Tips from a retiree travelling the world
At 77, Mike Romain of Toronto is enjoying a retirement filled with opera, symphony, theatre — and world travel. Just prior to the pandemic, he travelled to Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Poland, and now is itching to travel again.
Since retiring from teaching elementary school nearly 23 years ago, Romain has managed to take one or two major trips each year.
How does he do it? With travel costs rising, saving anywhere you can makes a difference.
Single, with no dependents, Romain is fortunate to have a fully indexed pension. And renting an apartment for the past 32 years without any drastic rent increases helps to keep his living expenses low. Still, he admits he wouldn't be able to afford all this retirement travel without some budget-savvy, spending discipline, and travel planning know-how. Here are some of his senior travel tips based on his own travels.
1. Watch spending at home and away
“Once or twice a year, I plan a major trip, but the rest of the time, I live pretty frugally and carefully manage my money," says Romain. He focuses on the same habits when he's away. “Say I'm going to be in Europe for 12 days. I'll bring about 1,200 euros spending money to do me for the entire trip, so that means budgeting 100 euros a day. I'll enter that amount in my diary at the start of the day and then check at the end of the day to see how many euros I have left, because I'm always nervous about running out of money."
2.Need help? Ask a travel agent
Travel agents can save you from some unpleasant surprises, such as an unexpected hotel bill. “I went to Munich and tried booking a hotel online. I got a confirmation number and everything, but when I arrived at the hotel, they had no record of my booking," he says. Turns out there's another hotel in Munich with the same name. “Then when the clerk at the desk called the other hotel for me, he was told it was booked solid, so after that experience, I book hotels only through my travel agent," he says. And a travel agent can also help you look for on hotels, flights, tours, and more, especially if you're travelling internationally.
3. Travel during non-peak times
“Fortunately, because I'm retired, I can avoid those more expensive times (like March Break, Christmas and summer) when I go somewhere," says Romain.
4. Buy currency in advance
“I buy my currency a little at a time several months prior to the trip," says Romain. “That not only saves me the last-minute rush, but sometimes with currency fluctuations I can end up paying a lot more if I buy all at once."
5. Look into package tours
“I find you can often get better prices than you would booking on your own," says Romain. “The other good thing about them is they know where to take you. If you're trying to find places on your own and you don't know the language, you can waste a lot of time."
6. Get a transit pass
While in Berlin a few years ago, Romain purchased a three-day transit pass for about 50 euros, which covered all the U-Bahn (subway), S-Bahn (above-ground trains), buses, trams and ferries, as well as some of the museums in the city. “If you're going to be in a city for a few days, it can be much cheaper to get around with a transit pass than buying a ticket for each individual trip, says Romain.
By applying these simple, common-sense tips, international travel can still be affordable to seniors on a fixed income — even with costs rising. That's welcome news for seniors who, like Romain, are eager to take to the skies again.