When it comes to ways retirees prefer to spend their time in retirement, travel often lands at the top of the list. The catch is, just because you’ve got a lot of time on your hands for travel doesn’t mean you have a lot of money. Still, it’s entirely possible to travel more in retirement with the right focus and with a few tips and tricks. (See also: 6 Ways Travel in Retirement Keeps You Young)
1. Take advantage of your flexibility
Without the constraints of work, one of the most valuable things that almost every retiree has in their arsenal is flexibility. Due to increased demand, flight and hotel prices go up at peak travel times, but often drop drastically outside of them. So when it comes to travel, being flexible about when you go can mean your travel budget will stretch a lot further than it would during peak times.
Costs in the offseason are far cheaper for everything from flights and accommodations, to entrance fees and attractions. You may save so much that you’re even able to put some money aside for your next trip.
Traveling during low season also means that even the most popular destinations are much quieter than usual — another plus if you’re not a fan of crowds. (See also: Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel)
2. Use any discounts available
One of the great perks of being classed as a senior citizen is the wide range of travel discounts that you are now eligible for.
Organizations such as the AARP offer a host of deals for members on rental cars, hotels, cruises, and flights, though you have to pay the annual membership fee to access them. There are also lots of travel-related companies that offer their own discounts that are free to access. Best Western’s 10 percent discount for folks 55 and over, One Travel’s senior travel deals, and Amtrak’s senior program offering a 15 percent discount, are just a few.
3. Try a house swap
There are lots of ways to get free or extremely cheap accommodation when you travel. But by the time you retire, you’re probably used to a certain amount of luxury and you don’t want to be couchsurfing or staying in hostels. If you have a permanent home that you’re willing to allow other people use, then house-swapping could be a brilliant option for you.
There are lots of house-swapping sites that make the process extremely simple and safe, and there are even a number specifically dedicated to seniors, such as HomeExchange50Plus.com. You just need to list your property with a description and photographs that show it off. Then you can explore the properties already listed by other members of the community before contacting them to arrange your perfect swap. Though you have to pay an annual fee to join these sites, it’s negligible compared the money you can save.
4. Go for longer and travel slower
Though this may sound counterintuitive, generally, the longer that you travel, the cheaper your average daily costs will become. Rather than trying to cram loads of activities and destinations into one vacation, plan to see just one place, and experience it more thoroughly. By staying put, you’ll spend less on transport to other destinations.
Because you’ve got a more leisurely schedule, when do you want to go somewhere nearby, you can take a slower city bus, for instance, rather than a pricey taxi. You can also negotiate discounts in many accommodations for longer stays. I’ve done this successfully many times and for stays over four weeks, I have managed to make savings of up to 50 percent (See Also: Savor Your Trip and Save Big With These 5 Slow Travel Tips)
5. Offer to house sit
Though house sitting is open to anyone, it’s a competitive market, so only the best profiles tend to get selected. Homeowners are looking primarily for trustworthy and considerate people to look after their homes while they’re away, and being older generally helps to give you an air of reliability. Many people also like house sitters who have been homeowners, and will treat the home in the way they’d treat their own.
It’s similar to a house swap in that you get the use of a home for free, but you don’t need to have a house to reciprocate in return. Often you’ll be required to look after pets as part of the deal, but there is no cost other than the annual membership fee that sites like TrustedHousesitters charge. As with house swaps, you can save a significant amount of money through house sitting.
Even though there are lots of ways to make travel more affordable, it still costs money. Money that not every retiree has lying around. But if you have a house that’s bigger than you need, then you could be sitting on a golden nest egg.
Obviously the idea of downsizing would be to take advantage of any equity that you have in your existing property, which may be significant if you own the property outright. But even if you still have a mortgage, it may be possible to sell your home and buy a smaller one and still make a profit. You can then use this extra cash to fund your travels.
7. Prioritize travel
This is possibly the most important step to traveling more in retirement, and it’s a simple case of making it an absolute priority. One of the best ways to prioritize travel is to make a bucket list of all of the experiences you want to have and all of the places you want to visit. This will help to create a focus and provide you with a whole load of inspiration at the same time.
Make sure to check off items on the bucket list at regular intervals, say four trips a year depending on your flexibility. The key to doing this is planning, but it may also help to vocalize your plans to other people to help hold you accountable. If you tell your friends and family that you’re going to visit four specific places next year, it makes it much harder to find excuses to back out. (See also: Where to Do 9 Popular Bucket List Items on a Budget)