By Sheryl Smolkin
With the devalued Canadian dollar, the cost of travelling for seniors is 25% to 30% higher than it was at this time last year. So it is more important than ever for snowbirds to find ways to travel on a budget. Whether you are planning to follow the sun or travel somewhere more exotic, here are some ways you can spend less and still have a great adventure.
- Use your rewards: If you don’t have a rewards card that allows you to cash in points for travel, this may be the time to get one. For many programs like Air Miles, you can collect points based on where you do your everyday shopping. Travel cards often offer big bonuses just for signing up. For example, the Capital One Aspire World Elite MasterCard costs $150/year but you will get 40,000 points that can be redeemed for $400 in travel rewards once you spend $1,000 on the card.
- The road less-travelled: Budget travel blogger Matt Kepnes says although flights to Asia and Eastern Europe are not cheap, once you get there, good hotels and dining can be inexpensive. ” He told the Globe & Mail “Cambodia, Thailand and Korea all have amazing food, friendly people and fun nightlife. You can get by on $20 to $30 a day if you want to go cheap.”
- House swapping: There are many international agencies that organize house swaps between strangers, including: http://www.homeexchange.com/, http://www.homeforexchange.com/, http://www.lovehomeswap.com/, http://www.intervac.ca/, http://www.seniorshomeexchange.com/, and http://www.knok.com/. A house swap can save you on accommodations, food and beverages and allow you to really experience life in a new city or country. However, do your due diligence and get references to make sure you are not being ripped off. And get a damage deposit and check your home insurance coverage before you hand over the keys.
- Book early, Book late: If you book a cruise or other tour package long before you leave, there are often significant discounts and you only have to put down a small deposit until a few months before you travel. In one case I booked a cruise in Canadian dollars and although the dollar tanked before I paid the balance, the price tag stayed the same. Similarly, if you wait until the last minute, many vacations are deeply discounted. If you are retired, you have the flexibility to take advantage of a last minute deal.
- Earn while you travel: If you plan to go somewhere warm and stay for an extended period, there may be ways to earn money to defray the cost of your trip. Give private English lessons. Sell an article about your travels to a local newspaper. Provide consulting services to companies in the industry you retired from. As long as you have a computer and Wifi you can work from almost anywhere in the world.
- Free attractions: Do some research before you decide on a destination. Look for discounts and free attractions. We are taking our daughter’s family including our three and a half year old granddaughter to Washington D.C. in March and the trip will be more affordable because most of the city’s museums, memorials and other attraction are free. Another example is the public transport concessions for seniors in the U.K. The Senior Railcard is an annual savings card that’s available to anyone aged 60 or over. You buy it for a one-off cost and it will get you to big discounts on most rail fares in the UK.
- Volunteer vacations: There are many opportunities to volunteer abroad. Fees will vary, depending on the organization, your destination and the type of project you are working on. You will typically have to pay for your own airfare but you will be billeted and eat with local families. This website list describes some options for Jewish seniors interested in volunteering in Israel.
- Lifelong Learning: Road Scholar, the not-for-profit leader in educational travel since 1975, offers 5,500 educational tours in all 50 U.S. states and 150 countries. Alongside local and renowned experts, experience in-depth and behind-the-scenes learning opportunities, from cultural tours and study cruises to walking, biking and more. Prices are all inclusive with no hidden costs.
Also read: 8 ways to save on a cruise vacation