When talking to soon-to-be retirees about their top goals in retirement, travel is almost always listed as a priority. While the top destinations of interest change from person to person, the desire to see more of the world is fairly universal.
If you are one of the few wise people who started a travel savings fund thirty years ago and have been diligently contributing a percentage of your paychecks to it, you’re probably in great shape to spend the next few years as a professional jetsetter, zipping from place to place with plenty of money to enjoy each new country you visit. If you’re like the majority of people who are just beginning retirement, however, you may not have those kind of finances in place, and a life of uninterrupted travel may not seem attainable. Everyone’s situation is different, but even if you’re not island hopping on your own private jet, there are plenty of options for making your travel dreams a reality, regardless of how big your travel budget is.
Factor your health into your travel plans
Even though you no longer have a job to get home to, you don’t necessarily have unlimited time and energy to cross every destination off of your to-visit list. It’s a good idea to take your most physically demanding trips earlier in retirement, when you’ve still got plenty of energy to truly enjoy it.
You’ll also want to ensure that you secure healthcare that will cover you on your journeys abroad. Remember that Original Medicare will not cover you outside of the United States, and that travel insurance companies typically limit the coverage they offer to older people. This is another reason to take your international trips sooner rather than later. You can learn more about your health care options outside of the United States in the following article.
Look at the numbers
Obviously, the frequency at which you plan to travel, the destinations you plan to visit, and the typical length of your stay in these locales will have a big impact on your travel budget. Will you be able to afford to take all of the trips you’d like, or will you need to make some tough decisions?
As you prepare to make these choices, start by identifying your top travel priorities, including destinations you want to visit, activities you want take part in, and how many getaways you want to enjoy each year.
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There are plenty of ways to make your travel budget go further, and if you take advantage of helpful tools, vacation packages, discount platforms, or sales, you might be able to visit every destination on your list. Setting price alerts on Google Flights will allow you to track significant changes in the price of flights to your desired destination. Platforms like Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, and Trivago compare prices from various airlines, hotels, and vacation packages to find the best deal for particular time periods. Cruise lines often offer special discounts and sales to fill their ships in the less popular seasons.
Is this a quick vacation, or are you looking to live like a local?
Some people are more than content to explore a new land for just a week or two before returning home to their own beds, families, and routines. Others prefer to stay for longer periods of time, immersing themselves in the culture to experience, as closely as possible, what it is like to be a local. While it may seem counterintuitive, longer stays can actually be more cost effective than shorter trips if you’re willing to plan ahead and make some small sacrifices.
Staying at expensive hotels, eating the majority of your meals in restaurants, and taking advantage of the various tourism opportunities can add up quickly, especially when you’re trying to do as much as you possibly can within a short span of time.
Staying in an affordable Airbnb or vacation rental for a longer period of time can be the more affordable option if you cook your own meals, utilize public transportation, and plan your excursions and activities around low-traffic times when better deals may be available.
Will you need to work while abroad?
If travel is important to you, but you don’t have much of a budget for it, you might consider working while abroad to fund your adventures. Teaching English in another country is a fairly popular second-act career for retirees, and some retired professionals will even open up new practices or starting entirely new businesses abroad. Consulting, freelance writing, and seasonal jobs are all great ways to generate income while abroad. You can read our full list of suggestions for generating income in retirement here.
Can your home help you pay for travel?
If you’re going to be out of town for an extended period of time, you might consider putting your home to work for you while you’re away. Depending on how long you plan to be gone, you may want to consider renting out your home and collecting rent from a tenant on a weekly or month-to-month basis. If your trip will only last a month or two, you might be able to find travelers looking for a temporary home on an online platform like Airbnb or VRBO. You may even be able to trade homes with someone from your destination country using a home swapping website, like HomeExchange.
Consider taking a “voluntour”
If you’d like to use your travels as vehicles to make a positive impact on the world, you might consider taking a volunteer vacation. Organizations like Projects Abroad and Globe Aware have volunteer project itineraries geared specifically toward the 50+ crowd. There are plenty of ongoing projects at any given time, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a trip that interests you. Some volunteer trips are more physically demanding than others, so make sure to take your own physical abilities into account when researching your options.
While these organizations typically won’t cover all of the costs associated with your trip, some will cover meals and accommodations, and travel insurance is usually factored in to the price of your trip. As an added bonus, the cost of your volunteer trip will be tax deductible. If giving back is something you’re interested in, but you are unable to travel abroad, consider volunteering in your own community.