7 Ways to Travel Well in Your Golden Years

Who says retirement can’t be when the fun begins?

With 55 Airbnbs and more than 30 countries under their belts, Debbie and Michael Campbell, 58 and 69 respectively, have reinvented what it means to be a retiree. Ready their story here, or read on for their tips on how to take your retirement on the road.

Crunch the numbers
“You know how when you go on vacation and you get that ‘Ah, what the hell’ feeling about money? Well, we can’t go into that mode,” says Debbie. “Our goal was to spend the same amount of money that we would if we had retired back home. On average, we spend $90 per night on lodging, though that ticks up or down depending on which country we’re in. You could do it for a lot more—spend more on lodging, take taxis, eat out. But you could also do it for less: Rent a single room instead of an entire house, and skip expensive countries like Norway and Switzerland in favor of Morocco, Spain, or anywhere in Southeast Asia.”

Planned spontaneity
“We go where the wind takes us, but we plan three to six weeks in advance and usually stay about 10 nights in each place. We’re never sad to leave, because we know we can always turn around and come back,” says Michael. “We take turns picking the lodging. We’ve gotten very good at looking at the pictures. We look for reading lights on both sides of the bed, we avoid hot plates, we need a really big dining room table. And we always, always carefully check the reviews.”

Get your bearings
“In every city where it’s available, we take a free walking tour on the first day. It helps us get oriented and decide what we’ll do while we’re there,” says Debbie. “As soon as we arrive at our house, we take inventory. We find out where the market is. We get the basics, like cereal and juice. I take local cooking classes when I can. It’s always a challenge to cook in a new kitchen—you never know what they’ll have. I buy new ingredients at every new place so I always leave little bundles behind.”

No excuses
“Don’t delay because your health isn’t perfect,” says Debbie. “Michael’s had a hip replacement, I’m a cancer survivor and have neuropathy—we’ve got our stuff. But our minds are active and our bodies are active.”

Be flexible
“You really have to like the person you’re with. This is taking retirement into hyperspace—it’s a 24/7 situation,” explains Michael. “Things are often not going to meet your expectations. It’s not like staying at a hotel. Every front door is different, and what’s behind it is different. Most of the time it’s wonderful.”

Don’t overpack
“We have light packing down,” says Debbie. “We wear the same things all the time, so our new rule is you have to say, ‘Oh, you look nice today.’ We love to read and play games, so we always have a few games with us, and our Kindles. No souvenirs. And we do travel with our pillows. No matter what, we know we have our two nice fluffy pillows.”

It’s a lifestyle, not an escape
“Our mantra is, ‘We’re not on vacation; we’re living in other people’s houses in cities we want to visit.’ We definitely see some of the big sights, but we aren’t going for travel trophies. We do what we want to do. We always stay in a real neighborhood, and some days we just go for long walks, have a picnic, and play Scrabble at night. We read voraciously. We find as many free concerts as we can.”

Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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