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Fodorites, your suggestions are needed to help brand new "retiree" continue to afford European travel. Tips needed!

Fodorites, your suggestions are needed to help brand new "retiree" continue to afford European travel. Tips needed!

Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:16 AM
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Fodorites, your suggestions are needed to help brand new "retiree" continue to afford European travel. Tips needed!

I finally did it. Retired from the government job I haven't enjoyed doing in at least 15 years. I may change my mind down the road, but the first two days of retirement have been wonderful!

But your help is needed now. My income, as you might imagine, will be significantly reduced in retirement. I checked under my mattress and no hoard of cash could be found. With this mind, I am looking for tips or suggestions on how to travel to Europe on a budget. I know it has been discussed before, but I am looking for new advice from my Fodor friends.

My wife and I have visited Europe for five years in a row, and I must confess we are going twice this year. We have never been able to afford extravagant, but like three star hotels, good food, and air conditioning where needed. We don't shop much (clothes and such) while we are vacationing, but enjoy the sites, good espresso and afternoon wine and people watching.

I am open to all suggestions as I know there are some great budget travelers on this site.

Thanks to all!

Dave Z.
Ex-Government Employee
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:19 AM
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If you live some place interesting, consider a house swap.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:27 AM
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Congratulations on your liberation!

Being retired means you can travel off-season and rent apartments. That's a significant savings right there. Also, the better you get to know Italy and France, you will see that in the countryside, it is not hard to find excellent and spotlessly clean places to stay (attached to delicious restaurants) that are 2 stars.

If you aren't looking at the Slow Travel website, I suggest you do. People over there can often provide you with detailed help about how to use a local bus system, for instance, which can really be a great cost saver. And save money getting to and from airports, as well as the best cheap eats.

So where is your next trip? No doubt people can start right now helping you with suggestions for ways to keep the costs down.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:29 AM
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Are you willing to rent an apartment rather than staying in a hotel?

Willing to travel in the so-called "off season"?

Use budget flights to get from place to place; using budget hubs such as London?

Stay in fewer stars in places like Switzerland and still get excellent accommodations and value.

Taking public transport in cities?

Travel in "cheaper" countries such as Spain and Greece; avoiding "poor exchange rates" in the UK?

How old are you? How much more time/health do you have to travel on/with? Have you been to those once-in-a-lifetime places yet? Are you going to do it?

Some things shouldn't be compromised and only you can decide what they are
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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BTW..you might start looking at it as not so much reducing costs but rather spending your money more wisely and getting a better return on the investment.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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nessundorma: Yes, we have no problem traveling off season or renting apartments, although we have not done the apartment route yet in our travels. I have looked at SlowTrav before, but will do so in more detail now.

Dukey: I am 51 and my wife a bit younger, so we have some years ahead of us. Spain? Only been to Barcelona, but am willing to travel there again! Love Swizterland, were there in 2002, but have started to think it is too expensive for us now! Any specific advice on budget travel in that country?

We have traveled mostly to large cities, and love them, but do understand that the countryside will afford better value.

Keep the advice coming, and thanks again!
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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Had it not already been suggested, I would have said house swap. There are a number of companies that do it and you do not have to live anywhere special. People like you just want a cheap holiday abroad, and sometimes just a different environment.

I took early retirement three years ago and cannot now go many of the places I used to visit. But the main cost is getting there so instead of many small holidays, I now take one big one (and sometimes a little one). For me a hotel room has always been just for sleeping in and one star does me as well as four star, though I have a deluxe room in Bangkok for about $250 a month (3 months. I'm wintering there as it is incredibly cheap). Consider an apartment, villa, etc rather than an expensive hotel. Good food can be cheap if you shop around rather than looking for expensive or name restaurants.

There are many books out on how to travel Europe on a budget. Lonely Planet guides, as well as being full of useful information have money saying tips, cheap accommodation, etc and can be a good investment.

If you travel out of the hottest parts of the year, you will not need air conditioning, and people will be at work and kids at school so it will be a lot cheaper and less crowded everywhere.

London has a fair number of cheap airlines to all over Europe (Ryanair, Easyjet, etc). Fly to London and then on from there to another destination (advisable the following day in case of flight holdups). Note: Booking certain flights can drop down a lot in price by changing days backwards or forwards, with weekends usually being expensive. Southern Europe can be very pleasant from April till November when accommodation prices are a lot cheaper.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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I guess you're a little old to find yourself some wealthy parents. You appear happily married, so divorcing and marrying up doesn't look promising. You might find 51 to be a little young for retirement.

So why not take a gap year? Maybe do some ambitious but shoestring extended travel, then come back and see if you can't find a job you like?

A couple of places to look:


Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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We have been visiting Europe on a budget for many years. I find the biggest expense for us is always the airfare, so I spend a lot of time surfing the web for the best deals. Airfares can swing up and down every day, and sometimes a popular site like Orbitz has the best price, and sometimes you really have to dig. Once we get the flight, then comes the easy part. We usually stay at b&b's, 2* hotels, or rent an apartment. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in a tiny Tuscan hill town last month for 75 euros a night. Of course if you do the apartment thing, you can also eat in several times, which saves you even more. As for eating out, we try to seek out the places where the locals eat, not the 3* Michelin favorites. In Rome, we went into a little neighborhood tobacco shop, and asked the local guys where they like to eat. We were led to a place where the dinner for two with wine ran about 30 euros. Traveling on a budget can be a lot of fun, since it puts you closer to the locals.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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I have been retired for 5-6 years, but my husband still works full time. He is considering retiring in the near future, so we will be in similar circumstances to yours.

We too traveled annually to Europe until three years ago when the dollar exchange rate took a real dive. Since then we have been visiting places in the US we have never been and actually doing rather well on expenses. We did splurge on our most recent trip to Savannah and St. Augustine and stayed at more expensive places than usual.

Additionally, you might consider other places on the planet. We went to Buenos Aires a year ago next month and it was as exciting and wonderful as any European trip we had taken. With the three to one exchange rate there, you can enjoy wonderful meals for pennies. We had a wonderful suite (which we never reserve) for a very reasonable rate. We didn't do much shopping, but most visitors there are thrilled with the bargains in leather.

BsAs has a very European feel and we are anxious to return, stay for several days and then travel elsewhere in Argentina. I have a long file I put together when planning our trip. If you might be interested in going there instead of some European country and would like to have it, please e-mail me.

Good luck with your travels wherever they might be, and congratulations on your retirement. I hated my job for a number of years before I retired too, so leaving it was a real liberation!
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:16 AM
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Welcome to retirement! I went this route in 2000 (with some part-time contract work for the first few years) and figured I needed to get as much travel in as possible before I got too decrepit. With more time than money I take longer trips, which amortizes the airfare over more days. I have a per diem amount in mind, and try to balance an occasional splurge with cheaper places. I tend to sleep cheap so I can eat well.

Although this is the Europe board, I would encourage you to take a look at Asia. If you avoid Bhutan, Japan and the east coast of China it can be very cheap. (I hear Japan can be cheap, but haven't tried that yet.) In addition to the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books I would recommend reading Hasbrouck's "Practical Nomad" and Rick Steves' "Europe Through the Back Door" for budget travel techniques.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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I have a friend who did just this. He actually picked up a part time position to accrue some spending money for travelling. He travels much like he always did. Now of course he has much more time to travel. He also travels in the off-season. He spent January last year in Venice. He loved it.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:21 AM
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"We have never been able to afford extravagant, but like three star hotels, good food, and air conditioning where needed. We don't shop much (clothes and such) while we are vacationing, but enjoy the sites, good espresso and afternoon wine and people watching."

We could travel together - except for the retired part - that is exactly how we like to go!
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:24 AM
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Retired at 51, but don't think you can afford the lifestyle you want?

Just get a job.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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Always a pleasure to read your kind, informative and inspiring posts, flanneruk.

Congratulations on your retirement, dwzemens. Doing research such as you are will provide excellent information. Unfortunately all of my ideas have already been presented to you in the above posts such as house swaps and apartment renting. I find it fortunate that you are young enough to enjoy your retirement. My best wishes to you and your wife. Enjoy, for this is the good life!
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:34 AM
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You can still afford to travel well w/ a reduced income. And even to "expensive" places like the UK and Scandanavia.

Since you can go any time - sign up for all the airline e-mail sales alerts. Then when ever a great sale pops up, you can book on the spot. Short slaes can spring any time.

While England/Scotland are considered expensive by many on here - they often have very cheapest airfares. Plus schemes like the Great British Heritage Pass greatly reduce sightseeing costs. And off season - which can run from mid Sept to June - cottages and flats can be rented for much less than in summer.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:37 AM
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Just a thought, but if year-round part time employment isn't appealing, have you considered seasonal employment? Many retailers add staff between Thanksgiving and New Year's. You might be able to work for a month and make enough to cover your trip without needing to dip into your everyday income.

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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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First off, congratulations on retiring so young! How wonderful for you both.

I have some specific suggestions for Switzerland. I am lucky enough to have friends who live in Vevey and Montreux, so I get to stay free... but also have learned some 'local' tricks.

Shop at Migros grocery store. Most everything excepting meat and poultry is reasonably priced. Some things less than at home or higher quality for the similar price.

Join the locals and shop weekly at the open air farmers street markets for your fresh produce, bread, eggs, cheese, cured meats. It is excellent quality direct from who raises/makes them. Tuesday and Saturday AM in Vevey, Friday AM in Montreux, for example.

Buy wine at the Pik 'n Pay. You can find incredible Swiss-made whites for ~7-12 CHF.

Eat your larger hot meal at lunch time. Each cafe (as an old tradition to feed workers, i believe it is even a law) has one specialty per day at a very good price. They have it written on the chalk board outside. So you choose your restaurant of the day based on the choices each is serving. Drink wine (red, rose, or white) by the small cafes (demi).

Buy sandwiches from bakeries. They have a great selection, not real cheap, but delicious and fresh fresh fresh.

You can find amazing things at the more high-end supermarkets. Again in Vevey, at Placette (Manor) near the train station. Their deli has quiche by the slice, pizzas, fresh squeezed fruit juices, pates, pastry wrapped pates, bulk olives, etc. Not cheap but less than a restaurant.

Would you consider staying at a hostel? The Riviera Lodge in Vevey is right on the lake and town square and has private rooms. www.rivieralodge.ch

www.lausanne-guesthouse.ch 55CHF
www.hotelnegociants.ch 130 CHF

are two other places to consider in this area.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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I think Suze has given some excellent advice re switzerland.

Another resource I have used there is www.rooms.ch

So-called "budget" accommodations but every one I have stayed in was immaculate and had everything essential needed for a comfortable overnight.

Traveling there can be very nice in the so-called shouldre seasons such as in April and early October when the weather is still good and the crowds are gone.

Also, for general use, I would make note of www.skyscanner.net for budget flights all over Europe.

Of course someone above has probably mentioned the use of Priceline and Hotwire for hotels, etc. and then there are all those other discounters such as laterooms.com lastminute.com and the bancotel coupons good in various places.

At your age I would agree you should have plenty of time left for travel; I've already retired from one job and am working on a second one which, fortunately, allows me to travel even more since I have a very flexible schedule.

Enjoy. Just try not to become too bored; sometimes jobs can be liberating, too.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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I think it boils down to a couple of factors, retired or not. Is it a priority ? If so, you'll figure out a way to travel. We have always traveled off-season to nearly everywhere, not only does this cut airfare in half (if we don't have miles) it is typically a more enjoyable trip not being surrounded by tourists (even though we are tourists). For example, we're going to Key West over Thanksgiving & several things we did saved us $$. Used a buy one get two for $99 airfare coupon. So, flights for My wife & I + two kids = roughly $600. Traveling on Thanksgiving (cheaper airfare). Traveling prior to December 15th. Lots of places have their prices go up in the Keys & Caribbean the middle of December. Savings = about 200/night or $1000 as we rented a 3 bdrm villa. Flying back on a Tuesday rather than a weekend (cheaper airfare also). As far as Europe goes, now that we have kids, we stay as long as we can (usually 12-20 days). In the past (pre-kids) we would fly over for a long weekend if an e-saver popped up. Now that you have a lot of flexibility, you may find it easier to take advantage of 'last-second' deals also. The two major expenses (in my world anyway) is getting there & where you'll be sleeping. In Europe, we rarely spend much time in the room (now typically an apartment anyway), why spend a bunch of $$ there ? You get the idea ? At least how we do it.
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