You probably had a limited number of vacation days during your working years. But now that you’re retired, you can travel as much as your funds will allow. Travel trends by Americans 65 and older are expected to translate into about $190 billion in spending this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Travel During the Week
Since you’re retired, you’ll be able to travel during the week, which often is less expensive than on the weekend. According to USA Today, the cheapest days for domestic flights generally are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. For flights to Europe, weekdays also tend to be more affordable than weekends.
Travel During the Offseason
With total control over your schedule, you’ll be able to travel when it is cheapest to reach a particular destination, rather than whenever it fits into your office schedule. This means you can save a significant amount by traveling during the off-season, such as heading to desert destinations during the summer and mountain towns during the spring and fall.
Check with discount travel sites such as Hotels.com, Priceline and Expedia in your search for lower rates on hotels and airfare.
Make the Drive
Since you aren’t pressed for time anymore, consider driving to your destination rather than flying. Even with gas (and maybe hotel) costs, driving can be less expensive than flying.
Rather than driving your own car, consider renting a car for long-distance travel over a short period of time, an approach that, in the long run, could be cheaper than driving the 10-year-old family vehicle. With the right attitude, you might even find a scenic summer road trip even more enjoyable.
Bunk With Friends or Family
You might have that cousin in Cleveland whom you haven’t seen in years. Consider asking them to host you for a night, or more.
“Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List,” a study done by Merrill Lynch, said when assessing what is important to them, 34 percent of retirees said that was making family connections, with 23 percent of them looking to boost friendship and social connections. A trip to visit could do just that. You will get more than cheap travel out of this experience.
Take Longer Trips
You likely had a limited number of vacation days when you worked in an office, but now that you’re retired, you can take one long journey instead of multiple shorter trips, saving money on back-and-forth airfare. For example, rather than taking separate trips to Italy, Greece and Spain, you could combine these countries into one trip, establishing a base and then traveling to the other destinations via low-cost air carriers or train.
House-sitting can be an excellent way to find a free place to stay. Many people simply want someone to watch their pet, water their plants and bring in the mail, and with a lifetime of work under your belt, you’ll have a plethora of demonstrated responsibility to show off to potential hosts. To help decide whether house-sitting is for you, check out websites such as TrustedHousesitters.com.
Take Advantage of Senior Specials
AARP deals exist for many elements of travel, including train fare, car rentals, hotels, flights and entire vacation packages. Take advantage of these retirement discounts to save a significant amount on every step of your journey. Outside of AARP, many hotels, resorts, restaurants and tour operators offer special discounts for older travelers, but those businesses might not automatically let you know about the deals — especially if you seem willing to pay full price.
Read more: The Financial Perks of Off-Season Travel
Find Underground Spots
With more free time on your hands, make it your mission to learn about under-the-radar destinations that might be cheaper to travel to than expensive mainstays such as Paris, London or Rome. As a bonus, you likely will have a more authentic experience at a destination that doesn’t cater heavily to tourists.
Travel With Another Retiree
If you can find other retirees with flexible schedules, you can drive down the cost of your trip by sharing housing. Remember how your sister said she always wanted to travel to Las Vegas with you? Invite her to go and by doubling up in a hotel room, you can slash your bill in half.
Cook Your Meals
It’s amazing what you can do with a small hotel refrigerator, some corner stores and a little creativity. You don’t have to eat every meal in restaurants. Instead, go local and pick up a loaf of fresh bakery bread, some fruit and cheeses and sliced meat from a local deli. Many of the shops will have utensils and condiment packets, too. This approach should allow you to save a significant amount on your food bill — and think of the nice shopkeepers you’ll meet along the way.
Some timeshare companies will offer prospective buyers a free stay at their property in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch presentation. Beware of this option, though. Even people with nerves of steel sometimes have a tough time walking away without signing up.
Rent an RV
After the initial investment, a recreational vehicle (RV) offers an excellent way to travel to scenic mountain, beach and other outdoor destinations without airfare, hotel costs or big restaurant bills. If buying an RV isn’t in your budget, consider renting one through a local RV outfit or a national site such as Cruise America.
Downsize Your Belongings
One way to raise cash for travel is to thoroughly downsize your belongings. Now that you have time, go through everything you own and consider how many possessions you actually need. Put the rejects on eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or hold a good, old-fashioned garage sale or yard sale at your home. Put the cash you raise toward future travel.
Use Rewards Credit Cards
It can be tough to keep track of which credit cards to use to maximize points that can be redeemed toward travel, but with more free time in retirement, you can research ways to maximize your cards for travel rewards such as free hotel stays and flights. A caution: Since travel credit cards tend to have above-average interest rates on purchases, carrying a balance could cost you more than any travel rewards you earn.
Consider a Home Swap
Now that you’re the boss of your schedule, you can be flexible around the schedule of people who might want to swap homes in areas you’d like to visit. Check out home-swap websites such as Home Exchange, where you can begin the conversation with someone who might like to stay in your home and you stay in theirs.
Take Advantage of Free Days
Many museums and other cultural institutions have select days of the week or month when they’re open to the public for free. Call and ask if they have retirement discounts, too.
Be Flexible With Flight Dates
Since you don’t have to be back home by any certain date, always search for flexible flight dates. You might be able to save hundreds on the same route by being willing to stay an extra night or two or to leave home a few days earlier. By being flexible, you can save a lot of money and stay immune to travel mistakes.
It probably was difficult to get time off work at the last minute, but without that as a consideration, retirees can save significant money on travel by being on the lookout for last-minute travel deals and specials through airline websites or discount travel sites. A number of apps, such as HotelTonight, make it easy to find such specials.
You might not have had time to search for coupons and online deals when you were working, but now that you have more free time, you can properly look for coupons and discounts for any destination you’re thinking of booking. You can use a site such as Groupon to find discounts and ideas for activities you’re interested in once you’ve reached your destination.
Do Some Research
Spend a few hours or even a day at home planning your trip and your daily activities online. If you’re headed toward a tourist area, the tourism board there will have a website that lists popular attractions and discounts.
Click through to read about costly travel mistakes to avoid.
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