How you can afford to travel in retirement – and why you can’t afford NOT to

Getting out of Dodge and experiencing new surroundings, new people and mouth-watering local cuisine is always refreshing, and I think even more so during retirement. New places keep us excited with the unknown possibilities around each corner. Planning a new travel adventure stimulates your mind and senses as you research historically significant sites to see, get familiar with the local language (at least the key phrases), and generally put yourself into the mindset of a local. And after dedicating the majority of our earlier years to building our retirement nest egg, few retired couple’s list of retirement to-dos overlooks travel. This is what we have been waiting for!

I want to with you share my fortunate current state of affairs. At this moment, I am sitting in a hotel on Boulevard de Sebastapol in downtown Paris, looking out my fourth floor window onto the café across the street as the sun shines into my room. This is my first time to Paris, a place I have always wanted to visit but have been a little intimidated by my lack of French (as in ANY) and some scattered rumors about possible rudeness targeting non-French-speaking-Americans (I am what I am). But it has been a wonderful time. We have seen the important sites and at a perfect pace that included spending half a day at the Luxembourg Park just reading in the sun (we really lucked out with the weather), listening to the brass band playing an unexpected concert, and sipping a café. We did a lot but not too much.

Travel is not cheap or always easy. But we love to travel and plan on doing a lot of it once fully retired. How can we afford to travel at a time when money is no longer flowing in yet we finally have the time to do so?

Affording travel

If you decide that travel is important in your retired life, you may need to make a few trade-offs. Is Paris more important than the new dining room furniture? Can the kitchen remodel be delayed or scaled down a bit to finance a Polynesian escape? Is the cruise through the Panama Canal worth cutting back somewhere else? You make up your mind on the big things, but here are a few other considerations:

Getting there and staying there – I pointed out a few good places to look for more reasonable flights and hotels in my senior citizens discount blog. We find staying at a well-known, reliable hotel works out fine and with fewer surprises. The Best Western is working out just fine for our Paris trip.

Affordable lifestyle once you land – eating out every meal will kill your budget. Instead: Once you get situated, find a nearby grocery store to stock up on basics like water, bread, salami, milk, cereal, apples – whatever are your basic needs.

o Pick up a few good bottles (or more) of wine for your happy hour. We try to find a $15 bottle of a local vintage and have had some decent success. And if it turns out to be really BAD, no tears are shed disposing of it. Life is too short to drink bad wine! Of course it is still fun to try a glass of something new when dining out but you will pay the price.

o Carry a snack with you while venturing out – a granola bar or a bag of nuts does wonders to curb your appetite and spare your wallet.

o Bring your grocery-store-bought bottle of water – much cheaper than what you will find on the road.

o Dining out – early bird deals are available at some local restaurants; ordering a selection of hors d’oeuvres with a glass of wine each is a good way to sample a variety of treats and generally fills you up; one that works for us is sharing one complete dinner and one salad. For lunch, in my opinion, nothing beats a French roll with some meat and cheese.

o Happy hour(s) – every place offers these and the drink selection is across the board but much more affordable.

o Public transportation – especially in Europe, this is the way to go. Trains and buses will get you to most places on the map. The Metro in Paris is $1.20 per destination and no dealing with crazed taxi drivers or brake-challenged Vespa fanatics.

o Purchase tickets in advance for local sites of interest – generally slightly cheaper and helps avoid long lines.

Retirement is your time to finally do what you have always wanted to do, those special things that kept you going when work and life sometimes became unbearable. If travel is a part of what you want to do, what you are passionate about, then you need to do it. You may ask can I afford it? With the right trade-offs and saving and planning, you can figure out a way. If travelling is your love and keeps you excited with each new adventure posted on your calendar and gives you a reason to get out there, the better question is can you afford NOT to do it?

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to

7 thoughts on “How you can afford to travel in retirement – and why you can’t afford NOT to

  1. Good tips. Are the French in Paris still rude? 30 years ago they went out of their way not to understand anything. I left and am not eager to go back.
    One other point, you have to decide and then do it. Stop thinking, budget some money and commit. Speaking from experience here.

    • Well Ralph – we definitely had our share of rudeness – and that was despite my wife’s efforts to speak French which she actually can do. I sometimes got the feeling that we could do no right and were treated poorly just because. But there were also those who made an extra effort to smile and work with us to understand and make the experience a positive one. So 50/50 overall.

  2. You’re so right about travel being important in retirement! It’s also important to do the things you want to do when you can because as you get into your 70’s and upward, you may not be physically able to get out and do them. You don’t want to get to be 85 and then, like my own father, wish you’d gotten to visit that Civil War battlefield or Williamsburg,VA.

    I saw a lot of the world by joining the military but there is still lots more to see, or even revisit. I found locals to be pretty friendly everywhere if I was friendly first. Haven’t been to France tho-lol.

    When we travel. we do as you suggest and bring our own “provisions” so we don’t have to eat totally from restaurants and we purchase items like water from the local grocery stores.

    A friend of mine wrote an ebook on budget travel to Hawaii, which I edited for her. I know it’s possible, with some research, to enjoy a trip to Hawaii and not wipe out your bank account.

  3. kudos, on doing stuff on your list! good ideas.
    i want to get locations off my list while i can still travel.
    too many of my friends now have health issues and they are only in their 60’s!

    • I think it is definitely a good idea to focus on the more challenging trips now rather than later. My folks at 78 are going strong but have already done most of their long range traveling – and they covered some very exciting places. Cruises and guided tours become an good option later in life and include some pretty exotic locations as well.

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