Travel Like a Pro—and SaveLifestyle
It's a big world out there. Instead of saving for only one trip of a lifetime, why not fill your retirement bucket list with several fun getaways? Use these tips from travel experts to explore more often, without busting your budget.
Have a dedicated travel fund.
Traveling is a major retirement goal for many pre-retirees. According to the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, 69 percent of Americans say traveling is an important goal worth saving for, yet just 15 percent have placed a high priority on actively saving for travel.
"The biggest tip I offer clients is to plan ahead and make monthly payments toward a trip to ensure that a vacation is always on the horizon," says Cherise V. Stewart, travel agent with Irgo Travel. "This allows you the opportunity to plan multiple trips in advance, and you can sometimes lock in current-year rates vs. waiting until the last minute and paying new-year or last-minute rates."
Do some research into the vacations that pique your interest, so you have an idea of the costs involved. Talk to your financial professional for help setting money aside on a regular basis. Stewart says it's common for people to underestimate how much they'll spend on vacations, so consider giving yourself a cushion of around 20 percent when doing your travel budget. If you don't use it you can roll it over to your next vacation, she says.
Time your travels right.
"One of the easiest ways retirees can save on travel is by simply choosing the right time to go," says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate at Finder.com, a personal finance comparison site. The best travel bargains will be found during the off-peak and shoulder-seasons. If you're looking to travel to Europe, for example, the most affordable time would be from November through the end of March. Headed to the southern hemisphere? Consider going in July or August when it's winter there.
Use a travel rewards credit card.
The points really do add up and you might even rack up enough to snag a free flight. Individual cards assign rewards points differently—some purchases receive more points than others, for example—so check the fine print before signing up.
Also, consider visiting a cash-back website to book your travel. These sites give members cash rewards for using their portals to make hotel, transportation, and car rental reservations. Do your homework before signing up (check each site with the Better Business Bureau and read reviews carefully) and look for cash-back sites that offer free memberships.
Consider a home swap.
Doing a home exchange is a win-win for two sets of travelers—especially if you plan to be away for several weeks at a time. "Travelers can benefit from completely free accommodations around the world," says Alexandra Origet du Cluzeau, who is with HomeExchange.com and GuestToGuest.com, two home-swapping markets. Bonus: Sometimes, a car is even part of the exchange.
Or, you can housesit, which might mean feeding the fish and watering the garden during your stay in exchange for free lodging, says Inma Gregorio, blogger at aworldtotravel.com. "Set up your profile on a couple of housesitting websites," says Gregorio, who recommends TrustedHousesitters.com. "The more references you get, the easier it will become to get accepted."
If you go either of these routes, be sure to put the ground rules in writing before you leave home.
Book a repositioning cruise.
Repositioning cruises occur when cruise lines need to reposition their ships between ports, like Alaska and Hawaii, or Europe and the Caribbean. While the amenities remain the same, the costs are substantially less—sometimes half off or more—and they're less crowded. All of which makes them an attractive option for retirees, says Suzanne Wolko, travel advisor at Arden Road Travel and blogger at PhilaTravelGirl.com. The only catch is that they are longer than most cruises: A transatlantic repositioning cruise can last two or more weeks. Still, "if you have time to spend at sea, this is a great option," says Wolko.
Think closer to home.
You don't have to travel far and spend a ton of money for a great vacation. Weekend getaways and even frequent day trips can break up your day-to-day routine and give you time to recharge. "I always recommend continuously updating what I call 'My Close-to-Home-Bucket-List'," says Matthew Phillips, director of travel for AARP Services, Inc. The trick is to plan for these short excursions just as you would a faraway adventure—so mark them on your calendar and set aside money for gas, meals, and entertainment.