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Travel Like a Millionaire – on a Retirement Budget!

Category: Travel

February 14, 2023 — Travel is often the number one thing that people say they look forward to when they retire.  Many yearn for far off, exotic destinations – like a glacier in New Zealand, African safari, or Alaskan cruise. Travel goals for others are more modest, like touring all of the National Parks or a trip to Arizona.  Time is not a problem for most retired people – their biggest challenge is often coming up with the money to make the trips they dream about.  This article will cover a range of budget ideas that can help not only make those trips possible, but upgrade the experience too.  We look forward to your suggestions as well.

Luxury Travel on a Retirement Budget – 11 Ideas

Be flexible. Perhaps you’ve seen the emails – travel to San Francisco for $59! The airlines, hotels, and tour operators do offer great deals in slow periods, but you have to be ready to take advantage of them. Think about what it would take to get ready for any kind of adventure that might come up, and plan to act when you see an offer that appeals. This especially applies to budget airlines like Avelo, which has resort destinations.

The right credit cards. The world of the best credit cards and how to take advantage of them is complex, but worthwhile to explore their ins and outs. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture Rewards, and American Express Gold or Black Card often turn up tops in the ratings. They offer different amounts of bonus miles for signing up, along with a range of annual fees, reward schedules, and cash back. Some people sign up for multiple cards just to get the bonus miles. Used properly, they can make travel a lot more affordable and include perks like trip insurance, auto rental collision insurance, etc. For great info on this topic, go to

Hotel and airline loyalty programs. Just like credit cards, hotels and airlines offer a variety of different programs. Choosing the right one and concentrating all your efforts there usually has the best payoff. For example, if you live near a hub for a big airline that you will be using most often, that will often be the best program for you. That way you can get eventually get higher status and free upgrades. Plus get free flights and hotel and car rentals with your accumulated points.


Swap homes. Want to stay in a great place for free? Then consider getting into a vacation home swap program. The more desirable your own home and its location, the more possibilities that will come up for you. Sometimes you don’t even need to join a program. We know people who have made friends abroad, and eventually all parties realized a home swap was going to be a great idea. Sometimes the swap might include pet sitting. is the largest site for doing this, others include, and Homelink.

Reverse the seasons. Florida and Arizona tend to be slower in summer, while desirable places in the northeast go begging in from early winter to early spring. Your activities might have to be different, but it could be a low cost way to explore destinations you have always wanted to see. Likewise if you own a property, renting it out in the prime season and going elsewhere could be a good source of income for one of your dream trips.

Work stay. Seasonal resorts and businesses always need workers. Non profit organizations have the same issue. Many of them provide inexpensive places to stay or allow you to park your camper. One large website that connects workers and employers is TheWorkNomads. VolunteerForever has opportunities for seniors. You might also consider the Peace Corps.

Be a camper. Many retirees have a van or RV that can use to travel the country inexpensively. But even if you have a nice tent you can travel in your car and stay at campgrounds and state and national parks for a fraction of what a hotel or resort would charge.

Use public transportation. When you travel to a distant city don’t automatically assume you need to rent a car, which has become super expensive. Many places have good, often free, buses or other forms of transportation. Going abroad, you can usually easily travel from town to town by rail. There is also Uber and Lyft for when you need to go out. Staying in a downtown, walkable location can also help.

Google Flight Watch. Services like this allow you to “watch” prices on a flight or hotel stay on the day (s) you want to travel. As the airlines adjust to demand, prices go up and down, often allowing you to nail a good deal when you see it.

Fly/cruise. Many cruise lines offer deals that include transportation to the start of the cruise, which makes it cheaper than booking both by yourself. Cunard offers deals going one way to England on the luxurious Queen Mary 2 and airfare the other way – a great way to extend your vacation. Likewise, “repositioning” cruises are a good deal as cruise lines move their ships around to get ready for the next season, with advertising that promises savings of up to 75%,

Tramp Steamer. If you have a spirit of adventure why not sign up for a cruise on a freighter. Their amenities tend to be sparse, but the food is usually good and prices lower. Tramps go from port to port, wherever cargo needs to be loaded, while others have regular schedules. Trips usually last at least 40 days. But go soon, most have an age limit of 79. See for more.

Become a Travel Guide. Our friend Craig retired to another city and was looking for something to do. Since he has an impressive resume and knew his old area well, Road Scholar hired him to lead occasional trips back to his old haunting grounds. It not only meant extra money, but he got a chance to reconnect with friends. If you have the right skills, this can be a good gig.

Bottom line

Budget does not have to be a limitation when it comes to travel. Imagination, diligence, and flexibility can allow almost anyone to enjoy a retirement full of travel. No one is going to hand it to you, but it is there waiting if you work at it.

Comments? What tactics and ideas do you use to get the travel experiences you want. Please share in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on February 12th, 2023


  1. Arizona is NOT slow in snowbird season. It’s booked a year or more in advance. Slow time is May to September. I love summer here. Best weather and few people. Restaurants even have better prices.

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for that correction Pat. That was a silly mistake, now corrected.

    by Pat R — February 13, 2023

  2. Nice website, John, very well done and quite informative.

    by Craig W — February 15, 2023

  3. I like a lot of these ideas, but the one with the biggest appeal is the house swapping one. Saving big dollars on lodging and living in a really nice home and location sounds appealing!

    by Chris — February 16, 2023

  4. We save lots of cash by bringing lunch and dinners with us on trips. Usually hotels serve breakfasts and we buy a bunch of ready-made meals at either Costco or Trader Joe’s to heat up in the microwave. Or, I make my own! It is fun to compare prices at local grocery stores when we run out.

    by Lindy — March 2, 2023

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