White sandy beaches. Snow-capped mountains. The buzzing streets of Hong Kong. No matter what your ideal holiday is, the reality is most of us fantasize about travel in retirement. As a matter of fact, according to the TIAA Transition to Retirement Survey, 80% of respondents stated that the ability to travel would define if they'd achieved a successful retirement.* If we're going to have the savings for significant travel in retirement, we'll have to be a little more thoughtful with how much we spend on shorter getaways now. With that in mind, below are 5 strategies for planning travel without breaking the bank:
- Currency Exchanges. What is worse than getting to your destination and not having the proper currency for a cab to your hotel or an emergency? Finding the closest ATM and paying fees on top of fees on top of fees for your own money! Did you know that most major banks will help process a currency exchange if you have a checking or savings account with them? Visit your local branch and let them know how much you'd like to request. It may take a few days to process, but they will notify you when cash is onsite to complete the exchange. Don't feel like leaving the house? Simply log into your banks website (or a currency exchange vendor like Travelex). You can specify what currency you need, how much, and they'll disclose today's exchange rate free of charge. Keep in mind that you will likely have a shipping/handling charge through this avenue. Taking care of the finances before you leave will give you peace of mind and may also help you keep to your vacation budget!
- Research Transportation options before you go.Your flights & hotels are booked, but do you know how you're getting from the airport to your destination? Foreign airports can be incredibly overwhelming if you're not a seasoned traveler. Signs written in languages you're not familiar with, strangers offering you rides or seemingly pointing you in the "right" direction...Know exactly what method of transportation you need and buy tickets in advance if possible. On a recent trip to Italy with my sister, we knew that our bus & train tickets offered unlimited use for a 3-hour window. With the bus ride estimated at only 10 minutes, we were confident we wouldn't have any trouble making our train. Thanks to the research beforehand, we quickly made our way to the train, swiped our pre-paid ticket a second time and off we went. Unfortunately, we met a few other foreign travelers on the train tracks who weren't so lucky. Unfamiliar and overwhelmed with the busy transit center, they were swindled into buying additional train tickets for nearly 5x the cost. Luckily public transportation is very affordable in Europe so it only set them back 10-20 Euro, but it certainly put a damper on the start to their vacation! It's also worth noting that there are still parts of the world who ban Uber/Lyft and other ride-sharing businesses (Positano/Amalfi Coast in Italy for example). If you know you'll need to cover vast distances, you'll want to research if a rental car or train is right for you. Due to the ban of ride-sharing, cabs are excessively expensive compared to what we're used to in the States and you'd only want to leverage them for short trips. The bus and train are the most affordable options in these scenarios.
- There's no question the lion share of your expenses are generally tied to the flight and/or accommodations. With the advent of AirBnB & HomeAway/VRBO, you're no longer limited to the only hotels in the area so shop around! If you're not familiar with these rental properties, they generally offer the same, if not more in terms of amenities: free WiFi, a full kitchen, not to mention a friendly host to make you feel welcome during your stay. Compare the costs of hotels in the area to see where you get the best bang for your buck. Generally, if you're with a larger group, splitting the cost of a home rental will be less expensive than booking several hotel rooms. If you're booking last minute, sites like HotelTonight and Trivago offer great last-minute deals on hotels. Another consideration: Ask friends and family if you can rent their vacation property for a week. Many vacation homes are only used seasonally and the owners would love to supplement their mortgage payment. Perhaps you can negotiate a deal that saves you money and helps them in the long run. Win-win!
- Staycation.This may not sound as exciting as jet-setting around the world, but a short road trip to a neighboring city or just exploring our very own town can deliver some insta-worthy fun with significantly less stress and money. Here in my very own Columbus it feels like gorgeous boutique hotels and huge renovations are occurring everyday - not to mention an exploding restaurant scene. Why not book a night with your significant other and kiddos and enjoy a change of scenery? If the savings isn't enough to sway you, less travel also means you won't feel like you need a vacation after your vacation!
**Source for TIAA Transition to Retirement Survey: Page 2 https://www.tiaa.org/public/pdf/160350_transitioner_executive_survey.pdf).