“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou.
“You must be rich to travel .” says an acquaintance who walks her dog at the park.
“No, I am not rich.” I reply
I choose to spend the money I have on traveling rather than redecorating my house or eating out every day of the week. I don’t play golf or tennis. I don’t smoke, drink, or take drugs. I am healthy and able to walk long distances.
If you are reading this, you must be retired. What do you do during your free time? Is your passion for traveling?
Now, you have the time to plan your adventures. Let’s do it!
Ditch the travel companies
Travel companies charge double if you are a solo traveler. Travel companies must pay their employees, and therefore you pay a higher cost. The Internet has made it easy to plan your vacation. It takes time and patience, and you have both.
Travel in “off” season
Accommodations and airfare are cheaper, and lines are shorter, no screaming children, and people are friendlier. Skip summer and holiday travel. Every day is vacay time.
Do your research
Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Make a list of the places you want to visit. Check out travel books from the public library. Purchase books in a bookstore. Order a coffee or tea and read travel magazines and travel books before deciding which ones you want to buy. Order two cookies and get one for free at Barnes and Noble after your purchase, not before, or you won’t get the free cookie. Take notes on the information you get. Check out the millions of travel blogs that give free advice and post pictures of their travels like this one.
Book your flight
Before you buy a ticket, check out the airfares on four or five sites. You might find a cheaper flight with Expedia, Kayak, or Orbitz. Review the different seat types: Basic is more affordable but doesn’t include your bags. You will have to pay $25 for each bag you check-in. The cheaper the fare, the more fees you will have to pay. You will pay for a carry-on and a choice for a window or aisle seat, and there are no cancellations.
Note: Don’t pay for your carry-on unless required. I take my carry-on to the gate, and most of the time, they will announce that there is not enough space in the cabin, and you can check your bag in with them at the ticket counter. You won’t have to pay to check it in.
When you buy the cheapest ticket, you will be in group 7, the last called to board the plane. Main is the next step up. Premium Economy is double the Basic but gives you a seat choice and checked-in bag and no cancellations. You can change your flight. You will move up to group five for check-in. There are other types of seats offered by the airlines. Become a member of one or two leading airlines such as American, United, or Delta. You can rack up mileage if you have one of their credit cards.
Check all of your possibilities before you make the final decision.
It is cheaper to fly to Europe than it is to fly to some cities in the US.
Book your hotel
I use booking.com. They will reward you with frequent stays. You won’t get a free room, but you can get an upgrade or a free cookie, and you can be a designated Genius.
I booked a hotel in India, and the receptionist sent me a pot of tea and three cookies when I checked into my room. Reserving a room requires research. Stay at local hotels. They are cheaper than hotel rooms at Marriott or the other well-known American hotels. Check out the area location and make sure it is safe. Read solo women’s blogs and ask questions. Read reviews of the hotels. Make a reservation for two if you are alone. It is the same price. Don’t let the front desk know that you are alone. Ask for two keys. Tell them your partner will be coming later. Most of the time, they won’t ask you.
If you don’t mind sharing a bedroom and bathroom with six other people who are much younger than you and might come in drunk while you are sleeping, you can stay in a hostel. I prefer my private bedroom and bathroom.
Eat lunch, not dinner.
In Europe, people eat lunch around 2-3 p.m. Lunch specials appear on the menu for half the dinner price. If your accommodations don’t offer breakfast, go to the local grocery or market and buy your breakfast. Eat it in a park or back in your room. Dinner can be a snack with a drink. Eat in local restaurants. Avoid the expensive restaurants recommended in your travel guide.
Book local tours
I use Viator or Culture Trip to book day tours. Buy the tickets online. The tour guides are local and knowledgeable. Tours include city tours, full-day tours, half-day tours, culinary tours, and museum tours. You might end up having lunch or a drink with some of the people on your tour. I usually do.
Buy travel insurance
Get a free pet sitter.
I use Trusted House Sitters, and it’s free. I have never had a problem.
Making your travel plans takes time and you have plenty of it. Use the money you would be paying a travel agency or group for other things.
You don’t have to be rich to travel when you retire. Be resourceful and ready to put in the time. In the end, you will be glad you did.
Note: You can’t blame anyone but yourself if the plans go wrong. Plan carefully and enjoy.
Now, what’s your excuse for not traveling in as a retiree?
“Oh, the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss