10 Big Reasons You Shouldn’t Delay Travel Plans Until You Retire

If you’ve always wanted to travel, here are 10 good reasons why you should treat yourself to a journey long before you retire.
Last updated June 2, 2023 | By Michelle Smith Edited By Ellen Cannon
couple traveling and reading map in city

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In a recent Transamerica survey, 62% of Americans said they planned to travel once they’d retired, which makes travel the most common retirement dream in the country. 

But even though retirees spend an average of $11,000 a year on travel, millions of retired Americans net under $26,000 annually. 

For many retirees, the dream of traveling during retirement remains just a dream — even if they find ways to supplement their Social Security.

If you want to travel, then you’d be smart not to put it off until retirement. Below, we explore 10 reasons to travel now, not later.

You don’t know how long you'll be in good health

spotmatikphoto/Adobe male nurse pushing stretcher gurney bed in hospital corridor

No one likes to think about their own mortality, but the harsh reality of reaching retirement age is that you just don’t know how long your good health will last. 

According to one British study, the average man enjoys six decades of good health followed by 16 years of poor health. The average woman, meanwhile, experiences up to 19 years of poor health.

So, even though the average American lives around 76 years, you shouldn’t count on feeling healthy enough to travel during all or even most of those years.

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Your mobility typically declines as you get older

VisualProduction/Adobe woman working as a home nurse taking care of a senior lady

Hoping to hike the Appalachian Trail or see the entire Jurassic Coast? Worsening balance and the loss of strength are natural consequences of aging, so you might want to get out and complete the hike of your dreams while you know you still can. 

And while you might plan to find ways to make extra money after you retire, doing so might be harder than you think once your mobility starts to decline.

Plus, staying fit while you’re younger increases your chances of remaining healthy, mobile, and active later in life. When you think of it in those terms, taking that vacation now can be an investment in your post-retirement quality of life.

You’ll have other major expenses besides travel

Nina Lawrenson/peopleimages.com/Adobe senior couple using laptop

At $11,000 a year, travel expenses are no joke. But they’re far from the biggest expense on a retiree’s radar. 

For instance, even if you and your partner start your retirement while relatively healthy, you should plan to have upward of $315,000 in savings dedicated solely to health care. 

Plus, if you retire early, you’ll probably have to pay for health care out of pocket before you’re old enough to qualify for Medicare. Costs that high can make budgeting for travel harder.

You may run out of money

shurkin_son/Adobe senior woman pensioner having depressed look

Financial advisors typically recommend that you plan to live on 80% of your current salary during each year of your retirement. 

However, few Americans have saved that much when they leave the workforce. In addition, the amount of money you need depends in no small part on how long you live and how good your health is.

Maybe you’ll end up living just a few years after your retirement. On the flip side, you could live well beyond the lifespan of an average American. If you live until you’re 96 but only planned for 15 years of retirement, you’ll almost certainly run out of money. 

And sure, you can always use a travel credit card to vacation if your finances run low, but paying off debt is hard enough when you aren’t on a fixed income.

Travel may cost more later

gopixa/Adobe stack of coins next to an upward curve symbolizing rising costs due to inflation

As we saw this year, costs can spike unexpectedly and stubbornly refuse to go down, no matter how high the Fed raises interest rates. 

Thanks to inflation, your dollar went much further in 2019 than it did in 2022, and travel is exponentially higher this year than it was in the past. 

Hopefully, we won’t experience another 40-year inflation high for a few more decades after current prices drop, but lower inflation isn’t exactly something you can count on.

Another worldwide pandemic could pause travel

blvdone/Adobe People walking in city with masks

A handful of people probably saw the 2020 pandemic coming. But the rest of us had no idea a global pandemic caused by a new virus was even a possibility, much less something that could shut down the travel industry for the better part of a year.

Unfortunately, the chances of another pandemic locking us all down out of the blue aren’t zero. Far from it, in fact: In our globalized world, the risk of a pandemic goes up year after year. 

The quick response to COVID-19, including the rapid vaccine rollout, hopefully, shows that humans can handle another pandemic. 

Nevertheless, every year counts when you’re retired, and losing a year or two of travel time to an unexpected, catastrophic world event can halt your retirement travel plans indefinitely.

Cost of living could keep going up

JohnKwan/Adobe social security cards

While inflation doesn’t usually send the cost of living into the stratosphere like it did this year, the cost of living usually does go up year over year. 

That’s why the Social Security Administration assesses its payments each year and adjusts them as needed based on the current cost of living. 

If costs keep trending upward, even gradually, a vacation you can afford now could be out of reach a decade down the road.

Working without breaks leads to burnout

Krakenimages.com/Adobe partners stressing one of them at the office

Everyone needs a break from work. You deserve time to focus on your non-work relationships, take care of yourself, and enjoy life. And if you love to travel, then traveling can give you a much-needed rejuvenating break from work long before you retire.

Sure, it could be just fine to save your month-long, multi-generational cruise until retirement. 

But denying yourself the occasional weekend trip or even a week-long vacation once every six months won’t hurt your chances of going on a series of amazing trips once you retire. 

Instead, it might just mean you burn out faster, which is bad for your mental health, physical health, and work reputation.

Traveling is for more than rest and relaxation

ooo/Adobe colorful dress waving in the air

Lounging by a poolside is enjoyable no matter your age, but leisure isn’t the only reason people travel. 

Engaging with new cultures, meeting new people, and getting outside your comfort zone can enrich your life now and in the future. 

Putting off traveling until after you retire means depriving yourself of the value traveling can add to your life long before you leave the workforce.

Family vacations can be harder to plan with adult children

Day Of Victory Stu./Adobe family on the beach

Planning a family vacation with your kids is much easier when you all live under the same roof. Once your kids become adults, it can be much harder to find a vacation time that works with everyone’s work schedules. 

Plus, planning to vacation with your kids only after you retire means you won’t have the experience of traveling with them while they’re young, making formative memories that can last them a lifetime.

Bottom line

puhhha/Adobe tourist couple traveling

Planning for retirement is always a good idea, both in terms of finances and your future goals. But while you save for retirement and fantasize about your dream getaways, don’t forget to live in the now. 

Traveling before retirement can be extremely rewarding. Especially if you use one of the top travel credit cards that offer points and cash back.

Since you never know what the future holds, it’s worth visiting your top travel destinations now, not later.

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Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.