After decades of hard work and sacrifice, you are finally retired, off the clock, and ready to indulge your travel fantasies. Naturally, traveling in Europe after retirement offers stunning vacation options for both short and long trips. And today’s digitally connected world means smart deals and budget-friendly options are available right at your fingertips. Even if you’ve been to Europe before, the constant cultural and political evolutions of each country offer new and exciting locales to explore.
To maximize your enjoyment of every country and every last Euro (or other European currency), consider these budget travel tips for retirees.
Travel During Shoulder Season
Prices on everything are generally lower October through April, so reduced costs mean more money for other souvenirs and a few extra tasty treats along the way. Additionally, off-peak months tend to see less international travel. Fewer tourists mean shorter lines into museums, galleries, and restaurants. As a bonus, you’ll have the opportunity to meet more local folk, which gives you the opportunity to explore even deeper into the local culture.
If you’ve traditionally traveled during summer months only, fall and winter in Europe offer a change of menu just like they do around the world. Fall harvests are fun to watch and even more fun to taste, so get out in the country where you can enjoy the farm-to-table process without spending a ton of money.
Even though every region in Europe has its own gastronomic specialties, choosing freshly harvested foods brings a depth of flavor that’s really only available at that time of year at a fraction of the cost of a high-end restaurant.
Manage Your Money
Use cash instead of travelers’ checks. ATMs abound in most cities, so your cash is always available. And carry it in a money belt—thievery still exists, and the best way to manage it is to avoid it altogether.
Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts. Many European companies offer discounts for seniors and families, and haggling is still an acceptable form of negotiation in many countries. Not to mention, it’s pretty exciting when you can talk the price down on something you’d otherwise never splurge on!
Stay Somewhere Affordable
We’d all love to own our own homes in Europe or stay at lavish hotels, but for many retirees, that just simply isn’t possible. Bed and breakfasts offer a truly local experience at the same or less cost than a standard hotel. And the hosts can be excellent sources of information about where to go and what to do on a budget in the area.
Consider a hostel as a funky alternative. Europe has thousands of hostels that offer clean beds and bathrooms, access to kitchens, and an informative seat at the communal dining table. You can meet others with whom to travel or get current information on where to go, and you’ll spend way less money than if you stayed elsewhere for a long time.
Get Thrifty With It
Department stores in many European countries offer most or all of the cultural souvenirs typically found at pricier boutiques. There are frequently restaurants attached, too, so you can pick up your mementos and enjoy an inexpensive meal at the same time.
When sightseeing, you can purchase passes that offer access to more than one location. Paris museum passes pay for themselves with only three visits, and will save you hours of standing in long, tourist-filled lines.
Drive The Continent
Yes, Europe has trains, planes, and buses that can get you from city to city. However, renting a car can take you into remote areas not accessible by public transportation and allow you to keep your own schedule. You’ll end up in fascinating destinations that have none of the tourist crowds.
The driving opportunity is especially valuable in eastern European countries that are still developing their tourism culture. The seaside countries of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia/Herzegovina are across the Adriatic Sea from Italy’s east coast, so they share the same, lovely climate. After decades behind the Iron Curtain, these countries also share the centuries of history of the rest of Europe but are still relatively undiscovered by the tourist crowd.
Traveling in a group can also reduce the cost of driving, which makes this option ideal for families. Sharing a tank of fuel with four or more people gives everyone a more flexible trip and saves the cost of more expensive train tickets. Europe is quite a small continent (especially when compared to America), so distances are generally shorter between locations.
For many people over 50, “retirement” is far from being a rocking chair and a porch. Taking advantage of what Europe has to offer in culture, history, and travel experiences is the best kind of retirment plan we could ever dream of . By taking advantage of clever, cost-effective travel strategies like these, you will ensure that your “European Grand Tour” is everything you dreamed it to be as well.
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