.com.
For example, if you travel around Italy, the high-speed train tickets will be more expensive (around 50-70 euro per ticket) than Italy’s regional trains.
Rick Steves gives the great overview of Italy rail passes and train tips.
Cut travel costs on food.
Food is another big travel expense. Eating out three meals a day or just dining at fancy hotel restaurants 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 the fine dining restaurants (think ‘The Capital Grill’) and that does not include tax and tip.
Most people like to have pleasant dinner with appetizers, entrée, and dessert and splurge on expensive wine or cocktails. However, many restaurants have the same menu for lunch and dinner, but they mark up their 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, and you can still have a small and affordable dinner at the end of the day.
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. During our travels, we like to experience the local cuisine. That is why we prefer to find mom-and-pop diners or eat at local cafes and bakeries.
When we travel and stay in an Airbnb apartment instead of a hotel, I like to take advantage of the kitchen, refrigerator, and microwave. We typically eat breakfast at home, then go sightseeing and stop somewhere for a big lunch. At the end of the day, I will cook dinner and then we will go out to have a few drinks at a local bar. I have learned that eating out for every single meal puts a lot of pressure on your travel budget.
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 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 will need to do research and plan ahead of time to reserve your spot.
9 Best Websites to Book Free Walking Tours
Before going on a trip, I use a few websites to book our sightseeing or day tours and other activities:
Keep travel costs low and cut on buying the stuff.
When you travel on a budget in retirement, you should prioritize your spending. If you want to keep the travel costs low, choose to spend money on experiences rather than souvenirs or trinkets. When you are on the road for many months, you do not need to own many things. You can save a lot if you cut on buying the stuff and focus on experiences and living life.
When you experience something, you create longer-lasting memories. Browse local markets without buying anything, take a photo to preserve your travel memories, and post it on Instagram or Facebook.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about traveling in retirement. Whether it is a short road trip or a long journey around the world, you need to prepare for it thoroughly.
Are you planning to travel during retirement? How do you budget for your travels?
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Excellent information! A few of my friends have retired and been traveling since 2017. They sold their home and bought an RV. So far they traveled across the US and Central America and they loved it. I know that they live on a tight budget because they hope to make their savings stretch.
Great story! Thank you for sharing!
My brother and his wife are planning to become senior nomads after they retire in two years. They love to travel and want to see the world when they stop working. I will forward this article to them.
I am happy to know that you liked the article!