Globetrotting today isn't just a job for mariners or the preserve of the jet set. Travel is easier than ever before. It's far more comfortable, too. And living internationally is more affordable than at any time in history. In fact, apply some simple tricks and tips and you can travel the world slowly for less than the cost of staying put at home…often a lot less.
The flexibility you have when you travel this way means tailoring an itinerary to suit your whims is easy. Plus, the freedom you have in retirement to go where you want, whenever you like, is valuable leverage in keeping your costs down. Spend a month living the high life in Paris and offset the cost with two months savoring all Portugal has to offer. Just dust off your bucket list and start getting ready.
You can cruise to Europe for up to 70% off standard prices if you know how…you can use a host of websites to organize low-cost, luxurious accommodation for a few months—enough time to try a place on for size—before moving on to the next… You can sit on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean sipping wine in April, and kick back on a beach in English-speaking Belize in May…
When it comes to getting from one place to another, there are all sorts of ways to keep costs to a minimum. As a retiree, you can plan your trip and keep your costs down by using the five tips below.
If you're setting off on your part-time adventure and you're on a limited budget, housesitting can be a great way to offset your accommodation costs.
Yvonne and Michael Bauche retired early and have been doing this for years. They have lived in countries all over Central America and Europe for months at a time and found their monthly expenses half of what they spent at home in Canada.
Neither Yvonne nor Michael qualiﬁed for a pension in Canada. And so the adventurous duo decided to embark on a round-the-world trip that has seen them visit Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal, Italy, France, and the Caribbean. "We cut our expenses in half," says Yvonne of their new life on the road. "Running two cars, paying for electricity, gas, phone, cell phone, internet, food, and eating out used to cost us almost $4,000 a month. Our average expenditure is now about $2,000, and we live and play very well on that."
"Housesitting is the key to our lifestyle," Yvonne says. "Over the last few years we have housesat in a 15th-century home in London, a Tuscan farmhouse, a French vineyard, a Spanish casita, a luxury villa in Costa Rica, deep in the Belizean jungle, and in several ocean-view villas in the Caribbean. We estimate we have saved over $150,000 in accommodation costs by housesitting and have gained unique insights into different retirement lifestyles."
And the Bauches aren't the only retirees to swear by housesitting as a cheap way to travel. Bob Patrick has journeyed extensively throughout North and South America over the last ﬁve years without paying a dime on places to stay.
"I deﬁnitely recommend this as a way to travel the world," he says. "It is a very affordable way to see incredible places. I stay in some beautiful locations and nice homes, paying only for the cost of my food and maintaining the home."
The internet should be your ﬁrst point of call for ﬁnding housesits abroad. Websites such as Trustedhousesitters, Housecarers and Mindmyhouse are great places to start. By signing up to sites like these, you can look through housesitting options around the globe and contact the homeowner directly.
Once you get one housesit, more will follow. The more referrals you get from past housesits, the easier it will be to get more of them down the line.
House swapping or home exchanges have been around for a while. Nowadays there are several websites offering the service, where you meet like-minded people and agree to swap your home for theirs, sometimes even your car.
There is a small fee to access home-exchange services—the average is $9.95 a month—but your savings on a typical exchange can add up to thousands of dollars.
International Living Malaysia correspondent, Keith Hockton, has swapped his home many times in the past. "I wondered if it was safe," Keith says. "Now, after several swaps of my own, I know it is. The exchange company we've used happily has been in business for 19 years. After tens of thousands of exchanges, it has never had a report of theft, vandalism, or of someone getting to their exchange home and ﬁnding a vacant lot."
Don't be worried about having a stranger in your house, either. Think of home exchanges as "Internet dating" for your home. Before you actually go on a date with someone you meet on the Internet, you exchange emails, maybe talk on the phone a few times, and swap some recent photographs. By the time you agree to meet, the person isn't really a stranger. You wouldn't go on a date if you didn't feel a connection, and it's the same for a home exchange.
"Our ﬁrst exchange was with a couple from Cambridge, England," Keith says. "Trish is a doctor and Rick, her husband, is retired. We wanted to stay in Cambridge for three weeks over Christmas and they were keen to come to Sydney, Australia, where we lived at the time.
"But when it came to swapping, they were delayed in Europe. However, because they had agreed to swap, they were happy for us to take their house in Cambridge and do a non-simultaneous exchange. They gave us their house and would take ours whenever we took our next vacation.
"It was easy to work out the details, and they were lovely. When the time came we met them in Cambridge and had dinner. When dinner ended they handed their house and car keys over to us, wished us luck, and off they went. Clearly they had done this before."
When it comes to flying, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of websites you can book through…and the number of ways you can save. But the easiest way to get the best deal is by carefully planning when you book your flight.
To get the cheapest flights, avoid flying around Easter, Christmas, or in July and August as this is when fares are highest. If you want to travel during these times, book as far in advance as possible.
When booking any type of travel the key to savings is flexibility. If you can move your travel dates, departure times, and itinerary—even just a little—there will be a lot more fares open to you. If you are flexible, you are much more likely to get a bargain fee.
Some airlines offer early bird discounts on reservations made up to three months in advance. By flying to a secondary or tertiary airport you can also often get cheaper flights.
The price of a flight can fluctuate daily, or even hourly. Airline ticket prices—like all prices—are based on demand, not value. To get the best deals you just need to buy your ticket when no one else is buying theirs—that's when demand is lowest. By booking early in the morning or late at night, especially late on Wednesdays and Saturdays you will often save money.
Travelgenio helps you to ﬁnd ﬂights between numerous destinations around the world (including connecting ﬂights). Once you've completed your search, it can organize all the available options in order of affordability, with the lowest-cost ﬂights coming up on top. Flyertalk is another useful site that gives you insider information on flying cheaply.
Senior airfare discounts are not as common as they used to be but some airlines still offer discounts to passengers of a certain age. American Airlines, Delta, and United offer discounts on some routes. These deals are not usually published online, so you should contact the reservations department at the airline you want to travel with to see if they offer any senior discounts.
Southwest Airlines not only offer discounts to those over 65, but senior fares are fully refundable.
Many foreign carriers offer discounts as high as 50% off the best price you'd get otherwise. TAME Airlines in Ecuador for example, offers 50% off to seniors and also has discounts for disabled people and Native Americans.
When it comes to getting from one place to another, there are all sorts of ways to keep costs to a minimum—but saving significantly doesn't mean you have to sacrifice comfort or style. Michael and Virginia Zullo are just two of those who have learned the secret of repositioning cruises. "We found out that cruise lines repositioned their ships at the end of one season—moving them to another location for the next season," says Michael. "They sell off the cabins for these legs of the voyage very cheaply and, if you're in the right place at the right time, you can get a bargain. We traveled from the U.S. to Europe for a third-off normal prices. One of the big benefits of these cruises is that, not only do you get the transportation, but all your living expenses are covered."
One bit of advice though, says Michael, "Never take the shore excursions that the cruise ships offer. You can do it yourself for about a quarter of the price."
Knowing the time of year that is considered off-season at your destination can save you money, too—not only on airfares, but on rentals, cars and just about everything else. The obvious added bonus is that there'll be fewer crowds to contend with, and you'll get more of a feel for your destination's local personality.
Here are the off-season times for various regions of the world:
Europe: November through March
Asia: January and February*
The Caribbean: March through November
South America: April through November
*(Note that while January and February may be considered a low season in Asia as a whole, Chinese New Year falls during this time and the New Year has seen a massive increase in travel in the last few years. In some areas, November and December end up being the real "low season.")
The bottom line is, the world is full of opportunity and the promise of adventure and you needn't spend millions to capitalize on either.
Commentary by Suzan Haskins, a writer for InternationalLiving.com. Haskins has lived in eight cities in four countries. She currently lives in Mexico.
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