Most people dream of having the chance to travel. I caught the bug early and was lucky enough to spend more than 10 years living and working overseas. Even though I’m currently back in the US, I still have big travel plans for my future. My husband and I have even talked about retiring abroad. However, there are many things about international living you have to consider. If you have similar plans, here’s what you need to know about traveling in retirement.
7 Things You’ll Need to Know About Traveling in Retirement
1. You have to account for it in your retirement planning and monthly budget.
Unfortunately, traveling requires money. And if you are looking at luxury or international travel, it will get even more expensive. Even if you are a budget traveler and hunt for discounts, it won’t offset the costs of traveling in retirement. Therefore, you will need to estimate and account for these expenses in your budget.
Affording travel on a fixed income may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. If you research the costs, plan well in advance, and are realistic with your budget, you can make it happen. However, if you feel like it is too much of a strain, you can also consider partial retirement or consulting jobs to finance your lifestyle.
2. You can overlook your health and physical limitations.
The chance to explore new cultures and remote places has deepened my desire to travel. But the sad reality is that it will be harder to access rugged hiking trails or handle steep staircases at 65 than it was at 25.
As you get older, you have to factor in your health and physical capabilities when you choose travel destinations. International standards for accessibility also vary. So, you want to make sure you go somewhere that allows you to fully enjoy the sights. If you have specific needs that can’t be accommodated, it’s probably a good idea to adjust your itinerary.
Even now, I leave room for flexibility in our schedule for downtime, especially if we plan strenuous excursions. Having time to relax and recover can reduce the risks of injury and illness. While these will become more common the older we get, you can take precautions so it won’t interfere with your travel plans.
3. Your health insurance may not offer coverage in other countries.
Since we’re on the subject of health, it’s also important that you understand the limits of your healthcare coverage. Private insurance usually has allowances for international coverage, but may still require you to pay upfront and send in receipts for reimbursement.
However, basic Medicare plans won’t be much help if you are traveling internationally. You will need to purchase gap coverage or travel insurance if you will be spending significant time outside the country. And, you will have to make room in the budget for it as well.
4. Travel insurance isn’t a waste of money.
To reiterate an important point, you need more flexibility with your travel plans as you get older. Reservations changes, health issues arise, and emergencies come up at the last minute. And the more you travel, the more likely it will happen to you.
Therefore, it’s smart to purchase travel insurance so you aren’t at the mercy of service providers. Many people think it’s a waste of money. But, they probably haven’t gotten stuck somewhere due to weather conditions, service failures, theft, poor health, or simply bad luck. I would much rather pay a little extra for more financial protection and greater peace of mind.
5. Other people have the same retirement plans.
If you plan on traveling in retirement, remember that there are many like-minded people out there who want to visit the same places you do. If you stick to popular destinations, you will have to contend with bigger crowds, limited space, and higher prices.
The solution is to book early and plan ahead to secure your reservations. Or, you could also look at vacation destinations that are off the beaten track. Not only will this allow you to get away from the crowds, but also gives you more solitude to enjoy your surroundings.
6. You can find cheaper ways to travel.
While it should be common sense, the easiest way to book isn’t always the cheapest. We’ve had several packages through third-party websites only to find cheaper deals later on. Sure, they conveniently bundle what you need in a single reservation. But, that doesn’t guarantee the best rates.
Instead, I go directly through the service provider and start looking a few months before our travel dates. I compare prices, set alerts, and scan for daily discounts and flash sales. This has gotten me some killer deals over the years. But even if they aren’t advertising any discounts, they may still offer special rates for senior citizens or members of AARP, AAA, and Costco.
Here are a few other ways to cut corners in your travel budget to help you save:
- travel in the off-season
- be flexible with your dates
- use reward miles and points
- look at other types of accommodations
- use public transportation
- plan your trip around free attractions and activities
It’s also wise to pay attention to the exchange rate if you are traveling internationally. When you are deciding on your destination, look at countries where the U.S. dollar is strong. This can reduce the budget for daily expenses and help your money go even further.
7. Have your paperwork in order before you leave.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when traveling in retirement is to always get your paperwork in order before you leave. I’ve known several people who have shown up at the airport only to cancel their travel plans because they didn’t have the proper documents.
That’s why I created this checklist to take some of the stress out of the preparations.
- Confirm your reservations. I always call ahead, check online, and save copies of everything on my phone. Then, I know I’ll always have what I need.
- Check your IDs. This has been the main reason I’ve seen last-minute cancellations. Before you book, make sure your IDs are valid. If they are close to expiration, apply for a new one as soon as possible or renew your passport online.
- Apply for your visas. The American passport grants you many landing visas. However, sometimes you will have to apply for a visa. It can be a hassle when they don’t offer it online. But, you can still fill out the application and have it ready when you land.
- Notify your credit card companies. This is one lesson I learned the hard way. If you have fraud protection, your credit card may lock your account if they see international charges. You will want to call ahead to notify them of your travel plans so it doesn’t happen to you.
- Make a list of your medications. Many people don’t think of this, but it’s good to have a list of your medications if customs officers ask questions. It is also helpful to your traveling partners and healthcare professionals if you have a medical emergency.
Traveling has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But, you can’t predict what will happen or plan for every possible outcome. However, knowing what to expect can make traveling in retirement more affordable and less stressful. Even on a fixed budget, anything is possible with some creative planning.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.