Retirement is a time of freedom and flexibility. Many retirees look forward to traveling more often, but they worry about the costs that come with it. With low savings, shorter life expectancy, and expensive travel costs, it can be difficult to have the retirement you’ve always dreamed of. In this blog post, I will give you seven tips for saving money on travel during retirement so you can enjoy the golden year the way you deserve.
Tip #1 – Start planning early.
We all have our list of places we want to visit before we die, and if we hope to fulfill those desires during retirement, we might as well start preparing ahead of time. This doesn’t mean making hotel reservations or booking flights 12 months in advance. I’m talking about considering your future travels as part of your financial goals and starting to save several years in advance with those goals in mind.
As retirement draws near, you can start working on the details of where you want to travel to first, what you would like to see there, and everything else. Planning will always make it much easier to make sane financial decisions that can save you money while not compromising your travel experience. However, be mindful that you still want to keep your options open when the time comes to take advantage of any last-minute deals and offers.
Another smart way to prepare in advance, one that has the potential to offset the entire air ticket price and more, is to get a good rewards credit card several years before retiring. It doesn’t have to be a travel card (we’ll get to that in a minute), just a good rewards card that lets you maximize your rewards on everyday spending while offering the flexibility to transfer points to your favorite airline loyalty program where you can then redeem them for flights.
If you start early and don’t spend your points or miles on anything else, you can accumulate tens of thousands of points that can turn into hundreds of dollars worth of travel purchases.
Tip #2 – Always travel mid-week and during off-peak season.
Most people who travel for leisure do it on the weekends or when on vacation because it’s the only time they’re not bound by work or their kids’ class schedules. This makes traveling during the weekends and the high or peak season much more expensive than at any other time of the year.
However, as a retiree, you don’t have to worry about that. One of the perks of retirement is not having to live by your work schedule anymore. That means that you’re free to travel whenever you want, wherever you want, with nothing but your budget to hold you back. Consequently, you can take advantage of lower airfare and hotel prices during off-peak season and normal work or school days. This alone will help you save hundreds of dollars on all kinds of travel expenses, and it also has the added value of fewer crowds at your destination.
Even so, it’s also important to consider that many important attractions and activities at popular tourist destinations aren’t available during the off-peak season or are only available during the weekends, so you’ll likely miss out on some things you may want to see or experience.
Tip #3 – Get a good travel card.
If you followed my first tip about getting a rewards card early on, by now, you should already have plenty of points or miles just waiting to be redeemed. But before you do that, you’ll want to double or even triple those points with a juicy welcome bonus from one of the many premium travel cards available on the market.
Signing up for a travel card offers plenty of ways to save on travel:
- They usually offer great sign-up bonuses worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For example, the Platinum Card from American Express has a massive welcome bonus offer of 100,000 MR points that you can transfer to airline loyalty programs like Delta Airlines’ Skymiles, British Airways’ Avios, or Air Canada’s Aeroplan at a 1:1 rate. You can then use those miles to pay for approximately $2,000 worth of flights. Pool them with the points you earned with the first rewards card, and you’ll be able to travel to almost anywhere in the world while only paying airport taxes and fees.
- They offer great earn rates on travel purchases. Travel cards are rewards cards that reward you for travel purchases. That means that by using your card wherever you go, you’ll be saving money every time you swipe your card. Some cards offer earn rates that can help you save up to 10% on your travel-related purchases.
- Some cards offer great travel insurance. While very few cards will offer travel medical insurance for seniors above 65, many will include other types of travel insurance like trip cancellation or interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, hotel/motel burglary insurance, car rental collision and damage waiver, trip delay, baggage delay and baggage loss insurance, among others. Having this type of coverage at no extra cost helps you save tens to hundreds of dollars on travel insurance.
- Lounge access, hotel credit and other perks. The benefits of premium travel cards also include pampering at the airport with exclusive lounge club memberships that can completely change your travel experience, hotel credit worth $100 or more, complimentary companion flight tickets and more.
Tip #4 – Find people to travel with you on discounted fares.
Traveling in a group is not only a lot more fun than traveling alone. Always be aware — even with travel that scammers are watching out for older travelers. Traveling is safer and a whole lot cheaper. Consider joining a travel club in your retirement community to save on your next trip. It not only brings the costs down, but it also means distributing the work behind planning and setting everything up.
Tip #5 – Visit less popular destinations that are more affordable.
We all want to ride a gondola in Venice, visit the Eiffel Tower and go on safari in Africa, but some of those highly sought-after destinations are also the most expensive to travel to and stay at. If you want to save more while traveling the world, try to stay off the beaten path. Trust me; you’ll have a lot more interesting stories to tell your grandchildren than another run-of-the-mill photoshoot with the Coliseum in the background. Not that those places aren’t amazing, but there’s so much more of the world you can see on the same budget.
Tip #6 – Get the right travel insurance at the right time.
Even if you have a good travel card with embedded travel insurance coverage, odds are it won’t cover medical emergencies abroad if you’re over 65 years old. That means that you’ll need to get an international health insurance policy that covers things like emergency evacuation in case of an accident, medical treatment at your destination and possibly medical evacuation to a hospital back home.
Additionally, it’s also important to consider any preexisting medical conditions you may have before choosing a policy since many insurance providers don’t cover such cases. Finally, you must always read the fingerprint carefully before committing to any particular policy. Some policies have a waiting period before they kick in, and you need to make sure that the waiting period is over before you actually start your trip.
Tip #7 – Pack light.
My last piece of advice is to pack light to avoid paying excess baggage charges at the airport. These fees can sometimes be very high, and they’ll show their ugly face every time you depart on a different flight. Certain travel cards let you bypass this problem by granting you a free first checked bag for you and anyone who travels with you, as long as you paid for all of the tickets with the same credit card. This means you can double your carrying capacity for all those souvenirs you’ll be able to bring home after each trip, thanks to all the money you’ve saved by following these tips.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to save hundreds of dollars when traveling as a retiree; all you have to know is where to start. If you plan your retirement with plenty of time to spare, start accruing points or miles while you’re on your way to retirement, then pool those points with a good travel card’s welcome bonus, odds are you’ll have covered airfare costs for both you and your partner by the time you retire.
By following this and the rest of my pieces of advice, you’ll be traveling like a pro in no time without disrupting your budget.