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Many of us dream about the day we can travel the world, unrestricted by paid time off or vacation days. Retirement offers just that and more. But how can you make those travel dreams come true on your retirement income?
You can frugal travel in retirement by arranging to swap homes with someone, taking advantage of those senior discounts, booking group adventures and tours, and carefully considering your budget. With just a little bit of forethought, you will be well on your way to saving money on travel expenses.
With many retirees on a fixed income, traveling can become a cost burden. If you are determined to travel during retirement on a budget, then this article is for you. There are many ways to frugal travel in retirement, so read on to see if any of these tips are right for you.
1. Arrange a Home Swap
In the popular Christmas movie, “The Holiday,” Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play two woefully single women living on opposite sides of the world who agree to swap houses for a much-needed break from reality. Diaz’s character ends up in a quaint English town, while Winslet finds herself in a Hollywood mansion.
Borrowing from this movie’s premise, one unique and exciting way to save money on your travel plans is to arrange a swap with another traveling retiree. In his arrangement, you are staying in someone else’s home for an agreed-upon amount of time while they stay at your home for that same period. Home swapping is an excellent money saver because it absolves both parties from paying for a hotel or other accommodations, which can add up quickly.
While you still have to pay for other travel expenses such as food and airfare, removing the burden of accommodation costs can potentially save you several hundred dollars. There are some logistical obstacles for this option, but you can work out the details with just a little time, organization, and planning.
Perhaps the ideal scenario is that you have a friend or family member with whom you can make this swap. Having a personal connection makes planning and communication a tad easier. However, it may be unlikely that you know someone interested and available during the dates you wish to travel.
Where to List Your Home?
Another option is to list your home on a website designed precisely for this purpose if that is the case. A London based company called Love Home Swap has created a platform for eager travelers just like you.
Users can add their home to the forum and begin searching for their next vacation destination. You can view homes in over 100 countries worldwide, with the most popular being in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy. The platform allows you to connect with homeowners from around the globe looking to visit your city.
Choosing to do a home swap has many benefits. You may find an opportunity to visit a destination you have always dreamed of, or perhaps you’ll find yourself visiting somewhere you learned about only recently. Regardless, there are a few things to keep in mind as you arrange your home swap to make for a smooth holiday for everyone.
- Ensure you and the other family are very clear about your shared expectations for the condition of the house, the terms of the stay, and the game plan for the worst-case scenario.
- Discuss ahead of time where to find nearby attractions, grocery stores, and other places that might be important for your stay.
- Both parties should be clear on where to find the house key upon arrival.
- Maintain close communication with the other person or family in the weeks leading up to the stay and during the visit, keeping abreast of any issues that might come up.
2. Seek Travel Companions
In the same vein as a house swap, finding someone to share some of the expenses can alleviate travel costs. This tip also involves identifying someone with whom you can communicate well and shares a few interests. A travel companion is great for solo travelers looking for some extra company or even couples who want to reduce the cost a little bit.
You might already have someone in mind who might make a great travel companion. If this is the case, you can start a casual conversation to gauge their interest in joining you for a trip and whether or not they would be a compatible partner.
This person should be dependable and have excellent communication skills. It should also be someone with whom you are happy and comfortable spending extended periods. If you think they would be a good fit, begin discussing ideal travel dates and locations.
Where to Find Travel Companions?
If you cannot think of anyone you already know that would make the right travel partner, don’t worry. There are a lot of ways to find like-minded retirees with whom to travel. You can find people with similar interests on websites such as MeetUp, make new friends at church or a neighborhood senior center, or meet new people doing your favorite hobbies.
The most significant way a travel companion will help you save money is in the accommodations. Hotels and bed and breakfasts can be one of the largest expenses of a trip, so splitting the cost with another person or family can allow you to spend more on adventures. However, travel companions can also reduce the cost burden of car rentals and gas and share the planning responsibilities.
Whether or not you have known the person for years or if this is a new friendship, there are few things you should discuss before you begin booking trip accommodations. As I mentioned in the section above, it is essential to discuss your expectations ahead of time. Consider things such as how you will divide the costs and what activities you will do alone or together. Being open and upfront about this ahead of time will make the trip pleasant for everyone.
3. Look for Discounts and Deals
Don’t be shy about asking for discounts. Many restaurants, grocery stores, and other establishments offer general and frequent discounts to seniors. You can only cash in on those discounts if you know about them, so here is a brief overview of where you might be able to save some money.
Are you a member of AARP? If not, you should consider it. Members of this organization have access to countless discounts for including shopping, financial planning, and of course, travel. If you are a current member, be sure to take advantage of these benefits. Some of them include:
Car rental discounts at Avis, Budget, Zipcar, and more
Cruise discounts through Collette Cruise Tours and Grand European Travel
Flight discounts through British Airways and Grand European Travel
Hotel and resort discounts at dozens of trusted establishments such as Wyndham, Best Western, Hilton, Ramada, and much more
Lastly, members also have access to their travel center for help in booking vacations with their discount. For a full list of benefits and access to the AARP Travel Center, visit their Member Benefits site.
Have you ever considered traveling by train? The United States only rail system, Amtrak, offers a discount to seniors over 65 years old. Check out their senior discount page for all of the information about eligibility and exclusions.
Beyond the savings, there are a lot of reasons you should consider traveling by train. Trains are much more relaxing than planes, allowing you to sightsee small towns on the route from their observation car. They are also much more comfortable and safe than other modes of transportation, such as cars and planes. Lastly, their environmental impact is much less than that of car and air travel because there is little carbon emitted.
Unfortunately, Amtrak only has limited stops in the United States, particularly in the Southeastern region, so it may not be accessible to everyone. If it’s not in your town, you may be able to take a shuttle or have a friend or family member drive you to the nearest station.
4. Travel Off-Season
Avoiding the peak tourist season is one of the best ways to save money when you travel. As a retiree, you probably have a lot more flexibility when choosing travel dates, so consider doing your dream vacation during the offseason. As a general rule of thumb, the warmer months are peak season while winter months are considered the off-season.
By choosing to travel during the offseason, you will save money on virtually every travel expense. Flights tend to be a lot cheaper during the offseason unless there is a holiday on the calendar. Accommodations are also much more affordable because hotels and Airbnb hosts are much more willing to book at cheaper rates. With fewer tourists, there is a lot less competition for available rooms.
Beyond saving money, traveling off-season has many other benefits. First, there will be a lot fewer people, which means shorter lines at attractions and no waits at restaurants. You can also snap a picture of that beautiful view with one someone walking into the frame. It can also be a completely different experience during the offseason.
There might be different activities available in the offseason (such as seasonal holiday markets), and the weather can certainly make for a new experience. Lastly, without tourists, you might end up learning more about the history of the town, meeting locals, and having an overall more authentic experience.
5. Consider Traveling on Wheels
Living in or traveling in RVs has always been a popular option for retirees. Traveling on wheels is an attractive option because it reduces travel costs and offers a sense of freedom and wanderlust. You can go on an extended road trip, visiting all of the National Parks, or drive coast to coast without a schedule or anything holding you back.
It is a great way to travel for extended periods on a budget by eliminating the need for accommodations and flights. Your expenses will be primarily related to the RV, such as gas and campsite parking, which is typically pretty affordable.
If this interests you, consider renting one first to learn the ins and outs and the ups and downs. A rental will give you a chance to figure out what size you want (Class A, Class C, Fifth wheel, and so much more), see what features you can’t live without, and whether or not RV life is right for you before you make a significant financial decision.
Websites such as RVShare help you find RVs from all over the country that are available to rent. You can filter rentals by what you are comfortable paying, the size, and your geographic location. If this is your first experience looking into RVs, they can even help you determine which style and size best fit your needs with a nifty flow chart detailing the highlights and amenities for each type.
6. Book a Group Tour
Group tours are a great way to travel, allowing for a carefree and relaxing trip for retirees. They are incredibly enticing to seniors because you do not have to worry about the details or planning, it is a fun way to meet new people your age, and they are safe. Of course, they also are more affordable compared to trying to plan an entire adventure by yourself.
Retirement Living recommended Grand European Travel as one of the best tour companies for seniors on a budget in 2021. They have over 300 tour options to choose from, including European castle river cruises, United States National Parks tours, tropical island tours, and so much more. If you can dream it, they can do it.
Another exciting feature of Grand European Travel is that they offer a discount for AARP members, so definitely cash in on that if you are eligible.
7. Budget Your Money
Since retirement, you may have been adjusting to living on a fixed income that is probably less than what you were getting as a worker. Don’t worry; this is manageable and will just take a little bit of time and planning. Budgeting may have become part of your monthly tasks, especially as you continue to think through the best ways to utilize your time and money in retirement. This section will go over a few tips for budgeting for travel in retirement, and I should also mention we have tips on how to live frugally in retirement in general.
First, look at all of your financial assets, your incomes, as well as how much you need for ongoing living expenses such as groceries, mortgage, vehicle maintenance, and other regular costs. Think about how much you spend on these monthly and how much you can put aside for vacation.
Once you know how much of your income can go towards travel, begin to think about the destinations you want to visit. Perhaps you want to spend as much time as possible with your grandchildren across the country? Or maybe your priorities are more about some good old fashioned rest and relaxation lounging on the beach. Regardless, make a list of places you would like to visit.
Next, start thinking about how much it will cost for these trips. Begin your initial research on how much hotels and airfare might cost and what you can expect to spend on vacation packages. It might be a good idea to begin communicating with a travel agent as well. By talking to a professional about how much you are comfortable spending and some potential travel destinations, you can better understand what is realistic and moderate your expectations.
There Is a Destination for Every Personality
Now that you have all the tips you need for frugal travel in retirement, it is time to put this information to good use. This section will include a few popular travel destinations for retirees.
- Wineries: If you are a wine lover, consider Italy’s famous wine regions. Florence and Tuscany are the dream vacation for wine and food enthusiasts. They also have something to offer for those interested in history, art, or simply a scenic landscape.
- National parks: For the adventurous at heart, it would be exciting to visit any of the United States National Parks. Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon offer beautiful views, hiking trails and are more accessible to seniors.
- Tropical islands: If you are looking for a tropical getaway, consider the Hawaiian Islands. With some of the most beautiful beaches globally, visitors can count on a relaxing seaside vacation. Visitors can explore volcanoes, go on hikes, or explore the sea.
Relax. Do Things That Make You Happy!
Now that you are retired, you should spend your days doing things that make you happy. Everyone’s situation is unique, so all of these tips may not apply to you. To make the most of your retirement, you can use some of these suggestions in tandem or pick and choose what works best for you.
Regardless of how you approach this new phase of your life, you can be sure that your money is working for you by following these suggestions. After decades of hard work, retiring is a significant milestone and should be a time of relaxation and happiness.