8 ways to optimize retirement travel

Retirement is the ideal time to set off on extended travel adventures that weren't possible during your working years. But most retirees will be traveling on a fixed income. As such, it's important to find ways to stretch your travel dollars. Luckily, having more time on your hands makes it easier to spend less on adventures while still experiencing your bucket list destinations to their fullest.

Travel savings strategies deployed by youthful backpackers can also be utilized by retirees without sacrificing comfort. Some of these strategies include utilizing travel rewards and traveling for longer periods of time than a typical vacation. Start your travels soon after retirement to capitalize on your energy and good health. Here are eight ways to optimize retirement travel:

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8 ways to optimize retirement travel
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8 ways to optimize retirement travel

Slow travel. Slow travel is a logical method of travel for retirees, because it requires more time and less money. Instead of taking vacations with firm begin and end dates and tight itineraries, slow travelers stay longer wherever they go and soak in the details and eccentricities of each destination. Extended stays allow for lower-cost accommodations and fewer transportation expenses, thereby increasing the value of your travel dollar.

Slow travel is a great way to experience a city or town. The extra time allows you to avoid the tourist traps and learn where the locals eat. You might even make a few friends. You'll develop a better understanding of the destination and its people, making for a more personally rewarding experience. When you feel like you've experienced enough, move on to the next town.

[See: The Top Travel Destinations for Retirees.]

RVing. Recreational vehicles are a good choice for driving around the U.S. to visit national parks and the cities and towns that make our country so unique and beautiful. RVs are available in a wide range of comforts and costs, so retirees can travel in their preferred style. Though RVs require a significant upfront cost, extended road trips become less expensive each day as the cost of accommodation is low. The best thing about RVing is you'll enjoy the journey as much as each destination. RV campsites and facilities catering to road warriors are common around the U.S., so there's always a welcoming place to park your mobile home.

Extended city visits. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Copenhagen or Buenos Aires? It's gotten easier to book extended stays in the world's greatest cities through online services such as Airbnb. Instead of staying in a hotel, Airbnb hosts often give significant discounts to longer-term visitors to avoid vacancies and reduce maintenance costs. You can find a quaint little street in a walkable neighborhood or something cheaper on the outskirts of town. Consider taking language lessons and sticking around for a few months while you live like a local. However, make sure you know the visa limitations of the country before booking your extended stay.

[Read: 15 Travel Themes to Explore in Retirement.]

Train travel. Train travel is a comfortable and scenic way to explore the globe. Europe and Asia offer some of the most convenient and exciting journeys, which can be optimized with the right train passes. The Eurail is a flexible multi-ride pass that isn't just for college graduates on a summer fling before starting their first job. Eurail passes are available in several varieties, so find the one that's right for you. The conglomerate of rail systems includes 28 different countries.

Another classic train route is the Trans-Siberian Railway. Utilize this route to travel overland from St. Petersburg, Russia, all the way to Beijing, China. It's a well-worn rail ride through a fascinating part of the world. Plan a scenic stop at Lake Baikal or Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, along the route to maximize your experience.

Book multiple tours. If you're flying a great distance to take a tour in one of your bucket list destinations, maximize the value of your flight costs by booking multiple tours. The optimal way to do this is to fly to a global hub city from which you can tour different cultures and destinations. Cities such as Bangkok, Thailand, Quito, Ecuador, and Paris, France, are all excellent launching points for tours to nearby sites and countries. Be sure to add a few extra days on arrival and before departure so that you can enjoy the hub city and avoid any tight timelines.

Round-the-world flights. Round-the-world flights are an efficient way to explore the globe. For one price, round-the-world flights allow for a set number of flight segments or miles depending on the type and price of your ticket. These tickets come with several rules about stopovers, reservations and booking restrictions, so they lack flexibility at times. But as long as you follow the guidelines, it's an efficient way to visit many destinations. Tickets are usually good for a year's time, so you can slowly circumnavigate the globe, leaving room for extended stays and lengthy side excursions. The two main airline alliances that provide round-the-world tickets are Star Alliance and Oneworld. You can book directly on their websites or through a third party.

[Read: How to Plan an International Trip During Retirement.]

Retirement cruises. Why retire in one place when you could spend your retirement cruising across the globe? Some cruise lines make accommodations for retirees who wish to stay on for multiple embarkments. For example, the cruise line, Oceania, offers 180-day cruises that visit over 30 countries. These cruises appear expensive at first, but when compared to everyday living expenses at home, they might fit into a reasonable budget. Long-term cruising may not be right for those with frequent family responsibilities or significant medical needs, but active retirees searching for adventure and comfort may find their paradise at sea.
Travel rewards. Travel rewards are the points and miles you earn from credit card sign up bonuses, regular spending and frequent flying and hotel stays. By strategically signing up for certain credit cards and spending according to the bonus offer guidelines, you can earn significant travel rewards, which empower you to save money on flights and hotels. Savvy savers can focus on earning rewards during their working years to amass points for use in retirement. Several websites provide guidance on which credit cards are best for the flights and hotels you are most likely to use. But do careful research before signing up. There may be a minimum amount you need to spend to earn the rewards and restrictions on when you can use them.
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Craig Stephens is a blogger at Retire Before Dad.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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