How to Budget for Travel in Retirement

travel in retirement

A lot of people anticipate that their retirement years will be a great time to travel. With more freedom and less time constraints, retirees can spend their days seeing the places they have always wanted to see. On the other hand, it can be hard to see the world on a fixed income. Luckily, jet-setting during your golden years is very possible if you take steps before retirement to budget appropriately for it.

First, you’ll need to be able to answer this question: What are your travel goals?

A budget for one yearly vacation is going to be very different from a budget for extended, more frequent travel to many different areas of the world. This is why it is crucial to determine what your travel goals are. Doing so will help you to plan accordingly. Make a list of places you want to see and get an estimate for how much it will cost to travel to each place.

In planning your retirement travel goals, you’ll need to make sure you don’t leave out any important travel costs. Remember to research costs for:

  • Flight tickets
  • Car rentals
  • Train tickets
  • Taxis/buses/subway fare
  • Dining
  • Tipping
  • Lodging
  • Sightseeing (guided tours, etc)
  • Travel gear
  • Souvenirs/other purchases

It’s a good idea to talk to other retirees who also have the “traveling bug” to see what their recommendations are or if they know of any good travel deals.

After you know your travel goals and approximate costs, you can figure this into your retirement plan. Before retirement, this may mean setting aside some of your savings into a travel fund with the goal of reaching a certain specified amount by the time you retire. Typically, it is considered safe to spend 4% or less of your total retirement savings per year without having to worry about running out of money. This 4% should also take into account everyday living expenses like taxes, food, health care and insurance. After retirement, you may continue to receive some kind of monthly income from Social Security, property you own and rent or investment proceeds. Make sure this income is calculated into your budget.

Look over the list of places you want to visit and put them in a list in order of priority. Next, create a timeline for your travels. This will not only give you concrete things to look forward to, but will help you figure out how much money you will be putting towards travel and when. This can give you a better idea of how travel will fit into your yearly budget. Maybe you will skip traveling a few years in a row to go on a dream trip. You may find your budget in retirement changes year to year depending on your travel plans. Be aware of the impact travel will have on your budget and plan accordingly. Maybe this will mean moving into a smaller house, eliminating a second vehicle, or even just spending less money eating out or on other unnecessary “luxury” activities.

During retirement, it is important to make every dollar count. Thankfully, with less time constraints, it is easier for retirees to stretch a dollar. Scheduling a trip during the off season is a great way to lower your overall cost. Take the time to watch airline deals online with sites like Expedia and Fly.com. Flexibility with when you travel (which will be possible in retirement) will allow you to take trips when they are most cost-effective. The longer you stay in one hotel, the more likely it is that you can negotiate a lower lodging rate. Combining long trips into one big trip can help you save on airfare.


Remember to always look for any senior travel discounts and do not be afraid to take advantage of every single one!


As with any kind of budget, you’re never going to be able to perfectly calculate exactly how much everything will be ahead of time. This is why one of the most important aspects of travel budgeting is leaving yourself a buffer. Spur-of-the-moment excursions, taxis, tips for staff and meals can sometimes exceed your planned allowance. A buffer will cover these extra expenses so you aren’t caught unprepared. Going with this rule, it is a good idea to get travel insurance. While it will make your trip slightly more expensive, it can save you big later if your travels are disrupted or a health issue forces you to cancel your trip.

Traveling can be a rewarding opportunity to have meaningful experiences in your golden years. If you are still preparing for retirement, now is the ideal time to assess where you are in achieving your retirement goals. Don’t let poor budgeting hold you back from living your retirement dreams!

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