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

How to take a Memorable Vacation after you Retire

Ah, nothing better than a little vacation time. Your chance to get away from the daily grind, to journey to a new destination, explore, play, and just relax (or as my kids say, “chillax – part chill, part relax). After you retire, it is still important to get away to break up the routine. Boredom and doing the same thing can easily suck the energy and excitement out of your day. Plus there are so many places to go and things to do – you need to take advantage of it.

So you agree with your significant other that it is time for a getaway. You break out your trusty travel folder to see what looks good, you discuss it a bit, and you decide where to go.

NOTE: the travel folder is a must-have for every household. Basically a manila folder for collecting ideas on potential travel destinations. Fill the folder with pages from travel magazines or your daily newspaper, notes from TV travel shows with interesting places to visit, websites where you have discovered exotic options, and recommendations from friends. When I travel to a place that I think I would like to revisit, I enjoy wandering the area and investigating possible spots to stay upon our return. Many times have I dug into “the folder” to find a long-forgotten clip that turns out to be exactly what we are looking for now.

How to make the most of your vacation

(1)  Don’t try to do too much – we all know people who go on vacation and the minute their feet touch terra firma, their checklist of “things to do” kicks in. Horseback riding at sunrise, snorkeling at noon, tennis at 3, luau at 6, sunset cruise, then start over tomorrow. It never ends and just how relaxing is this pace? These are the same people who need a vacation AFTER they return from their vacation. Relax and enjoy along the way.

(2)  Quality over quantity – wherever you decide to vacation, there will be a few local points of interest. Find the HIGH points. Do a little research – talk with friends who have made the trip before to help you uncover the real gems. Research on the internet to narrow your options. Then pick SOME, the good ones. Take time to enjoy each at a comfortable pace to experience the full impact. You will more clearly remember and vividly relive these moments later if you focus on quality not quantity.

(3)  A little dab will do you – all that wonderful food…all the warm sunshine…all the tasty drinks. A little moderation will reward you big time and make your escape that much more enjoyable. Not recommending abstinence since these delights are an important part of why you are on vacation in the first place. But instead a taste…a bit…a sip. And thereafter a happy camper!

(4)  Don’t miss the sunsets – at the end of your day, with your loved one at your side, as activity gradually slows down, find a place to watch and  share the end of day. Inspiration in retired life can be yours. With a sunset, you never know what is in store and if there are a few scattered clouds, the results  are often  spectacular. No better way to finish the day and quietly contemplate whatever is on your mind.

(5)  Remember the point of your vacation is to  enjoy the beauty that is around you. Share the moment, appreciate the moment, relax in the moment, and smile. Life is good.

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