If you saved all your working days to live the retirement of your dreams, you probably want to travel—and to experience the best hotels, meals, and adventures while you're on the road. In fact, traveling is the number one goal of retirees, even more than spending time with friends and family, according to a poll from the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies. But instead of blowing the bank, you likely want to spend your money wisely to ensure many great trips to come. Here are some smart ways to save—as well as savvy ways to spend—as you tour the world.
Travel during off-peak times.
Since you don't have to cram yourself onto Friday through Sunday flights to get back to the office anymore, take advantage of lower pricing during lower-travel times. That means flights that leave Monday through Wednesday, especially during the late morning or afternoon.
Get the discounts you're entitled to.
If you're a member of AAA, AARP, or a veterans' group, mention it when you book and you may be able to get substantial discounts on hotels, flights, or rental cars. For example, United Airlines offers discounted “senior fares” to anyone 65 or over who books online; Starwood hotels (including W Hotels, Westin Hotels and Resorts, Sheraton, and Four Points) also offer up to 50 percent off for guests who are 62 and up.
Think about getting travel and health insurance.
One downer about retirement travel is that health issues are more likely to delay a trip than in younger years. For a pricier vacation, it may be worth purchasing travel insurance so you're not out the full amount of the trip if a medical issue comes up. Also, check in advance what your health insurance covers while you're abroad. Since many Medicare supplemental insurance plans don’t offer coverage out of the country, you might want to buy extra travel health insurance.
Budget with a cushion.
Most people underestimate the total cost of their travel, so when you're setting money aside, allot an extra 20 percent for unforeseen costs. If you don’t end up spending it, you can always treat yourself to an extra-luxurious meal your last night or roll it over into your next trip.
Think about who's going.
Are you booking flights and hotel for just you and your spouse, or is it a multi-generational trip, which can cost three times as much? If you need to book more than two hotel rooms, a less expensive option could be rooming together in a rental house through VRBO or Airbnb. In addition to saving cash, you’ll be able to spend more time together (a shared living room is by far a more comfortable place for the group to hang out than a hotel lobby). You can also grocery shop and then cook a few meals in the rental's kitchen, which saves money versus dining out and allows you to explore local delicacies at shops and farmers' markets.
Consider a home swap.
To save money on a rental while you travel, especially if you're doing a longer-term stay, you might want to swap houses with a local. It can be great to have a resource who knows the neighborhood and can recommend “inside” things to do, see, and eat, plus you won’t incur any hotel costs. For a small membership fee (from $115), join Intervac International Home Exchange or Home Exchange, and you can browse homes all over the world. Just be sure to get a signed exchange document that lays out ground rules before staying in each other’s homes.