With the holiday season now long behind us, and several months yet until the busy summer travel season begins, we’ll soon be into what the travel industry refers to as the “shoulder season”. Running from April to mid-June, the shoulder season is a good time to look for travel bargains before prices rise, as inevitably happens when we enter the peak travel season. With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you make the most of your travel plans:
1. Set your budget, and stick to it
The first rule when it comes to travelling on a budget is to actually create a budget. The second rule is to stick to it. But even the best of intentions will fall away if your budget is not realistic. To help arrive at a reasonable budget, you need to do your research beforehand. Discovering that the budget you’ve set aside is woefully inadequate only after arriving at your destination, is sure to put a damper on any vacation.
There are several helpful websites that provide honest feedback based on first-hand experiences for practically every destination on the planet. Read what others have to report on their own journey to help you determine if this is the right place for you to visit, and if it fits within your budget. You’ll find some links at the end of this article to serve as your starting point.
2. Use online tools to compare flight costs
So, you’ve discovered the perfect destination. Now, let’s see what we can do to save money on getting there.
Once again, the internet comes to the rescue with a number of websites that automatically compare the cost of flights and accommodations for you. Links for two of the more popular comparison sites are included at the end of this article.
Also, many airlines offer discounts for seniors. So if you qualify, this is another way you can save a little cash on your airfare – cash that can be better used for an extra night or two on the town.
3. Be open-minded about the destination
Unless you have a specific reason that requires you to go to a certain city, such as a wedding or graduation celebration, why not let the price at least partially influence where you go? For instance, cities outside the main tourist centres are often less costly for both entertainment and accommodations.
Besides, a little flexibility in your destination choice can not only save you money, but may just lead to a whole new adventure you would have otherwise missed.
4. There are (less costly) alternatives to resorts
Resorts certainly have their appeal. But because most are designed to offer activities to keep you on the resort itself, you often miss out on experiencing much beyond the resort walls. Resorts can also be pricey, but with services like Airbnb, it’s possible to rent private homes and apartments directly from the owner.
While renting a private home means you may have to cook for yourself and make your own bed, the trade-off is that you experience the area you're staying in a very direct and personal way. This is a sure way to discover all that your destination has to offer, while still keeping within your budget.
5. Keep restaurant bills under control
Just like it does at home, eating in restaurants can quickly add up. Oh sure, go ahead and spoil yourself once in a while. But also keep an eye out for smaller, family-owned eateries that cater to the locals. They tend to provide better value, and because food is so closely connected with culture, enjoying the dishes of the region can add so much to your stay.
6. Look for the free stuff
Most cities have events such as festivals or other attractions that are free to the public. This is yet another opportunity to discover first-hand what it’s like to be part of the local scene.
7. Forget about paying for data or phone plans
With the proliferation of free Wi-Fi spots, there's little need to take on the extra expense of paying for an international data or phone plan when travelling. Everything from coffee shops to public libraries can provide free spots to keep you connected with friends and family at home.
There are many excellent resources for the budget-conscious traveler online, including several that specialize in serving the active senior. Here are a few you may find helpful:
Rick Steves' savvy senior travellers tips
Lonely Planet older travellers' forum