Retirement Travel: 10 Ideas for Hitting the Road

Everyone talks about their plans to for retirement travel. You finally have the time to try and take in the seven wonders of the world, hit the national parks, visit the museums on your bucket list, and check off all those roadside barbecue joints you’ve seen on Food Network and the Travel Channel. Here are some tips and ideas for retirement travel. Hopefully, a few of these tips will keep you happy on the road, while you decide what you want out of your retirement, geographically speaking.

Header Photo for Hitting the Road

1. Explore living abroad

You’ll find lots of expat retiree communities abroad, in countries with low taxes and beautiful views. For many retired Americans, Mexico, Ecuador, and Malaysia have become increasingly popular places to retire. You can find plenty of lists online of the best places to retire overseas.

2. Ditch the house

Plenty of retirees have decided to ditch the home base altogether and try something new. Do some reading – many couples who have decided to go rogue for retirement chronicle their experiences via popular blogs. In Lynne ant Tim Martin’s case, the blog became a memoir, Home Sweet Anywhere.

The Martins have pointed out the advantages of leaving full-time jobs in favor of full-time travel. The idea of perpetual, nomadic lifestyles might sound like a hassle. For the Martins, getting rid of a lifetime of accumulated clutter proved a freeing experience. If you’ve been a homeowner for a long time, taking care of a home is more baggage than you might realize. As Lynne points out, while they make travel arrangements on a constant basis, they never have to worry about a leaky roof, or mowing the lawn. Selling their house also helped ensure they’d have an adequate monthly stipend for their travels.

Many retirees decide not to move because they want to remain close to their family. If you go the same route as the Martin’s, you can factor in a visit to see your favorite family members whenever it fits your schedule, in between trips to New Zealand and the south of France. You’ll experience all of the benefits of living abroad, without committing to a location outside your comfort zone.

3. Try house swapping

If the idea of getting rid of your house entirely makes you uneasy, you can still use your house to reduce the cost of your trip. Using services like International House Exchange and Senior Home Exchange, you can trade houses with someone located somewhere you’d like to visit. You can make arrangements through the site to determine what you and your house-swapping partner can expect from each other, and your trip.

Added bonus: If you do choose to house-swap, the other homeowner will have lots of valuable, inside information about the location you’ll be visiting.

4. Make the highway your new home

Fear of flying, insurance, picky eaters – there are plenty of reasons to keep your travels stateside. Lucky for you, the United States is approximately 3,000 miles from head to tail, Maine to California. Fuel isn’t cheap, but staying at campgrounds overnight is usually very inexpensive, or free.

Investing in a camper can make prolonged road trips more comfortable. While cozy, having a spot that feels a little homey can take some of the stress out of your nomadic adventures.

If you’re interested in taking to the highway, research the best places to stop for the night in an RV-ing expert’s review of campgrounds.

5. Try alternatives to hotels

To reduce the cost of your housing, think about staying places besides hotels. Sites like Airbnb offer privately rented houses for a homier, more affordable option.

Or, try out someone else’s digs for even cheaper through a house-sitting gig. Although cheaper, house-sitting arrangements often come with a few stipulations. Duties for house-sitters range from light housekeeping to caring for pets.

6. Pack with a purpose on your trips

We listed some ideas about volunteering abroad in our 7 Things to try before you ditch retirement article, but if you don’t plan to do any volunteering while you’re overseas, consider bringing something with you for the Pack for a Purpose charity. Pack for a Purpose is a favorite charity of Gypsy Nesters, another couple devoted to traveling during retirement. Check to see if Pack for a Purpose has any drop-off spots near your destination, and bring a few extra pencils and soccer balls along on your trip.

7. Expand your intellect

You can only learn so much from an afternoon in a museum. Good news! Study abroad programs aren’t just for students. If you’re traveling for a long period of time, the regimen of buying postcards and shopping for knick-knacks will eventually get pretty ho-hum. Enrich yourself with study abroad programs. The programs featured below last from 10 days to a couple of weeks.

Road Scholar: Some of the most popular trips include history study programs in Ireland, art history in Rome, and a safari through Kenya. You can browse by class – each will give you information about the topics covered and the activity level for the daily field trips. Road Scholar offers a complete package, providing participants with meals and lodging as part of their trip.

As a lifelong learner, you already know that learning new things doesn’t have to be all about scholastics. Road Scholar also offers volunteer programs and lengthy bicycle trips.

Senior Summer School: For a less travel-focused, more academically rigorous option, explore the classes offered through Senior Summer School. This program will set you up with a roster of classes at one of 5 possible universities, each within the United States. Each trip comes with a schedule of lectures, field trips, and a few evenings of entertainment.

Of course, you don’t have to go through a program to take a class over the summer. Explore the universities near where you want to stay, and consider auditing a class if you plan to be in the area for the semester.

8. Blog your travels

The travel blog has become a staple of the blogosphere. It’s a creative way to update friends and families, and, for a popular few, a way to help monetize their trip through online ads. Are you a photographer? Do you have a crafty Etsy shop? You may not make a living, but a few extra bucks can go a long way while you’re out on the road.

9. You needn’t blow your budget

We associate retirement travel with heavy expenses. But, as veterans of extended travel will tell you, there are practical steps you can take to reduce the cost.

If you’ve ever considered visiting exotic locations like Thailand, Ecuador, or Malaysia, consider the cost of living as an added incentive to visit. These countries have attracted large number retirees because of their extremely low cost of living.

Restaurants are another travel budget culprit. Plan to shop and cook while you’re abroad. As Lynne Martin has informed her readers, grocery shopping in another country doesn’t feel as much like a chore. Every country does things a little differently, and buying groceries offer a cheaper way to learn about a country’s native cuisine.

Look for alternatives to huge airports. Typically, you can find a cheaper airport for a cheaper flight not too far from your original destination. In Maryland, for instance, it’s typically cheaper to fly out of BWI in Baltimore than it is to fly out of Reagan Airport in D.C.

Once you have an idea of how you’d like to get somewhere, don’t rely solely on an online booking agency. Visit the airline or hotel website – sometimes it’s cheaper to buy directly.

Bankrate.com has some more money-saving tips for retirees.

10. Read some essential travel tips

Travel insurance: According to AARP, travel insurance will typically cost around 5 to 15 percent of your trip. If you plan to take an extended trip abroad, check your insurance policy to see if you’re covered overseas. Medicare may not cover you for an extended stay abroad.

Another AARP tip: Don’t buy insurance from a travel agent or tour operator. You’ll find better deals through an insurance broker.

Best time to book a flight: When you’re ready to head out the door, read some advice about when to book your flight.

Happy travels, and bon voyage! Maybe you’ll decide to hit the road for the entirety of your retirement, or maybe you’ll come to miss the home you thought you were sick of. Either way, a little travel provides a lot of perspectives. And don’t forget to write!