I’ve always had dreams that were bigger than my small town. So, it came as no surprise when I left the country and lived abroad for several years. I love where I’m from and am happy to have found my way home for a while. But, I miss my life overseas and have the ultimate goal to retire in another country. However, if you aren’t prepared for international life and travel, you could find yourself in some difficult financial situations. For those like me who want to spend their golden years seeing the world, here are 7 things you should know about traveling in retirement.
7 Things You Should Know About Traveling in Retirement
1. You need to include travel expenses in your budget.
Depending on where and how you travel, it can get expensive. Some prefer to travel in luxury; I book destinations based on discounts. But even when you choose budget-friendly options, it can still be difficult to afford on a fixed income. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If you are looking forward to traveling in retirement, then you will need to work it into your budget. You can research how much it will cost you and start planning well in advance so it won’t blow your savings. Another financing option is to partially retire or work as a consultant to add some extra cash flow to fund your trips.
2. Your health and physical abilities are important factors to consider.
There are places in remote corners of the world that I have always dreamed of visiting. However, I probably won’t be able to climb the steep temple steps, scale boulders, or repel into sinkholes as easily at 65 as I could at 25.
As you get older, you need to be aware of your limitations and adjust your plans when necessary. While many places can accommodate you, other countries don’t have the same accessibility for those who need mobility assistance.
I know I’m doing everything I can to remain healthy, but there are no guarantees. Therefore, you need to allow more flexibility in your schedule for last-minute changes due to health. Injury and illness will occur more frequently as you get older. But, it doesn’t have to interfere with your travel plans.
3. Your insurance may not cover healthcare in foreign countries.
Speaking of health, you should also get familiar with your insurance coverage. Private insurance will usually have some inclusions for healthcare in foreign countries. However, my previous plans always required me to pay upfront and obtain receipts for reimbursement.
If you plan to use Medicare once you retire, you should know that basic plans won’t help if you are traveling abroad. You can purchase supplemental plans with gap coverage or travel insurance in case something happens while you’re away. However, you will need to account for this extra expense in your budget.
4. Opt for travel insurance.
The truth is that the more frequently you travel, the more possibilities there are for problems to occur. And with the drastic reduction in their offerings, you don’t want to be at the mercy of the service provider if they cancel reservations, lose items, suspect fraud, or other mistakes happen. Travel insurance will make sure you are taken care of in all these situations.
It also gives you the flexibility to make adjustments if personal circumstances change before your trip. In my opinion, it’s better to ensure you are protected against the unexpected than risk ruining your vacation.
5. Other retirees have the same plans.
Many people make it a goal to travel when they retire. But, you have to remember that there are many others in the same demographic with the same plans. When you choose a popular destination, there will be crowds.
During the high season, places fill up fast. And the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets. Therefore, it’s smart to call ahead, book early, and make reservations so you aren’t left waiting. You may also consider alternative destinations that don’t get as many tourists. By getting away from the crowds, you can immerse yourself more in the local culture as well.
6. There are many easy ways to reduce costs.
Travel packages are convenient and offer great deals but aren’t always the cheapest option. If you are looking for even more ways to reduce costs, you can start bargain-hunting months in advance. Check multiple sites, set alerts for price drops, look for special deals, and see what discounts you qualify for (senior citizen, AARP, AAA, Costco, etc.) You never know what could save you extra money.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are traveling internationally is to look at countries with a good exchange rate. If the dollar is strong against the local currency, your money will go further.
Other tips that can save you money include:
- booking in the off-season
- being flexible with your dates to find cheaper rates
- taking advantage of your reward miles and points
- considering other kinds of accommodations besides hotels
- using public transportation (trains, subways, buses, bicycles, pedicabs, etc.)
- looking for free activities and discount tickets on attractions
All these options can save you a significant amount of money and reduce the cost of traveling in retirement.
7. Get your paperwork in order before you leave.
The last and more important thing to remember when you travel is to have all your paperwork in order. Before I leave on any trip, I check all our reservations and make sure that we’ll have everything we need before arrival.
- Confirm your reservations. Before traveling, I always call ahead to check our reservations. Once they are confirmed, I save them to my phone. But, you can also print them out to take with you.
- Check your IDs. You’ll also want to ensure your passport and driver’s license are valid. I also make photocopies of them to keep on my person or with someone back home, just in case something happens.
- Apply for visas. If the country you are going to requires a visa, you may be able to complete it online before your travel dates. Otherwise, have the application filled out and ready when you arrive.
- Call your credit card companies. It’s always wise to notify your credit card companies of your travel plans. Otherwise, they may lock your account due to suspected fraud if you use them in another country.
- Carry a list of your medications. You should also make a list of all your medications and allergies. While this is helpful when going through customs, it will be vital for your travel companions and healthcare workers if there is a medical emergency.
Although it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, knowing what to expect can reduce the stress of traveling in retirement. There’s no need to let a limited budget prevent you from seeing the world.
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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.
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