If you are retired and have the travel bug, but need to stick to a budget, seasoned travel experts have advice for getting the most bang for your buck.
Become an online detective, and shop around. Rock-bottom deals are not automatic for the 55-plus crowd.
You can often get 5 percent to 15 percent discounts with membership cards, such as AAA and AARP. But just because a "senior" rate is offered doesn't mean it's the best deal out there.
"In fact, I'd say probably more seniors end up paying more because they don't have the ability to go online and check things," said Jeffrey Erlbaum, president of ETA Travel in Conshohocken.
"If you shop around, generally you can get as good, if not better, rate if you have AAA, or a BJ's card, or something else," Erlbaum said. "The cruise lines will give senior discounts, but again they usually have just as good a rate out there to the general public, if not better."
Travel writers Larissa and Michael Milne, who in 2011 sold their Philadelphia-area home, left their jobs, and became globe-trotters, are in their mid-50s and not yet retired. They have budget travel suggestions for any age.
"One thing retirees and seniors have in abundance, no matter how much money they have saved, is time," said Larissa, calling from Germany. Retirees can travel more slowly, be gone for longer periods, and not be confined to a week or two at a time. "There are lots of cost benefits to traveling slowly," she said.
Top travel tips from the Milnes, who write a travel blog, changesinlongitude.com, and have spent five years on the road:
Travel where it's cheap. Bucharest, Budapest, and Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia) in central Europe are excellent values. Choose smaller cities in countries you'd like to visit - for example, Lyon, France, will be less pricey than Paris. Smaller cities can be charming with the same characteristics and flavor as the big cities, but without the big-name costs.
Stay in vacation rentals, instead of hotels. Apartments and cottages can be found all over the world on websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway.com, and VRBO.com. They are typically cheaper on a weekly basis than a hotel, and for those who want to stay longer, perhaps a month, the cost "can be infinitely cheaper."
Look for "repositioning" cruises that change itineraries and continents between seasons. A ship that sails around Alaska or Norway in the summer may relocate to Mexico or the Caribbean for the winter. Cruise lines sell the one-way routes at a discount rather than sail without passengers. "They are an excellent value if somebody enjoys cruising."
Be flexible about dates. Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday when planes aren't as full instead of Friday or around a weekend. Choose routes flown by low-fare carriers such as Spirit and Frontier - they force larger carriers to compete at the lower price. The Milnes fly Europe's budget airlines, such as Irish-based Ryanair and British-based easyJet. "We'll evaluate those fares [often to second-tier cities] vs. flying one of the major carriers from London to Frankfurt," Larissa said. "Maybe we'll fly from Manchester to Düsseldorf if the destination is not critical, or we think we can hop on a train from there."
Check aggregator websites, such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, or Kayak, to gauge costs. Then give the hotel, rental-car company, or airline a call. Sometimes they will match, or have a better price. If the price is the same, the Milnes (who write a weekly travel column for the Inquirer) will book directly with the hotel, car company, or airline because if there is an issue, they have found it's easier to deal directly with a company.
Consider renting your place while you are traveling. Or swap your house for one where you'd like to visit at websites such as homeexchange.com. Consider house sitting where you will get free lodging usually in exchange for watching the owner's pets. Websites where people can apply to be house sitters include trustedhousesitters.com.
If you see a good deal, don't wait. If you have a rough sense of the cost, and are comfortable, then book it. Don't sweat whether the price is going to go up or down $10.
George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com, an airfare tracking site, offers tips for the coming holidays. If seat location, departure time, and nonstop availability are important, book sooner rather than later because the most desirable flights sell out first, leaving middle seats near the lavatory, red-eye flights, or 5 a.m. departures.
Fly on the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days. The flights are cheaper, you'll beat the crowds, and still make it on time for dinner.
Hobica also recommends investigating package deals, noting that some air/hotel packages offer cheaper airfares than those found by searching for airfares alone.
Larissa Milne said: "A lot of this falls into the category of moving your thoughts about travel out of the conventional 'I'm going on vacation' mind-set that you might have had through the majority of your working life."