Retiring affords a senior all the time they want to travel, but usually not all the money. You’re interested in traveling on the cheap. What are some methods for doing that?
Here are some recommendations for seniors to travel cheaply:
- Book early
- Visit outside of peak season
- Build travel points and use ‘em
- Travel as a group
- Look for senior discounts
This guide will be chock full of ideas, suggestions, and methods for seniors looking to reduce their travel expenses while still seeing the world.
If you plan on traveling soon, you can’t miss the information we have for you ahead!
What Is The Cheapest Way To Travel For Seniors?
When planning a vacation, taking a plane is the default mode of transportation many people use. However, it can also be among the costliest.
There are other public transportation systems that older adults can utilize to cut costs.
Let’s look at some lower-cost alternatives for reaching Point A to Point B!
Train services can include simplistic travel where you pay for a ticket and ride to your destination or more opulent options with dining cars and sleeping quarters.
Depending on the type of train service you’re interested in, however, a train can sometimes cost more than taking a plane.
The latter types of trains with sleeping quarters can easily cost thousands of dollars, and it’s not just because you’re fed and sleep on the train.
These trains can take you across multiple states and transport your vehicle, too, so you can drive around at your vacation destination when you arrive.
While you would think this wouldn’t be the “greenest” way to travel, Amtrak says it’s a very sustainable way to see the United States.
Over the course of the last decade we’ve implemented new technologies and changed employee behavior which resulted in reducing Amtrak greenhouse gas emissions by more than 414,054 metric tons of CO2e, equivalent to 90,048 passenger vehicles driven for one year.Amtrak
Train travel may be slower than flying, because they make multiple stops along their routes, but you also don’t have to worry about driving yourself to your chosen vacation spot.
If you’re vacationing in Europe, trains are pretty much a “must” for getting from one country to another.
You can certainly drive, but that means you’re paying to rent a car and spend money to fuel it along the way.
My sister lives in France and they don’t even try to driver to other countries when they take a trip because the passenger train system is so good. She says it goes everywhere, so there’s no need to take a road trip unless you really want to.
In Europe, Eurail Pass is the predominant rail system and it lets you explore 33 countries with just one pass!
Although not as luxurious, hopping aboard a Greyhound is another way to reach your destination.
You’ll save money compared to flying or taking a train (in some cases, but not exclusively).
While taking a Greyhound will get you to your destination, even if it’s several states over, you’re not enjoying as luxe accommodations as you can on some trains.
For instance, a Greyhound has no beds, so sleeping will prove difficult.
Greyhound does have onboard entertainment on their buses, though, such as movies and TV shows, plus access to the internet (a free and a Premium option) while you ride.
There are also charging stations available.
They also have a Track My Bus feature on their website, which allows you or a loved one to locate and track your bus in real time.
In addition, for seniors who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters, the buses all have a wheelchair lift.
Greyhound will allow you to travel while sitting in your wheelchair (or scooter) or they will stow these devices in their baggage compartment if you want to board the bus and ride in a bus seat.
Check out Greyhound’s route map.
One of the lowest-cost transportation methods for seniors is carpooling, whether with family or friends.
Carpooling takes the responsibility of long-term driving off one person, which is for the safety of everyone in the vehicle.
You can trade off driving duties until you arrive at your destination.
The primary benefit of driving to a vacation destination is having your car with you.
You can also travel without the crowds and at your own pace. When you’re tired, you can stop at a hotel rather than try to get some shuteye in a vehicle.
However, carpooling or otherwise driving cross-country can be costly between all the snack stops, gas fuel-ups, and hotel bills.
This can also be the most time-consuming method of traveling if you take a lot of breaks or stop often to trade off drivers.
How Can I Spend The Least Amount Of Money On A Trip?
Everyone needs a vacation from time to time to escape life’s everyday stressors. However, when a trip becomes too expensive, it only adds to your stress rather than taking it away.
Per the intro, here are some smart methods of taking a trip and spending less.
Traveling is about supply and demand, which is why booking late is a mistake.
There’s a lot of demand but not nearly as much supply, so airlines can afford to mark up the cost of plane tickets.
The same logic applies to hotels and cruises.
When you book early, there’s plenty of supply but not as much demand, so you might be able to spend less cash.
We take cruises frequently and we can get really great deals if we plan wayyyy in advance. We typically book our cruises at least a year out.
For example, as I write this article, I can book an outside view cabin on a 4-night cruise on Royal Caribbean‘s Independence of the Seas ship in October, 2023 for $482.00 USD per person.
If I were to reserve that exact same cruise and cabin for next week, it would cost me $908.00 USD per person!
Travel agents (here’s an awesome one that I’ve personally worked with in the past!) will tell you that the best time to book your trip is between three and four months before you want to go.
TIP: it doesn’t cost more to use a travel agent; they get paid through the cruise line, airline, hotel, or tour company they book for you.
Working with one can be very helpful if you are arranging a big trip with a complicated itinerary.
Visit Outside Of Peak Season
Peak season for many travel destinations is in the summertime when the days are longest, the weather is warmest, and many people have time off.
It’s not always appealing to take a vacation during off-peak season.
For instance, if you’re going to a beach town that experiences all four seasons, the beach town will be dead during the off season.
Places will have shuttered their doors, and the weather will be too cold to enjoy much.
However, in regions where the weather is warm and temperate pretty much all year long, you can’t go wrong booking during less busy times.
You won’t have as many crowds to deal with, so you can see more and enjoy attractions and amenities.
Plus, that supply and demand factor we talked about in the previous section will be in play and prices will be more affordable.
Build Travel Points And Use ‘Em
If you travel often enough, you’ll generate travel points through airlines and hotels.
The secret is to stick to using the same airline or hotel chain as much as possible, so your points build up quicker.
Although it can take time for the points to accumulate to the degree where you can use them on something good, patience can be a virtue in this case.
Once you have enough travel points, you can get serious discounts on travel or sometimes even a free hotel stay.
Or you can get a discount on airfare (or even a free ticket or companion pass) by using airline miles that you collect if you fly often enough.
Better yet, you’ll continue to build up points so you can keep traveling on the cheap!
Travel As A Group
This year could finally be the perfect time to take that family vacation you’ve all talked about for years, or perhaps you can gather your fellow senior friends and get away for a few days or weeks.
Traveling as a group will often see you enjoying reduced rates for planes, trains, and other transport, not to mention hotels.
However, you must be a sizable group to take advantage of this discount, usually at least 10 people.
Look For Senior Discounts (And General Discounts)
Another great option for making traveling more affordable is to use senior discounts. You can often find these discounts when booking flights and hotels.
The attractions you want to enjoy might offer senior discounts too, such as museums and amusement parks.
The age requirement for what constitutes a senior discount varies but is usually at least 50 years old.
Many large cities in the USA have a City Pass, which is sort of a bundled ticket that lets you get into several attractions for a lower price.
It’s available in 15 US cities, as well as in Toronto, Canada.
The GoCity pass is another option. They say you can save up to 50 percent on attractions in certain cities in the USA and in some European cities, as well.
Viator has a list of European cities and their available passes here.
Cook Rather Than Eat Out
Once you arrive, what are some other great ways to save money? Limit how often you eat out!
According to home ownership resource Pacaso, three meals on vacation cost $46 per day per person in 2023. If you take a seven-day trip, that’s $322 per person on food alone. Food for four would cost $1,288.
Personally, we do this as often as possible when we travel. I try to book a hotel or AirBNB-type of accommodation that has a kitchen or at least a dorm-sized fridge and a microwave.
We don’t have to have fancy food – we often just pick up microwaveable meals at the local grocery store, but we save a lot of money that we can use to see attractions or purchase souvenirs – and still stay within our travel budget.
Since you’re on vacation, you don’t have to avoid the local cuisine entirely.
If you eat out and have a fridge and microwave in your hotel room, bring your leftovers back with you. You’ll get another meal for basically free.
In short, cook when you can, and you’ll shave down your dining costs.
Look For Low-Cost Or No-Cost Entertainment
You also don’t have to spend a fortune on entertainment.
Before your trip, research the available entertainment and activities in the area. You just could find low-cost or free attractions you had no idea about.
Remember also to use that senior discount for entertainment!
Resist Buying Too Many Souvenirs
If you don’t vacation often, you’ll want to buy a souvenir for everyone you know.
While it’s a sweet sentiment, you can also end up spending hundreds to thousands more than you intended.
Limit the souvenirs to only immediate family and a few close friends, and that’s it.
And if you collect travel souvenirs, try to limit yourself to collecting just one item per trip or per country. As an example, we collect Christmas ornaments from various countries.
That way, we don’t have a million tchotchkes cluttering up the house (that someone will have to declutter someday), but we can still enjoy them and then put them away at the end of the holiday season.
For more thrifty travel ideas, check out the book, How To Travel The World On $50 A Day, by Matt Kepnes.
Do Seniors Fly Cheaper?
We’ve talked about senior discounts enough, but are they really worth taking advantage of? Will you fly cheaper than younger adults through a senior discount?
Yes, you usually will! Sometimes an airline will take five percent off the cost of your flight, but it’s sometimes as high as 10 percent.
Remember that the eligibility requirements for a senior discount vary depending on the airline.
Some airlines only offer the senior discount to people 50 or over, but sometimes, it’s age 60 or 65 and older.
Also, be aware that while a 10-percent discount is plenty nice, the standard discount fares an airline offers might take off more money still.
Therefore, you might be better off taking advantage of that discount rather than the senior discount if the airline allows it.
NOTE: This is similar to when you call to ask about a bereavement fare. Don’t do it! The airlines “say” they’re giving you a deal – but they mean they’re discounting the full price for that ticket. You can often find much cheaper airfare if you check the discount airfare sites, like Expedia or Priceline.
We’ll talk about discount websites in the next section.
What Is The Least Expensive Travel Site?
If you want to save money on travel, it’s all about where you book.
Here is a selection of the least expensive travel sites out there today:
- Google Flights
Keep in mind that the discount rate each service offers varies.
Additionally, while some of these services may promise a certain percentage off, that doesn’t mean you’ll get that percentage guaranteed, just that you possibly could.
Is It Cheaper To Book Vacations As A Package?
Another option you have is to book your vacation as a package, combining your hotel and flight through a travel agent. Will you save money vacationing this way?
Most of the time, yes! Even better is that you can usually take advantage of a generous cancellation policy if you can’t make it.
How do you find package vacations?
Most of the websites I mentioned in the prior section have a bundle and save option.
This means that you can save money if you book your flights, hotels, and car reservations through them, all at one time when you’re making your reservations.
In addition, you often can find similar deals when you reserve through airline websites or reserve through a travel agent.
Seniors can travel cheaply in many ways. You can book trips as a group, try a package vacation deal through a travel agency, or look into senior discounts. Booking early is another great way to reduce your travel expenses.
Once you arrive at your destination, try to cook when you can, look for free or low-cost activities, and reduce your spending on gifts and souvenirs.
The money you save can go toward future trips and vacations!