Budgeting for Travel in Retirement

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Retirement means entering a phase of life where you get to do things you love and have longed to do, like travel. Retirement means an end to the 9-5 grind, but it’s also an end to steady paychecks. This means relying on your savings, pension, and investments to pay the bills and get you where you want to go. Worrying about money after retirement can make traveling with any regularity and extravagance a challenge. Fortunately, you can still enjoy retirement and travel as you’ve always dreamed by creating, and sticking to, a budget.

Current industry trends make traveling on a budget easier than ever. There might be a few more restrictions than a luxury vacation, but still, plenty of fun and relaxation to be had.

Here are a few tips to get you pointed in the right direction for planning memorable vacations on a retiree’s budget.

Be Flexible on Location and Schedule

One of the best ways to save money on a vacation is to be flexible. Having a strict itinerary and timeline will cost you more because it usually means traveling during peak times. The peak travel dates for a country or state will depend on the weather and events of the time. For example, travelers hoping to fly to Japan in time for the cherry blossom festival between March and May will pay more than those traveling during the rainy season in June and July.

Travel agents, airlines, and hotels know they can increase prices during peak seasons because of high demand. Similarly, they decrease costs during less popular seasons to encourage travelers to buy tickets when they otherwise might not.

Flexibility isn’t limited to traveling in the off-season. You can also save by being a spontaneous traveler. Last-minute flights and vacation packages cost less, usually for one of two reasons:

1. To Fill a Flight: To earn money on each flight, airlines charge for first class, business class, and economy seats, hoping to fill every seat in the process. Sometimes a few seats on a flight remain open and airlines are eager to fill them to cover the high cost of fuel to fill a jetliner. To fill these seats quickly, airlines offer tickets at a discounted rate. These last-minute deals can save you more than a hundred dollars.

2. To Sell an Abandoned Package: Sometimes a traveler has second thoughts on a vacation package or defaults on a payment plan. Travel agents need to sell these packages, or they risk losing money. To encourage travelers to purchase these packages, despite the early departure date, they reduce the rate.

Book Discount Accommodations

Internet browsing for accommodations has made traveling on a budget easy and much more comfortable than traditional hostels. There are a few ways to go about finding discounted accommodations that meet your comfort needs:

Comparison Travel Sites: Comparison travel sites like Kayak, FlightHub, and Expedia combine well-known airlines, hotels, and rentals so travelers can determine the cheapest rates. As a bonus, many of these sites allow you to select “flexible dates” which provides several date options and their corresponding rates.

Group Rates: Some travel agencies and tour companies offer discount rates to groups of 10 or more travelers. If you have friends or family who want to visit the same location, going as a group could save you money on accommodations, meals, and activities.

Alternative Accommodations: Gone are the days when hotels were the reigning champ of travel accommodations. Now, alternative accommodations have taken a front seat. Sites like AirBnb, Turnkey, HomeAway, and Vrbo allow travelers to rent rooms, apartments, or whole houses, often at a rate cheaper than the average hotel.

Be Prepared to Pack Your Own Meals

Along with transportation and accommodations, food is one of the largest expenditures on vacation. Even if you stick to the most reasonably priced restaurants, eating out becomes expensive when you’re paying for three meals a day. Luckily, there are a handful of ways to avoid overspending on your rumbling tummy.

  • Choose accommodations with a kitchen and start your vacation with a visit to the local grocery store. Try to pick at least one meal per day that you will cook. The easiest and least expensive option is typically breakfast. You will enjoy a slower, more relaxing start to each morning since you will not need to find a restaurant before having your first cup of coffee.
  • Pack a picnic lunch instead of a sit-down restaurant. This cuts the costs of tips and tempting extras like appetizers and desserts.
  • Commit to eating only one meal in a sit-down restaurant per day of the trip.
  • Select meals from the prepared section of the local grocery store to bring back to hotel rooms without a kitchen.
  • Especially if you are visiting a city, check online for local festivals where you can try delicious and affordable street food. 

It’s fun to splurge on a few fancy meals during your vacation but mixing it up with some cheaper, store-bought options will put more money in your wallet to enjoy your destination experiences.

Planning for Your Trip

The best way to budget for any trip, as a retiree, is to plan, plan, plan. Know where you’re going ahead of time, and plot out the most economical options for food, accommodation, and local travel. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to overspend on unexpected expenses. Happy travels!

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