Traveling on a Retirement Budget

The vistas. The glorious landscapes. The sunsets. The quaint towns, the adventures. The sights and sounds of traveling. All of it. But is it lost once you retire?

After all, you’re transitioning to a fixed income. Your budget is tight. Traditional wisdom for your golden years fixes you firmly at home, maybe, using the bleakest of clichés, in a rocking chair on the front porch.

No longer are the opportunities available for travel. With the luster of your more vibrant years supposedly behind you, you just have to accept the reality that hitting the open road, or the clear blue skies, is no longer an option: now is the time for pinching pennies and tending to creaky joints.

You simply must quench your wayward spirit, right? Wrong! While you may have to make some adjustments, traveling on a retirement budget is more than just a possibility. It’s a very practical and exciting opportunity to pursue a lifestyle that was likely not completely available to you during your working years.

After all, arranging times for travel while gainfully employed, for most of us, involved devising careful plans around busy work and family schedules. Now that you’re retired, you set the time. You go when it’s convenient for you. You hit the open road when you feel good and ready.

But how do you do it on your retirement budget? Grab your keys and let’s explore. Here are some tips to get you moving:


Despite the possibility that you may have considerably more time on your hands, you still have to do some budget planning. You have to count the cost, literally, which is a good thing. How much do you expect lodging to cost? What about estimated food costs? Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? Consider all of your expenses.

“The travel budget needs to be set as part of your overall financial plan,” said Patti Black, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Alabama.2

You can plan ahead for a trip by putting money in a separate account for traveling expenses. If your projected expenses exceed your budgeted amount, do some financial trimming. As you build your savings for an upcoming trip, you may decide to eat out less or forgo other home-bound projects. It’s a simple matter of prioritizing. And the open road offers quite an allure.

“I think you have choices with how you spend your dollars,” said retired school secretary Sharon Ellison. “What’s important to you: a new car or a trip to Europe?”3

The 62-year-old woman and her husband, who have a modest retirement income, have vacationed in Europe five times in their retirement.


You still have lots of time ahead of you. So, develop a timeline. Map out the details of your trip. Schedule it. If you’re flying, booking early will allow you to get better rates. The same goes for costs for accommodations.

“Think through what you want to do every day of your trip,” said Patricia Hajifotiou, owner of a tour company in Greece. “Write it down, and then right beside that, write what that is going to cost.”4


We’re not talking muscles. We’re talking dates, times, destinations. Keep your traveling vision in focus. You have your heart set on strolling beautiful, pristine beaches. Well, if it’s just beach views you’re looking for, you don’t necessarily have to travel thousands of miles to Hawaii, Patong, or Maui. Florida has fantastic beaches. California beaches are an absolute splash as well.

If it’s just the beaches that are drawing you, for example, you can also factor in more cost-saving times for visiting. While most travelers from the working world may be looking at more convenient or popular times, such as weekends and the traditional holiday season, you can target mid-week times, which helps you to avoid the crowds and the higher travel costs.

“Consider drawing out trips and traveling slower,” said Joseph Conroy, a certified financial planner and financial consultant in Maryland. “Take more time in each city and try to live like a local.”5


Let’s take the time to talk a little more about time. This is an important subject. It’s kind of like rush hour on a grander scale. So, you’re thinking about Disney World in the spring or summer or Times Square around New Year’s, right? Hold on, unless you prefer the crowds and the higher costs. Do the research to learn when the busy-and slow-seasons are for your destination. Then plan accordingly. You save money. You avoid the sharps elbows of the big crowds. And you’re able to enjoy it more.


Websites provide some outstanding travel deals. You can get discounts on flights, cruises, and hotels from Kayak6 and Google Flights7 . Airbnb8 provides some fabulous and considerably less costly accommodations for travelers. VRBO lets travelers find vacation-house deals. You may also want to explore tour group packages to lower costs.


Careful investigation of local transportation arrangements may allow you to cut costs even more. Let’s say you’re flying to a big city thousands of miles away. What about using public transportation in those urban areas? After all, driving around crowded downtowns in a rental can be hectic, confusing, and expensive.

Many big cities (New York City, Chicago, San Francisco) offer discounted public transportation passes for a day, a week, or longer. If you are just looking to enjoy the urban life–museums, restaurants, galleries–you might want to consider driving to a nearby big city. The United States has more than 100 cities with populations greater than 200,000 residents.10 After all, do you really need to go to a city of 5 million busy residents?


You have to eat. And you want to eat well. However, to manage expenses, you may want to consider booking accommodations that provide breakfasts and have refrigerators and microwave ovens. This helps reduce the cost of restaurant dining for every meal. You can even shop at local markets for specialty items.


If you love going to attractions, do some attraction shopping first. Explore local event calendars, chambers of commerce activities events, and tourism sites. You may discover the small, less-traveled attractions just as delightful as the large onesand a whole lot less expensive. Many communities provide wonderful events and festivities, which deliver some of the best and surprisingly delightful entertainment offerings, real hidden gems off the proverbial beaten track.


You may not want to broadcast to the world that you’re a senior. But many places offer senior discounts that can save you a lot of money over time. Many organizations provide members with special discounts. Explore this list of senior discounts: The Senior List11.

These organizations provide travel discounts: AAA12, AARP13, American Seniors Association14, Association of Mature American Citizens15, CAP16, National Association of Conservative Seniors17, and The Seniors Coalition18.


Have you earned points on loyalty programs for hotel stays, airline flights or credit card use? Use the points. That’s what the points are for. It’s time to put them to good use. What time is better than now? Traveling on a retirement budget can be fun and affordable. All it takes is a little planning and a whole lot of anticipation.



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Any companies mentioned are for illustrative purposes only. It should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of the securities. Any investment should be consistent with your objectives, time frame and risk tolerance.

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