“But what will I do all day?” This is a question many retirees face as they prepare for departure from the working world. Among many of the answers is, “I’m going to travel the world and go outside my comfort zone,” because it’s not something we get to do much when we’re working full time. If you’re thinking of traveling the world in retirement, here’s how to afford it.
For those still working, travel often means a rushed one-week whirlwind vacation. The retiree, in contrast, has the freedom of time.
Time to slow down, relax and enjoy destinations more deeply. But you also have to be conscious of how much money you’re spending because you’re no longer receiving a regular salary.
Prioritize Your Destinations
For traditional-aged retirees, you’ll want to make plans to visit places requiring physical activity first. If you want to hike through the Scottish countryside or climb the mountain trails to Machu Picchu in Peru, then do it while you are still young and able-bodied. Your back and knees will thank you.
Although you may be very fit in your 40s and 50s, there’s no guarantee you will still be as spry in your 60s and 70s. It’s depressing to think your body is constantly conspiring against your best wishes to remain young forever, but it’s true.
Make sure you visit the places you won’t be able to when you are older and less physically able. Even if your knees can handle steep trails, your cardiologist or internist might recommend against strenuous activity in isolated locations having no quick access to modern medical care.
You’ll also enjoy physically demanding vacations more when you’re able to get around easily. If you have to choose, save the laidback European river cruises and bus tours of the city for later in life.
Follow What Interests You
Maybe you have no desire to visit Europe or the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Perhaps your tastes go more toward visiting all the wonderful national parks dotted around the United States. Or you may want to immerse yourself in the culture of your ancestors (wherever they hail from).
Interested in learning a new foreign language or refreshing your former polyglottal talents? Pick a country that speaks your preferred language, find a local language school or learning group, and pack your bags!
Retirement is a great time to explore your interests in a much deeper, more genuine way. If the cultures of Asia have piqued your curiosity, then take the opportunity to see what China, Japan, Thailand, and other countries farther off the beaten path have to offer.
Travel on a Budget
Most retirees live on some sort of budget. The key is to make the most of whatever funds you have set aside for travel. This doesn’t have to mean staying in substandard accommodations or packing a suitcase full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
On the contrary, with a little effort and flexibility you can stretch your travel dollar to the fullest. While working, the average employee struggles to get more than a week off from work. And the timing of the vacation might be dictated by their employer or their industry. Ever see a tax accountant hopping on a plane to somewhere warm around April 15?
As a retiree, you have a huge advantage over the still-working. You can schedule your trip in the off-season when prices are lower and crowds disappear. Many working-age people have children who are in school all year until their summer break, so seasonal prices peak in the summertime (like beach house rentals on the East Coast). Wait until September when school is in session, then you can dodge the crowds and save a ton of money while the weather is still warm but not too hot.
Factor in the Weather
In some places, the off-season is desolate for a different reason: the weather. In northern latitudes, it gets really cold in wintertime and barely thaws out during spring. Summer might be the only time it’s comfortable enough to stroll around town drinking in the history and culture without having to wear a heavy parka and two layers of thermal underwear.
In the more southern latitudes, summer might be roasting hot and the worst time to visit from a comfort perspective. However, if you have to travel during the summer because of your children’s school schedule, you just deal with the heat any way you can. As if the heat wasn’t enough, you may actually pay a seasonal premium to travel during the least comfortable weather of the year!
With a flexible schedule, you can search for low-season hotel rates and off-season airfare deals. Restaurants will compete for your business during the off-season by offering deals and promotions to get you in the door. Aside from saving money, you’ll also save a lot of time during the off season by skipping long lines at tourist attractions and museums.
Opt for Slow Travel
Slowing down the pace of travel (sometimes called “slow travel”) can lead to cost savings as well. Consider a one-week trip to Europe. Let’s say Berlin, Germany.
Flights are about $1,200 from my local airport and mid-range hotels are about $100 per night. A one-week trip would be almost $2,000 for transportation and accommodations. Stretch that trip to two weeks, and the price goes up only $700 since you don’t have to buy a second plane ticket for the second week.
Maybe you don’t want to spend two weeks in Berlin. Why not explore the German countryside or visit a nearby country while you’re there? By spending more time at your destination, you can reduce your per-day travel expenses by spreading the cost of airfare over a longer trip.
Instead of merely ticking off a list of all the tourist hotspots in a short trip, you can spend more time getting acquainted with a city and its people. Ride the commuter train to the end of the route. Practice your German on unsuspecting commuters. Get lost and then find your way back to your hotel with some fortuitous beer pit stops along the way.
Whatever your individual tastes in travel, retirement is the perfect time to see more of the world and rediscover your adventurous side!
Are you planning to travel during retirement? What’s one tip you have for doing it while on a fixed income?