15 Budget Travel Tips That All Retirees Should Really Know About

If travel is on your retirement bucket list, try these money-saving tips to maximize your trips.
Updated Sept. 27, 2023
couple spending quality time after retirement.

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Many Americans have travel ambitions during retirement, yet the potential cost of globetrotting may keep some from realizing those dreams.

Fear not: Traveling, even internationally, can be done on a budget with some smart planning.

To help you hit all the destinations on your bucket list, here are 15 tips for people hoping to retire — or even retire early — and travel on a budget.

Be flexible with dates

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe senior couple using laptop

If you are a retiree, you might be able to keep more money in your bank account by being flexible so you can save on flights and hotels.

This could mean booking a vacation in advance and choosing to leave and return on the dates with the cheapest flights. Or it might mean being open to booking a trip when airfares suddenly plunge or hotels reduce their prices to fill empty rooms.

Travel during off-season

Syda Productions/Adobe Elderly couple examining a map on city street.

Traveling to hot destinations during “shoulder” seasons — when travel demand briefly dips — is a great way to avoid major crowds and save some cash.

For European destinations, the shoulder season is typically spring or fall. Visiting hot spots — such as Paris or Rome — during these seasons is a favorite strategy among travel enthusiasts because the weather is still pleasant and it’s easier to score great deals.

Prioritize purchases

Prostock-studio/Adobe Elderly man computing taxes in his home.

If travel is a priority, cutting back on spending in other areas can make vacations more feasible.

That might mean fewer dinners out or cutting back on things like expensive gift-giving.

Look up exchange rates

Seventyfour/Adobe senior woman using her laptop

Your dollars will go further in specific destinations when the U.S. dollar is particularly strong compared to foreign currencies.

For example, if a trip to Japan is on your travel bucket list, you may want to look up exchange rates and plan your trip when the dollar is strong compared to the Japanese yen.

Monitor flight prices

Lazy_Bear/Adobe elderly couple in airport terminal

Begin monitoring flight prices a few months before your trip. Get familiar with what a typical round-trip costs and regularly monitor the prices.

That way, if a deal pops up, you will recognize it and can jump on it.

Beware of foreign-transaction fees

Marko Rupena/Adobe senior pair using an atm

Foreign transaction fees can really add up on international vacations. Check out what sort of fees your credit cards charge.

In some cases, it may be worth it to apply for a credit card with perks like no foreign transaction fees and ATM fee reimbursement.

Make the most of travel rewards

Apiwan/Adobe couple displaying a credit card

Savvy travelers can save big by taking advantage of credit card travel rewards. Many credit cards let customers use points to book travel, including flights and hotels.

If you plan to travel by air frequently, it may also be worth it to sign up for a frequent flyer program so you can use miles to pay for future flights.

Plan ahead

gstockstudio/Adobe Smiling couple operating laptop at home

Travelers who plan ahead can save money. 

Airlines typically have their flight schedules planned 11 months in advance, so you can track flight prices for months before booking.

This will also provide ample time to shop around and get the best deal on a hotel.

Combine destinations

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe Couple checking travel documents at airport.

If two or more travel destinations on your bucket list are relatively close together, you can save big money by combining multiple destinations into one trip.

For example, many tourists visiting Europe will hit two or more countries on the same trip. You can book a “multi-city” flight or a round-trip that flies into one city and out of another.

Skip the rental car

JackF/Adobe Mature woman sitting on seat inside tram.

The cost of rental cars can really add up. And while renting a vehicle might still seem convenient, plenty of hot tourist destinations have easy-to-navigate public transportation options.

It’s also often wise to book accommodations within walking distance of the sites you plan to see.

Find travel buddies

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe senior friends joyfully dancing on the beach.

Finding friends who will split travel costs — like hotel rooms, gas, rental cars, groceries, and more — can cut your overall vacation cost significantly.

Even planning a trip with just one other travel buddy or couple can lead to major savings.

Skip overpriced hotspots

Artem Varnitsin/Adobe Stylish mature woman sitting on a yacht bow.

A weekend with the family in Disneyland or at a beachfront condo may seem like a dream. But savvy travelers can save a lot by avoiding hotspots known to overcharge tourists.

If a hotspot is a must-see destination for you, consider being flexible about the dates and seasons you travel so you can take advantage of opportunities to save.

Do some grocery shopping

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Gorgeous senior couple buying fresh vegetables.

Food prices can add up quickly on vacation, especially if the accommodations you’re staying in do not have much of a kitchen.

Doing some grocery shopping — either before leaving or after you arrive at the destination — can help keep spending on food in check.

Pack light

lanych/Adobe Elderly couple hiking .

If you’re traveling by plane and can fit all your essentials into a carry-on bag, you’ll save a lot by not shelling out extra cash to check a bag. Checking just one bag can add $30 or more to your costs each time you board a plane.

Pro tip: If you are looking for budget flights, make sure you’re not booking a “basic economy” trip that charges extra for carry-on bags — unless you plan to pack extremely light.

Rent your home

pikselstock/Adobe senior couple ringing doorbell

If you are dreaming of a long vacation — say, a month or longer — you might be able to earn some passive income to add to your travel budget by renting out your home.

You can rent your home on a travel marketplace, such as Airbnb, or find a short-term tenant.

Bottom line

Jacob Lund/Adobe romantic senior couple having fun at the beach.

Retirement is a great time to see the world, but planning long or extravagant vacations on a fixed budget might seem intimidating.

However, with some careful planning, you can build fulfilling travel goals into your retirement budget and eliminate some money stress.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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