The problem is that when you are working, you may not have much time off to vacation, or you still have commitments at home preventing you from leaving for any extended period. On the other hand, if you wait until you are retired, you will likely have less income (usually about half of working income plus savings), not to mention that you may start to have a few health issues, even something as simple as walking any distance. So what do you do?
Why We Didn’t Wait:
As we are getting older, we are realizing that we get tired faster, we have arthritis starting in a knee or a shoulder, and we can’t walk as fast or as far, so it is getting harder and harder to travel. We are now more determined than ever to get the top places on our bucket list scratched off, but we can also see that we won’t be able to do this forever.
Our suggestion is that you should not wait until you are retired to travel. You can travel inexpensively in retirement but you can also do it at any age. Start ticking off that bucket list now. Travel while you are healthy and energetic, and also have more disposable income. Affordable travel is possible now.
How can we afford to travel?
Retired or working, if you can cut back on bought coffees, restaurant lunches, clothing that is not essential, those little savings add up. Figure it out. A coffee from the coffee shop is at least $2, then there is that egg sandwich or bagel you often have as well. There goes $5. Not so much, but $5 times 5 days a week is $25, times 52 weeks is $1300. You just saved over $1300. Buy one new clothing item a month instead of three. Guess what? You just saved another $100 per month. If you put that $200 a month in a Travel Account, you would have $2400 at the end of a year. Cutting out work lunches is even a bigger saving. Buying lunch for less than $10 is less and less possible. How much could you save by not eating lunches out? $10 times even 3 times a week is $30 times 52 weeks is almost $1600. Adding $1600 to the $2400 you saved above and now you have $4000. Pretty nice amount for a trip, especially if there are two of you and you each save $4000, netting you $8000.
How do we save for travel?
We try to prioritize. If we bought everything we wanted, we would never be able to afford to travel. Little things add up, so we don’t buy trinkets for the house, or digital tech toys unless they are practical for writing and photography. We don’t eat out often, but we certainly do once in a while. We buy clothes, but not a lot – we can often buy better quality clothes for less wherever we travel. We drive older model cars, but keep them in good repair. We might have a garage sale, quit coffees, or cut-down on drinks – there are a hundred ways to save. Every time we are tempted to buy something expensive, we have to ask ourselves if these items would give us more pleasure than a trip somewhere, and the answer is usually no.
How do we choose a destination?
Do not go where everyone else is going. That’s where the prices will be the highest because that is where there is the greatest demand. Choose places that are less well-known and affordable. Some countries have much lower food and accommodation prices than others. Do a little research.
Here is a starter list of places that are less expensive:
Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
Avoid these places unless you have a thick bank roll:
Switzerland, England, France, Italy, Japan and Australia.
Why we choose distant lands:
You may think that it costs too much to fly halfway around the world to distance exotic places like Indonesia or South Pacific Islands like Tonga or Western Samoa, but the truth is that if you watch for sales you can fly to most of these places for close to $1000 return. The cost of food and accommodation in many of these far-off lands is less than half of the costs at home.
Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that flying to a place just a few hours away will be much cheaper. This is not always true. Compare prices. Choose your dream places first and compare them to the latest advertised closer vacation. Ironically, it just might be cheaper to go further. We’ve found that even a road trip of 500 km each way for a week could cost as much as a trip across the ocean for a month. Affordable travel is possible.
We usually go away for at least a month. In terms of cost it is the most practical because the airfare is the same no matter how long we stay, and once we are there, we want to see as much of a country as is possible.
We’ve mentioned this before but one of our little tricks is to check the prices to places that have have had some unrest in recent years (not countries still in the midst of wars), and you wouldn’t believe how reasonable the prices can be for everything from airfare to hotels to food.
Off season or shoulder season offers lower prices than high season.
How far ahead do we start planning?
We start searching online up to six months ahead or more ahead of time. We use search engines like Kayak, Airfarewatchdog, Bing Travel, Vayama, Which Budget, Facebook Travel, Twitter Travel, special sites from your departure city (yxedeals.com from Saskatoon, for example) and of course the airline sites. Some of these sites even have a choice to search from your city to anywhere. We like that feature. We also check for airline coupon codes online.
It pays not to be too locked in to flying to only one destination. Maybe flying to a city close by is cheaper. Perhaps flying out of a different nearby city is also less expensive.
Do we need to research the chosen country?
Yes, we put in the time to research a country thoroughly – from food, accommodation, off-the-beaten path areas, local customs, people, costs, cautions, must-dos, and transportation, to maps. I use Lonely Planet, Frommers, International Living, and Trip Advisor as a starting point, but honestly, small blogs like ours provide the most honest information as well as revealing the hidden gems and most affordable travel tips.
When do we travel?
If possible, try to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Those days are almost always a lower fare. If you are retired, this is entirely feasible.
Late at night or early mornings are when special flash sales are posted.
Last Minute Deals are Perfect for Retirees:
Sign up for every last minute deal you can find. If you can leave within a few weeks or a few days notice, there are some incredible deals. Check Sell Off Vacations for the Caribbean and Central America. There are both Flights Only and Package Deals.
Do we use Air Miles/Points?
We use Air Miles and Credit Cards with travel points and try not to use them until we are at gold status so that we get companion flights free. You have to buy groceries right? You may as well use that points credit card – just be certain to pay it off before the interest is charged. We pay ours off every 3 weeks. Recently, I have found the points cards to add up the fastest, but there are free companion flights when you reach Gold level air miles.
What type of accommodation do we use?
We seldom stay in hotels, and we never book more than the first and last night’s stay. We like to stay in apartments, time-share rentals, boutique hotels or something really unique, like a cabin at the top of the rain forest, or a tree house or some other unusual accommodation because they offer much more room and amenities, but are often much less expensive. There are many websites now that advertise vacation rentals by owner; our favourites is VRBO.com.
How do we find safe, comfortable and inexpensive accommodation?
Since we usually travel by rental car and we don’t know where we will end up each night, we can’t book ahead, so we often end up in a small town where we find hotels priced much lower than in cities. These places are far more authentic than big city resorts. If you want to have a genuine and real experience of that country, than it most likely will be found in the smaller cities, towns, and villages. If we love a place, we’ll stay awhile, meeting locals and participating in local activities. Never has there been an issue with safety, and we almost always find that the people genuinely make us feel welcome.
How do we get around a country inexpensively?
We almost always rent a car and start touring the entire country. This way we have freedom to explore and have our valued independence. Stopping when we like for that perfect picture, eating when we want, where we want, stopping at a road side stand, or exploring that little side road is easy when you have your own transportation. Trains and planes often don’t even go to those little towns and villages that are the most fascinating. One caution about rental cars: check everything carefully. Car rental insurance costs will double when insurance is added to the basic cost. Use a credit card that covers all rental car insurance. Make sure the deposit is credited back to your credit card upon return. Research most reliable companies.
How do we get free accommodations all over the world?
We host people from other countries in our home through international websites, such as globalfreeloaders.com, hospitalityclub.org, and other international free accommodation sites. If we end up visiting their country, we might not only have accommodation, but hosts to tell us what places are worth seeing. It’s like a homestay people pay for, but without the cost for either party. Housesitting is also a great option at TrustedHousesitters.com.
So what is the most affordable travel for retirees?
We are starting to consider cruises. While we have taken river boat cruises (see Amazon River Boat Cruise), and absolutely loved them, we haven’t taken an ocean cruise. We plan to start with a short 3 day cruise to test the waters, so to speak. The advantage for retirees is that you don’t have to be constantly packing and unpacking, and finding accommodation, yet you are seeing many different places.
Some companies are now offering small group tours. While we absolutely resist traditional large tour groups with a passion, we plan to consider some small group tours in the future, especially to places like Africa. Small group tours are newer, and therefore offer more affordable travel while they are getting known to travellers. This site offers a list of travel websites for retirees: Travel Websites for Seniors
What is the one best way to save money?
The real way to save a ton of money is to stay away from the tourist groups, the fancy resort hotels and the fine restaurants. It’s great if you can afford that style of travelling, but for us it should be more about experiencing the real culture rather than the fancy places we stayed, and it offers the bonus of more affordable travel.
Sassy Travel Style
We like to say our style is sassy because it is a bit different, a bit bold, a bit adventurous, and as inexpensive as possible. Trends are more and more toward adventure travel, which we love, but we like comfort too, so we definitely aren’t into backpacking. On the other hand, luxury travel is out too because we like to experience the local culture. We are what might be called Soft Adventurers.
Still we travel somewhere every year, for at least a month, to one country, usually a little-known place. Our logic for spending a month or more in visiting that country is that if we are going to spend money on a flight, we want to truly experience everything about the country – its people, its culture, its food, its natural wonders, and its ambiance.
P.S. We have also been known to just close our eyes and spin the globe. Wherever that finger lands is where we go. It’s quite exciting this way.
One More Thing
This is a cool bucket list idea. Mark off the places you’ve been on a beautiful foil wall map: Scratch-Off Foil Wall Map
Where would you like to go?
What are your travel tips?
What did we miss? Please share your travel tips with us. We all need to find ways to see this amazing world with affordable travel.
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