21 Tips for Retirement Travel on a Budget

senior man and woamn looking at a map

Retirement travel on a budget is possible without sacrificing your comfort.

 

As you age, your traveling preferences change. And many older adults are willing to spend more to avoid hassles and inconvenience (as you should — you deserve it).

 

But if you’re looking for a way to travel during retirement without breaking the bank (or giving up all luxuries), you’re in luck. 

 

This blog post shares 21 tips on how to get the most out of your money and still have an amazing adventurous time. 

 

#1 Book in Advance

Booking in advance is definitely worth it. It can save 61% on airfare and $6 to $21 on hotels.

Here are the best times to book:

  • Long-haul flights —  about 115 days out from your travel date (CheapAir)
  • Short flights — around 64 days before your departure date (CheapAir)
  • Cruise — as soon as possible (yes, also two years in advance) (RoyalCaribbeanBlog)
  • Accommodation — if you’re willing to risk it as late as possible, but approximately one month in advance (Afar)

 

And if you’re willing to try a new app, Hopper lets you “watch bookings” and even tells you the best time to book your desired flight and hotel dates.

a screenshot of the hopper website that enables you to watch for hotel and flight rates and fees

#2 Know How to Pay

When you decide to travel outside the country, notify your bank to prevent any alerts or freezes. Research what additional costs you may have for withdrawing cash or paying by card.

 

Sometimes it’s better to carry cash, sometimes it’s more cost-effective to use ATMs.

 

Another way to avoid paying extra fees is to plan your currency exchanges ahead of time. 

 

Do your homework before leaving for any trip to be more frugal.

#3 Pack Like a Minimalist 

Pack light and only bring what’s necessary, especially if you’re traveling by plane. Excess baggage fees can cost you anywhere from $20 to $200, so pack the essentials only. 

excess baggage fees for the first bag and overweight bags for american airlines, delta, spirit, united, and jet blue

 

Apart from avoiding additional fees, traveling with carry-on only means you don’t have to wait in line at the baggage claim, there’s no lost luggage, you know where your stuff is, and there’s less to carry around.

 

#4 Bring Your Own Snacks

If you’re traveling on a budget in retirement, keep in mind that food makes up 16% of your budget.

 

In fact, when vacationing, Americans spend $378 on food in restaurants compared to only $42 on the food they prepared themselves. 

 

Try including a variety of foods to fulfill ll of your nutritional needs — bars, nuts, fruits and veggies, yoghurt, hummus…

 

So try to cook as many meals at home and make your own snacks before hitting the road.

 

#5 Get Creative With Transportation

If you’re traveling on a budget in retirement, if you plan ahead, you may be able to steer clear of the priciest ground transportation, like taxis and Uber. 

 

Consider other forms of transportation, such as:

 

  • Public transportation – buses, metros, and trains are often the cheapest type of transportation available
  • Carpooling services – if you’re traveling long-distance consider using apps like BlaBlaCar or Moovit to cut down on costs
  • Renting bikes – keep fit and save money by cycling around the town
  • Walking – the cheapest and the best to soak in new areas

 

a screenshot of blablacar a carpooling services that promotes travel on a budget
It’s always cheaper to carpool. Source: BlaBlaCar

 

All it takes is a bit of research beforehand, and you may be able to use less expensive transportation to get around town. 

 

#6 Take Advantage of Free Attractions

There are plenty of free attractions and activities that can make your adventures more affordable. 

 

For instance, in Washington, D.C. there are 22 free things to do ranging from visiting the National Gallery of Art to the National Air & Space Museum. 

 

From museums to zoos, parks and trails, historic sites, and more, every destination has free attractions that you can enjoy. 

 

#7 Find Deals

Get more bang for your buck by finding deals — from senior discounts to vacation packages.

 

Look into: 

a screenshot of the worlds nomads website, a company for travel insurance on a budget

 

With the current state of technology, you don’t have to settle for anything short of the best. If you’re looking for other ways to save, check out this list of over 200 locations that offer senior discounts.

 

#8 Visit Friends or Family

If you’re retired and want to travel, but don’t have the budget for a big trip, you can always rely on accommodation from friends or family.

 

In fact, senior tourists visit relatives and friends more often than younger generations.

 

So why not spend time with your loved ones and travel?

 

#9 Bring Reusables

Why not try taking the water bottle and coffee cup with you on your next adventure? 

 

It’s never a bad idea to have these two things around when traveling. Taking your own water bottle means you can get free drinks from fountains, cafes, or mountain springs, whereas having a coffee cup often gets you discounts.

 

equa water bottle

 

Having reusables helps you stick to your budget, stay hydrated, and travel more sustainably. 

 

#10 Make a List of Travel Priorities

When you retire, the world is your oyster. You have all this time to travel and explore new places, right? 

 

Well, sort of. There are some things that you might want to put higher on your priority list than others when planning a budget-friendly retirement trip. 

 

For instance, retirement travel on a budget likely won’t include splurging on five-star hotels and souvenirs, but it could include one of the two.

 

Clearly laying out your travel priorities can help you organize your plans for your next trips, plus your travel budgets.

 

#11 Volunteer or Learn Abroad

Consider finding volunteer opportunities abroad in exchange for free room and board. Some even offer covered expenses like transportation. 

 

Another great option is to learn abroad. Educational travel programs like Road Scholar allow you to explore the world while learning.

 

screenshot of the road scholar website

 

Learning and adventure – Is there a more rewarding way to travel and experience new things?

 

#12 Use Travel Rewards

Join the 43% of adults over 65 who are participating in a travel loyalty program. Consider getting a travel rewards credit card to enjoy the benefits like booking your flights, accommodation, and attractions. 

 

Some of the best US travel reward programs are:

 

Later on, you can redeem these points for free flights, discounts, or cheap hotel stays. 

 

#13 Travel Overnight 

You may be able to save on a train or bus ticket by choosing an overnight route since they are less popular than flights.

 

Take, for instance, traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The average overnight bus ticket is $18.74 compared to the average plane ticket that goes for $99.69. 

 

the average cost of travel from los angeles to sanfrancisco with the bus, train, and airplane

 

An added bonus is that you’ll pinch some pennies on accommodation as well since you’ll be spending the night traveling. Granted, it won’t be the most comfortable sleep ever, but it can be well worth the money.

 

#14 Find Inexpensive Destinations

When you’re on the road, it can be hard to stick with your budget. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable destinations out there that you can travel on a dime and still enjoy yourself. 

 

Research destinations in advance to calculate potential costs, but here are the top five cheapest travel destinations to get you started:

 

  • India
  • Bosnia
  • Cambodia
  • Kyrgyzstan 
  • Armenia

 

Even better, destinations that are less touristy allow you to really immerse yourself in a different culture (which doubles as a great way to have adventurous growth experiences in retired life.

 

#15 Explore Group Travel

If you’re looking for a fun and affordable way to travel, you might want to consider joining other seniors on a group tour.

 

Here are some groups for retirement travel on a budget:

 

 

screenshot of a vacations by rail website to travel the world by train

 

You never know when you’ll make a new travel buddy or perhaps a fun friend over 50.

 

#16 Work & Travel

Would you like to travel for free and get paid? Well, who wouldn’t?

 

Whether it’s as a tour guide, teach English abroad, or a volunteer for the PeaceCorps, you can

save money while traveling by working abroad.

 

Another option is to become a travel blogger, like My Itchy Travel Feet or Hole in the Donut, where you can often land comped travel arrangements by covering certain travel destinations

 

screenshot of the my itchy travel feet blog about retirement travel

 

In a nutshell, get creative and explore ways to both work and travel without spending too much of your budget. And remember to have fun while you’re travel-working.

 

#17 Rent Out Your Home

If you don’t plan on constantly being on the go, real estate expenses can rack up pretty quickly and put a dent in your travel budget. Why not become a landlord in retirement?

 

Depending on your lifestyle, you can choose between purchasing a vacation home or a more traditional rental property. 

 

seniors buying second homes

 

Plus, renting out your home while traveling ensures that your home is taken care of, plus it serves as a passive source of income.

 

#18 Travel Out of Season

The best way to see a destination is during its off-peak season. 

 

Try to avoid local school breaks and religious celebrations because those are prime times that attract crowds (and raise prices).

 

Case in point, a flight to Hawaii from California during the winter months can run for as low as $189, as opposed to the same flight in peak summer months can be priced around $558. A big difference, no?

 

the difference in budget when traveling out of season and in season

the difference in budget when traveling out of season and in season

 

The same goes for lodging and other travel expenses once you’ve arrived at your destination. Off-season travel means you’ll get cheaper flights, hotels, and, ultimately, more out of your trip.

 

#19 Go for Longer Trips

Getting there is half of the budget — on average, 44% of travel funds are spent on transportation.

 

In case you’re curious about the average cost breakdown per trip, it’s around $144 per day for domestic trips and $271 for international travel. 

 

the average trip budget for domestic and international travel

 

Even though it might not seem like it, you actually save money by staying on vacation for longer since your cost-per-day goes down. So aim to take trips that are at least 2-3 weeks long.

 

#20 Get a Local Sim

Using roaming can rack up enormous bills in no time. Try to get a local sim card and use that phone plan for internet access while traveling. 

 

If you’re wondering where to get one, here’s a list of where to buy local sim cards around the world.

 

This way you can stay connected with friends and family back home without worrying about international roaming charges or data overages.

 

#21 Get Travel Insurance

The one thing that you can’t afford to do when traveling on a budget in retirement is get sick. 

 

Make sure your trip doesn’t end up in disaster by getting travel insurance and protecting yourself from cancellations or illness while on vacation. 

 

While it is an extra cost, it’s one that’s more than worth it — especially when you consider the multitude of flight cancellations and delays across all airlines and locations on any given day. 

 

flight cancelations and delays

 

So, it’s best not to be a part of the 41% of Americans who don’t purchase travel insurance when going abroad.

 

Travel Further (With Less) During Retirement

You can still enjoy retirement travel on a budget with plenty of activities and adventures without breaking the bank. 

 

It’s not always necessary to have a huge traveling budget for your golden years, but it is important to plan ahead (and be smart about it).

 

It doesn’t have to be about scrimping and saving every penny; it’s also about having fun, enjoying the experience with friends or family, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. 

 

Have you found any other tricks or hacks that have helped you save money on your journeys? Share with us.