20 Great Retirement Travel Ideas: Make the Most Popular Retirement Pursuit Your Reality
According to surveys of NewRetirement users, travel after retirement is clearly the most popular and desired pursuit for this phase of life. From day trips by car to round the world journeys, retirees have wanderlust! And with the pandemic waning in the United States, and hopefully a way forward for the rest of the world, travel plans are on the uptick.
A full 75% of users of NewRetirement’s award-winning Retirement Planner mention travel as what they want to do in retirement and AARP has reported that almost all baby boomers — 99% — want to travel!
Here are 20 tips for making travel after retirement plentiful, affordable, and completely fulfilling:
1. Set goals, make a bucket list, think through where you want to go — with whom? Why?
Thinking about what you want to do in retirement is an important part of retirement planning. And, you are likely to be more successful if you get as detailed and specific as possible about how, when, where, why, and with whom you want to travel.
- Do you have a bucket list of destinations?
- Are you hoping to travel once a month? Once a year?
- Are you thinking spur-of-the-moment jaunts to take advantage of good deals? Or, are you hoping to see specific places?
- Who will go with you? Spouse? Friends? Grandkids? Siblings?
- Why do you want to travel?
2. Get in agreement with your spouse
One overlooked aspect of retirement planning is communication between spouses. A survey by Fidelity Investments found that many married couples have an extremely difficult time discussing retirement planning and other financial planning subjects.
Spouses also sometimes have very different ideas about what they want out of retirement and how they intend to pay for it all.
Is retirement travel important to you? How does your spouse want to spend time in retirement? Get tips for how to talk with your spouse about retirement.
3. Consider more exotic locales
You may have a few favorite destinations that you want to revisit, but it can be a good idea to put some wildly new destinations on your retirement travel wish list.
Let’s face it, as we get older, we’ve seen and experienced a lot already. It can sometimes feel like nothing will surprise you anymore.
However, travel is one way to see something new and fresh. From this perspective, travel can almost give you the opportunity to experience life as a child sees the world — marveling at things new and wondrous. Best of all, these types of new experiences are actually scientifically proven to keep our minds more alive.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson
4. Find senior discounts on hotels and airfare
You probably know that most hotel chains offer discounts of 10-20% for seniors. These are usually easy to find on the hotels’ websites and are similar to a AAA discount.
You might not know that some airlines also offer discounts to seniors. However, it is not as common as it once was and the senior discount might not be the best deal you can find. Airlines currently offering discounts include:
- British Airways offers discounts to AARP members.
- Delta Airlines offers discounts on some flights. You’ll need to call them — 1-800-221-1212 — to learn about which flights and to reserve with these rates.
- Southwest also offers senior discounts, but these fares must be booked over the phone: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792)
- Like Delta, United Airlines offers senior discounts on certain flights. Call and ask at 1-800-241-6522
5. Hit the Road
Twenty-four percent of retirees say going on an RV trip is very appealing at this stage of their life and RV sales have been skyrocketing with most buyers ages 50–69.
And, campervans are the vehicle of choice for hipster vagabonds. However, seniors may be the biggest market for these homes on the road.
These vehicles can be your transportation and hotel all in one. Some people even sell their homes and live on the road.
“The real home of man is not his house but the road. Life itself is a travel that has to be done by foot [or RV].” — Bruce Chitin
6. No Matter the Length of Your Road Trip — Here Are Some Great Resources
Whether you want to drive across the country for a few weeks or just visit a neighboring town for the day, road trips are one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Here are a few great resources for finding interesting diversions along the way:
Swimming Holes: Listings of 1,600 swimming holes in the United States and Canada.
Roadside Attractions: Put in your route and find wacky roadside stops.
The Outdoor Project: Maps with great hikes, campgrounds, adventures, and more.
Roadfood.com: Jan and Michael Stern are probably the most famous of all roadside dining aficionados. Their site, RoadFood.com helps you find casual, affordable local restaurants, cafes, diners, and more featuring regional specialties.
GasBuddy: An app that helps you find the cheapest nearby gas station.
RoadTrippers: Also an app, helps you find cool attractions along the way.
”Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” — Jack Kerouac
7. Other ways to forgo hotels altogether
There are more options than ever for affordable vacation lodging.
You will be amazed to see that all kinds of homes are available for rent all over the United States and remote corners of the world. Best of all, the amount you pay per night is often much less than what a hotel would cost plus you get a kitchen and more — sometimes the homes even come with cars or other transportation perks.
Home Exchange: HomeExchange is a service that matches homeowners for a housing swap. Thousands of people exchange houses every year and love the experiences and connections that are made.
Hostels: You might think that hostels are just for young, drunken kids. However, hostels are making an effort to cater to older (and more sophisticated) travelers. Some hostels even offer private rooms and great amenities (if bunk beds aren’t your style).
If you are interested, check out: Hostelworld.com. You can see descriptions, reviews, rankings, and even see availability and make reservations.
8. Rent out your own home to fund retirement travel
In addition to offering you a great place to stay when you travel, Airbnb can also offer you an almost magical way to make money for travel (or whatever). It is easy to list your home on Airbnb as a rental for travelers who will be visiting your community. Depending on where you live, you might just get flooded with interest.
I live in Marin, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Of the 6 homes on my block, 4 are available for rent on Airbnb. The most successful renters are retirees who just take off whenever someone wants to rent their home.
If you have a successful rental, the income you earn can often pay for a trip and more!
9. Go last minute and save
When you are working, travel gets squeezed into available vacation slots. For travel after retirement, you have a lot more freedom to take advantage of last-minute deals and opportunities.
There are quite a few websites and apps that can help you with these spur of the moment trips:
Hotel Tonight: Hotel Tonight is an app. They get unsold inventory from hotels for that night and make it available to app users at a big discount.
Kayak.com/explore: Kayak has a feature on their website that lets you see a map of the world and the lowest airfares from your city to anywhere and everywhere.
Intrepid Travel: Intrepid Travel books tours. You can review their last-minute deals.
Groupon: Groupon does all kinds of discounts for many different types of experiences. They also have some last minute deals.
Lastminute.com: This site focuses mainly on European last-minute deals.
Travelzoo: Travelzoo aims to offer the best deals from the best companies.
Google Flights: Watch out, this can get a little addictive. If you plug in your departure city and dates, but leave the destination blank, Google Flights will return a list of the lowest airfares available for you.
10. Take time to plan (scientists say it is the best part)
Last-minute adventures are exciting and fun, but they might rob you of what scientists say is the best part of travel.
You might think that the best part is something like the smell wafting from a corner bakery, seeing an iconic monument, or dipping your toes into the sand. However, this study suggests that the best part of your trip happens long before you even board the airplane…
According to the researchers, planning and anticipating your trip makes you happier than actually taking it.
Speaking of planning, make sure your travel plans are budgeted as part of your retirement plans. The NewRetirement Retirement Planner enables you to allocate travel money as part of your monthly or yearly budget. Or, you can specify one-time expenditures for specific trips.
11. Plan longer trips and save
The beauty of retirement is that you have time. You do not have a clock to punch or other specific demands on your days. As such, you can plan travel with practically unlimited time. Done right, this can save you money and be much more enjoyable.
Imagine you wanted to see Spain and Italy. When working, you either have to see very little of each place in a short period of time or take two trips. Two trips are double the airfare and if you are trying to squeeze it all into one trip, then you might be paying a premium for hotels close to the things you want to see and other conveniences that make seeing everything possible.
Everything is different in retirement. You can take two months and see two, three, or more locations in one trip — dramatically reducing your airfare costs. And with time, you can rent apartments or other lower-cost accommodations, cook some meals in your rented home, walk instead of taking taxis — all of which can dramatically decrease your daily spend and also enable you to really enjoy being in the location instead of packing it all in.
12. Don’t travel, just retire abroad
Retirement abroad is the ultimate in retirement travel. Here are 12 tips for retirement overseas.
13. Think seriously about travel insurance
Travel insurance — especially medical travel insurance — is probably a good idea if you are traveling abroad. Medicare, even supplemental Medicare, is not usually valid outside the United States.
A couple of companies offering coverage for travel include:
14. Get big discounts on national parks
Seniors can buy a lifetime pass (lifetime!) for $80. And, if you don’t want to pay the fees upfront, you can spread out the cost over four years. If you buy an annual pass for $20 for four years straight, then you can trade it in for the lifetime pass.
The pass offers access to more than 2,000 sites and parks across the country.
To be eligible for the senior pass, you must be 62 or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
15. Discover discounts on cruises
Have you read about the people who retire… to a cruise ship!?!!!
That might be going a bit, um… “overboard.” However, cruises were immensely popular for retirement travel pre-pandemic. With strict protocols, these floating hotels are making a comeback.
There are lots of resources to help you find the right cruise at the best price:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain
16. Join a tour
There are numerous travel companies that target retirees for travel after retirement. Two of the most popular operators include:
- Road Scholar who focuses on experiential learning.
- Overseas Adventure Travel offers small group adventures.
These tour operators have special programs for solo travelers:
17. Sign up for a senior travel club
Many cities have private senior adventure and travel clubs. These are usually just what they say they are — groups of people who want to travel and meet other people who want to travel too.
Very often these clubs organize amazing trips at huge discounts because they are able to get group rates.
Do a web search for a senior travel club in your city. However, beware of scams — never give out a credit card or money to an organization you don’t know anything about. A legitimate club will usually invite you to attend a meeting to get to know everyone before asking for any kind of fee or deposit.
18. Try out voluntourism
Voluntourism — volunteering while being a tourist — is an increasingly popular retirement travel option for seniors. If you want to try to give back while exploring the world, consider some of these better-known organizations:
19. Take the grandkids
If travel is the most popular thing people want to do after retirement, spending time with grandkids is probably second. So why not combine the two?
Travel is an excellent way to spend real quality time with grandchildren while making extraordinary memories. To make the trip successful, be sure to involve them in the planning (you might want their parents’ input as well).
20. Make Travel a Detailed Part of Your Overall Retirement Plan
Whatever kind of travel is on your retirement wish list, if you want it to happen, you had better make sure that you set goals and budget for it as part of your overall retirement plan.
The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator allows you to:
- Budget for big one-time expenses so you can plan for a big trip.
- You can also vary your budget and set different spending levels for different phases of retirement. So, if you plan on one trip a year for the next 5 years and then less travel after that, your projected budgets can reflect your actual plans.