Beating the Travel Budget Blues

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Robin and Jim Guyle boarding Carnival Cruise.

If your financial investments took a beating in the last few years, travel may be lower among your priorities than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean you should put away getting or renewing your passport. You can still satisfy your travel bug.

“In general, I think retired adults should analyze their cash flow needs and make adjustments to their expenses only if they are drawing more than 3.5% from their investment accounts each year and their portfolio has declined in value,” said Randy L. Zeigler, certified private wealth adviser and certified financial planner at Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC in Oswego. “If their portfolio draws are less than or equal to 3.5% — if they are using a percentage for their draws this means their income would automatically drop from one year to the next if their portfolio declines —then they do not normally need to adjust their lifestyle costs.”

He added that research shows that the 3.5% to 4% draw rate represents a “sustainable portfolio draw rate” for many years with a diverse investment combination 60% stocks and 40% bonds.

This may still leave room in the budget to plan trips. Of course, the “needs” of the budget must be met first. If you really want to pack your bags and travel, you may be able to trim some of the other “wants” so that you can prioritize travel. Maybe you could cut cable TV, dinners out or expanding your wardrobe so you can include travel in your budget.

If your vacation budget is strained, you could also plan less costly trips.

Robin Guyle, travel adviser at Anna Day Travel, in Oswego, an affiliate of Cruise Brothers in Rhode Island, said that planning fewer but longer trips can save money.

“The cost to fly is the same, whether you stay a week or a month,” she said.

The timing of the trip can also matter. If you’re retired, then Guyle recommends traveling during the “shoulder seasons,” the months before or after a region’s busy season.

“Sometimes, the cost is half,” she said.

Flying at odd times like Sundays through Thursdays can make travel less expensive also. Remaining flexible can also score deals. Guyle said that if you check what’s available last-minute, another traveler’s canceled plans can become your bargain flight or lodging.

For many types of travel expenses, “leverage memberships like AARP or AAA to get discounts,” she added.

She also said that using points from rewards programs can help defray the cost. Don’t forget about credit card points, frequent flyer points, Microsoft Rewards and The latter two rely upon using online searches and with MyPoints, using online vendors with whom they partner to gain points. For example, if you log onto your MyPoints account and then make purchases from vendors listed there, you can earn points you can apply towards United Airlines, American Airlines, restaurants and more.

To reduce the cost of attractions, Guyle mentioned checking national parks and museums, as these often have free admission days. Before going to attractions, check the website for coupons and, if these apply, policies about 60-plus and veteran’s discounts.

The cost of lodging can add up fast. Guyle mentioned using Airbnb or other vacation rental-by-owner arrangements as a means to save, since these types of lodging may cost less for a long-term rental and you can do more of your own cooking.

As another option, consider housesitting or pet sitting in another city through

“You can get paid to go someplace and be there every day; you get paid for your vacation,” Guyle said.

Naturally, she suggested using a travel agent to save money, as they keep their finger on the pulse of discounted venues, deals and discounts.

“Most people don’t realize it doesn’t cost you any more to use a travel agent,” Guyle said. “Some high-end places charge for research, but I don’t. It costs the same if you book it through a cruise line.”

Travel agents also offer general money-saving advice related to vacationing. For example, Guyle said that many people don’t realize that their medical insurance won’t cover them outside the USA. Travel insurance covers these expenses.

Vacation Savings

Want other ways to travel on a shoestring?

• Swap homes with a trusted friend or relative who lives in another part of the state or country. Lodging is often the most expensive part of traveling.

• Camp at a state or national park. Many of these offer cabins that are still comfortable through early fall.

• Look online for discounts and coupons for the attractions you want to visit.

• Select a room with a kitchenette or at least a mini fridge so you can eat out less.

• Stay at less popular, and thus less costly, destinations near the attractions you want to see.