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Transitioning to Longer Term Travel

My husband and I are hoping to retire in seven years and are planning to do longer term traveling at that time. Since our travel has been curtailed currently, we've been having some fun planning post retirement itineraries ranging from six to twelve weeks. Our intention is to do one European trip per year, each of them falling below ninety days within the rolling 180 days, in accordance with the Schengen rules.

Our recent annual European trips have generally been for two weeks (that whole work thing gets in the way!), and we have used both public transportation and car rentals for ground transportation. We both love planning, and use RIck Steves' guides and various online sources (including this forum) for our travels.

We'd love any advice/lessons learned from people who have transitioned from shorter to longer term travels.

Did you plan a shorter trip first, and what itinerary pace worked for you? Do you plan by country/region/some other way? What resources/guides do you recommend for planning trips in which the itinerary goes beyond the usual "blockbuster" sites in a country/region? Any tips for packing light when a trip is scheduled for a seasonal transition? A big one for me: What are some money saving tips (outside of renting apartments and cooking some meals) that you've learned? What at home services do you suspend when abroad? Did you make any adjustments to your living arrangements/lifestyle at home to enable you to take longer trips?

Lots of questions and I haven't even asked about insurance and communication needs!

Any advice is welcome and I look forward to hearing from all of the long term travelers that I envy.

Posted by
5182 posts

Hi Fran. Good luck and enjoy your retirement. There have been a couple of similar threads related to retirement travel, including this recent one: retired travel You might pick some ideas out of that. In fact, if you put "retirement" in the Search box hiding at the top of this page, you'll pop up a lot of other threads (choose Forum) on the subject.

When we retired, we had the same idea of one big trip a year. But we end up still sticking to the two-week timeframe. Too many other things - elderly parents, grandkids, illness, home security, pets, etc. - get in the way. Stick around here as you'll get a lot of good advice (and envy).

Posted by
170 posts

We are retired, and still do 2 week trips to Europe on occasion, but our favorite trip in recent years was a 4 week trip., the longest we ever took That, however, is probably as long as we would ever go abroad - as leisurely as our pace was, and as much as we enjoyed it, we were ready to come home.

We do not like moving around (city to city, hotel to hotel) very much, and the 4 week trip allowed us to devote approximately one week to each of 4 different cities in 4 different countries. We would do day trips out of those cities, but most of our days were spent in town, easy pace. Maybe one sight or major activity per day, lots of free mornings or afternoon for discovery.

Anyway, you will figure it out. Having done a variety of trip lengths, I personally like 3 weeks the best...just about perfect. You get into a nice rhythm when you relax and hit that "third" day - the 3rd Sunday, Wednesday, etc.

Posted by
1269 posts

My wife and I are about 2 years away from retirement and dealing with similar questions. We know we'll spend longer periods away from home but still trying to figure out how long is enough. Right now, after 2 weeks we're ready to go home, but I also dream about spending a month in some of the great cities such as New York and London. I'm also looking forward to reading the feedback you get.

Posted by
1448 posts

Plan the first few days, have a high-level itinerary but remain flexible, then wing it. I often book hotels the same day or maybe a day in advance. Research and plan specifics for the next day in the evening. Make sure you have a phone with data - Google Fi or TMobile. Avoid the brand name tourist sites and you will have no problem.

Posted by
17098 posts

Some semi-random thoughts:

Duration: My first two European trips lasted 3 months and 2 months. Later trips were mostly 4 weeks. For the latter part of my career I didn't go overseas because I couldn't get away for more than 2 weeks at a time, and I find trips that short really frustrating. When I got ready to travel again after retirement, it never occurred to me that there would be a problem with a long trip, so I just went for it.

Itinerary Flexibility: Unless I'm traveling to areas where and at times when lodging is difficult to come by, I don't pre-book much before I leave home. I don't know how much time I'll want to spend in a new city until I'm actually there. I often extend my stay; sometimes that is difficult to arrange, and it's often more costly than the original booking, so there are trade-offs. Really long stays are best booked ahead of time, because your chance of lucking into a vacancy for 5 days, a week, or longer is not nearly as good as the chance of finding a last-minute room for 2 or 3 nights. I've stayed in London 10, 12 and 14 nights over the last few years, and those reservations were made well ahead of time--typically early in the 4-1/2 month trip. I also pre-booked Scotland (high-demand area, and I needed twin beds) and Andalucia (around Holy Week).

Saving Money: I do not have a budget. I do what I want to do, but I try to do it as inexpensively as possible. I look for the least expensive, well-located, clean lodgings I can find (nearly always on booking.com) with the features that matter to me: a/c, solid Wi-Fi, and ideally an elevator (or at least not a 5-story hotel without one). As long as my trips are, I'm not going to pay extra for charm. Certainly money can be saved if you have kitchen access; I take advantage of that when I have it, but for a solo traveler the additional cost tends to be significant, so I don't often have kitchen facilities. For a couple staying somewhere for a while, I think an apartment is a good idea, but you have to be careful about refundability, cleaning charges, etc.

I move slowly through the areas I visit; for example, I have spent nearly 4-1/2 months in Spain and 4-1/2 months in France recently. That pace is nearly guaranteed to save money because you spend a lot of time in smaller (usually less costly) cities and won't have a lot of long trips on express trains (which are costly if you don't buy non-refundable tickets months in advance). Small towns tend to be served by regional trains or buses, whose tickets can be bought within a day or two of travel at moderate cost. And the pace of life is more relaxing--important on a long trip.

Investigate options for phone service, medical insurance and evacuation service. Be sure you have multiple no-fee ATM and credit cards.

Managing things at home: All monthly bills are paid automatically by credit card. All credit cards bills are paid automatically from my credit union account. I pay my fall property tax bill months in advance if I don't expect to return home well before it is due.

I travel between early April (rarely) and mid-September. I schedule most medical check-ups for October, February or March, allowing for lab results to come back before I get on a plane and for new glasses to be obtained.

I leave my internet and cable TV service running, primarily because I set up TV recordings while I travel. Many people could disconnect at least the TV service.

Packing: I take one or two pairs of polypropylene or merino wool long johns, a fleece jacket and a rain jacket. I've taken a packable down jacket twice but don't think I've worn it. I only take the pair of (walking) shoes on my feet; most people want an extra pair. Those traveling more off-season would need a full-length, warm coat and probably a long rain jacket/coat.

My main packing issue is the weight of 4-1/2 months' worth of pills. Calcium supplements are especially heavy.

Posted by
3020 posts

Not retired yet but planning. Not Europe yet, but planning.
I have travelled up to 5 weeks but they have either been extended bird/safari trips with a lot of one or 2 night stays or volunteering a month and then a week of one night stays. last Europe was Spain for 3 weeks. Personally, even as solo traveler, I want an apartment and kitchen. Since I can get them for under $100Cdn a night, it beats regular hotels, and are more comfortable than local 2* hotels with no comfortable seating in a room. I use my room. I can save a bit at a hostal (not hostel) in Spain for a solo, but my back and bones suffer. Even eating out may not add to the $100Cdn budget, but for shorter trips, it works for me.
Moving forward, I am looking at 3 months in SE Asia. I anticipate more of the 2* local lodgings for cheaper than apartments, and there it would be more convenient until I have learned my way around their appliances, water, AC, food markets, etc. I plan on booking my flights (into Cambodia and out from Hanoi, Vietnam) and my first week's lodging in Phnom Penh. after that, I'll wing it; perhaps buying flights a little ahead of time.

Depending where you go, if you are over 60 or 65, look into eligibility for senior's discounts. Often it means you have to be a resident of that country, but Spain offers an over 60 discount card for the train to anyone.
Take advantage of free entry days to museums, and make it first thing or end of day - chances are you can return regularly.
Packing light - get over being a fashionista. Embrace layers. A packable down jacket/vest and a good thin raincoat gets you through 3 seasons. As a Canadian, I am often leaving -25C to go to +35C and everything in between. One (jam packed) carry on suitcase backpack for a month got me from Ottawa winter, jungle, Andes and Galapagos Islands. I expect to go to Asia with a carry on roll on, and a 2 pound back pack for my sleeping pillow and a few flight incidentals.
If you haven't seen them, review Sarah Murdoch's light travel videos and blog entries. She weighs her clothes.
Look at thin wool or technical clothing. Merino wool, cashmere are often thin and warm. Also, often hand washable. A cardigan can add a lot of warmth.

Posted by
5908 posts

We have usually done a month long trip each year, with two six weeks ones although one of those was to Asia.
We stay in one place from one to weeks, mixing apartment or cottage rentals with smaller non- chain hotels. We rent cars unless we are in a city.
Eating in local restaurants is important to us but not every night. If staying in, eggs or sandwiches suffice for dinner. Shopping in local grocery stores and markets is fun. We never buy or eat anything that isn’t local.
Buy local wines.
The only guide we have ever hired was for the Acropolis in Athens and it was so valuable to be with her, learning more than we could have on our own. We probably should have hired more guides.
We prefer visiting one country at a time as each change includes some adjustments. We have gone to multiple countries a few times though.
I buy regional guide books, DK Eyewitness,Cadogen, Fodor’s. If there is a Rick Steve’s guide book for where we are visiting, I buy it too. Rick’s books give such good practical information.
To give you an idea of what we’ve done in the past here are some places we have stayed in rentals:
Two week rentals: in Bellagio, Lake Como, and Venice, London(2x), Chania, Crete,Greece, Spello, Umbria, and Nice,
Ten day rental, Lisbon
One week rentals: in Grindelwald, Switzerland , a cottage in Burgundy, France, Paris(2x), Leiden, NL, Rome, Panzano, Tuscany.
We found them through friends, by noticing them on an earlier trip, using a reliable local agency( find reviews, BBB , check and double check, due diligence,etc)
These were all part of four to six week trips.
Our plans for the future are renting for longer periods of time in one place.
We travel in Asia and love it there too but have always stayed in local hotels due to language difficulties.
Packing light: rentals all have had washing machines, a requirement for us, a few had dryers, but mostly used a drying rack. European dryers actually can we disappointing . Run a load when you go to bed or when you get up as European washing machine cycles are LONG!
Seasonal clothing issues: Layering is key.
I actually researched and found a place to ship my down coat home from Rome last winter. But I never did get rid of it as Rome was even colder than London! I wear black jeans if I take jeans as they can dress up more for dinners, etc.
**We each take a 22” piece of luggage and a small carry on bag or backpack. If you take anything larger, you will regret it!!***
When we went above the Arctic Circle plus later visited the Scandinavian cities in August, we bought Icebreaker brand Merino layers that worked great and take up little room in a suitcase.
One tip: if you need an ER, you will be sent to a local city hospital not a private one. If you’re ever offered a private one, take it! Research the choices before you travel. Most rentals have this info for you. Of course quality varies from country to country but we have always gotten good medical care and met some wonderful doctors and nurses. One country had cats and kittens walking around in the ER though.
Services suspended at home: used to suspend NETFLIX but then it became more difficult to do that. We cancel both newspaper deliveries.
If gone for several months we suspend : COMCAST/ Xfinity TV, and internet.
Mail: PO in USA will not hold for more than 30 days. So HOLD, redeliver, wait the required of days, HOLD mail again etc. We have a wonderful house checker who takes care of this for us. Complicated but you can do it!
We plan the towns, cities rentals and hotels. We always rent cars from AutoEurope.com. Then we buytickets if needed for museums, historic sites. Be aware of their closing days! Make a dinner reservation or two if in a major city.
We like to wing it and not have a daily plan.
To save money, Portugal and Greece are less expensive and really are wonderful and Scandinavia the most expensive, Norway the most expensive.
Good luck, enjoy and don’t over plan.

Posted by
1859 posts

If you're going to need a car for more than 21 consecutive days of your trip, you might look into the short-term leasing options through Auto Europe. We've done France a few times with the leased car option for approx. 30 days - which is far less expensive than renting for that duration. And you get a brand-new car to drive (Peugeot has some great options).

Posted by
2356 posts

Seven years is a long time from now. Much can and will happen, hopefully all good. Come back when you are 6 months away. When we were where you are we dreamed of 3 months in Provence or Umbria, renting a villa, taking day trips, having the children come for a week or three. Well, 2 of the 3 children married and now we have three granddaughters. They all have busy lives. We retired and also found three weeks In Europe was about our max. We could stretch into a month but that would be it. The thought of longer and not seeing the little ones does not do it for us. Even with three weeks we often come home to find something went wrong with the house. Then there is the 94 year old mother in law living by herself with no other relatives nearby. Your life at the time will dictate your travel plans. Planning now is just dreaming. Nothing wrong with it, it’s fun to dream.

Posted by
3020 posts

Or use the years researching places of interest and do some test runs with shorter visits. Approaching it as living local may feel different to being a tourist.

Posted by
38 posts

I appreciate all of the responses!

Stan and Alan - Yes, we are in the dreaming stage now and realize that life can get in the way of those dreams, especially since we are still some time off from realizing them. Right now, we are in a personal sweet spot for travel. Between the two of us we have one parent left and she is a healthy, independent 77 year old. Our daughters are in their mid twenties and live out of state. No grandchildren yet. We travel as much as we can now, including trips with our kids, but the longer trips have to wait until our retirement savings catch up to our dreams! Dreaming helps us to plan, planning encourages us to save!

Allan- While I rarely post here, I always am perusing the forum and I always find your posts interesting. I read through all of the answers to your "How does travel change after retirement" post and I feel like my post is an extension of that one, just asking for more specifics.

Ufkak, Acraven, MariaF-All of you mentioned having a loose itinerary and "winging it". Right now, I couldn't imagine traveling like that, probably because our travel time is limited. Something to think about and explore whenever we start our longer trips. Even with all of our research and planning, there have been places we have visited that we ended up not enjoying as much as we thought we would, and vice versa. Having a flexible itinerary would help us avoid spending more time in places that turn out to be less desirable to us and adding that time to places that end up being pleasant surprises.

Wally, Acraven, MariaF, Suki-I appreciate that you have shared your personal experiences and provided some practical advice. I consider myself to be a pretty good packer, always traveling with a carry-on, but I am guilty of packing more than I need and adding unnecessary weight to my bag, just because it fits. When we came back from Croatia, I counted seven tops that I never wore! In terms of lodging, we usually stay at well located bed and breakfasts, small hotels, or apartments, using booking.com for research and many times for actual booking. While we tend to choose simple rooms, I always appreciate some kind of outdoor space, either a balcony or garden. I think I will be more choosy about our rooms when we start longer term travel but neither my husband nor I would be looking for luxury lodgings. I especially appreciated all of your advice regarding things I did not even think about, such as regional train travel being cheaper than express trains, researching senior discounts ,and researching local medical facilities prior to our trip.

Ron-Some of our preliminary itineraries involve the need for a car and leasing will definitely make sense for us. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks again for all of your thoughtful responses!

Posted by
974 posts

Since retiring we have settled on three week trips to Europe. We have a three year old granddaughter living nearby, and another on the way. It would be tough to be away from the grandchildren for an extended period.

We do two week RS tours with time on our own before and after. Since retirement has resulted in fewer regular social contacts, we enjoy the camaraderie of the RS tours.

Posted by
4841 posts

Just random stuff...

Before committing to a long trip, work into it; maybe a shorter scouting trip, do not commit to a month or longer rental on an apartment unless you have stayed there. Do not plan on hotel hopping either for two months.

Start to phase out pets, look at your housing (mowing the yard, basic maintenance, mail, etc.); do you need to move to a place you can leave for an extended period unwatched? Having Family or friends to take care of everything is great, but you are really imposing on them. You may also want to start to declutter.

Communication and technology; figure out how to do most of your life (Banking, Bills, Monet management, video chats, email, etc.) online. Invest if you must in a decent light laptop, maybe a tablet. Look at phone plans, Google Fi for example is no contract, low monthly fee, pay as you go Data, and works basically anyplace with no extensive roaming fees...so no new number as with a SIM card, and your phone and data works when you land. T-Mobile and other plans also have good international operation.

Insurance, may be OK now, maybe look for add-on travel insurance, but start to look at more comprehensive plans, once you turn 65 and are on Medicare, you will have no Health insurance when travelling.

Posted by
1571 posts

Fran, i just retired July 1 and my husband is right behind me. Anyway, our plans were to go on 3 trips each year, 2 overseas and 1 domestic. We planned on being away at for between 4 - 8 weeks each trip, depending on place, time of year, cost, and happenings at home with family. Idealy, we would like to spend 2-3 weeks in one country, staying in both large and small cities, for a minimum of 3 nights. Of course the situation has changed all our plans, like many others. I cannot add much at the moment, but when we finally get going I will be able to give you more concrete information. We stopped researching cause for me it was not productive at the moment.

Acraven---You indicated "I move slowly through the areas I visit; for example, I have spent nearly 4-1/2 months in Spain and 4-1/2 months in France recently." How do you get around 90 day Shengen rule? Thanks!

Posted by
17098 posts

I didn't get around the Schengen rules. There were two trips to each country--Spain in 2016 (about 88 days) and 2019 (about 44 days); France in 2017 (about 88 days) and 2019 (about 44 days). Four of the five recent trips included significant non-Schengen time. So far I've hit the UK (on multiple trips), Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

Posted by
3020 posts

Some find house sitting or house swapping to be affordable and rewarding ways to travel. Particularly if you have pets or need regular checks for insurance purposes, having a reviewed house sitter live in can solve some of the problems. Not everyone wants to spend extended periods of time in someone else's house bound to pets, whereas others do this close to full time (particularly solo women with a more limited income but the experience of being home and pet owners). Trusted Housesitters website could educate you on that aspect.

Posted by
1859 posts

Some great suggestions... we've had multiple extended trips in Europe (often house-hunting) and here are a few things we did:

  • Set up a VPN account. This allowed us a better level of security when using public wi-fi facilities, which you'll undoubtedly be doing. (Also, it allows us to watch USA Netflix programming, Hulu, and other US-based programming).
  • Learn how to use WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Msgr, etc. ---- and even more importantly (and we learned this the hard way), make sure your family & friends you want/need to connect with also know how to use your choice of communication systems.
  • Legally, we created a limited power of attorney for our eldest son; in addition, a safe deposit box with important documents (birth certificates, passport copies, credit card info, wills, living wills, etc) to which he also had access.
  • We started using an online banking program (lately it's been Quicken), so we could keep track of our US-based accounts, stocks, etc. while traveling. This was extremely helpful for spotting fraudulent charges to a CC.
  • We also made sure our credit and debit cards would not expire while we were traveling.
  • We changed our mailing address for CC's to our son's address and also had all mail forwarded to him, rather than being held by the Post Office. This was a life-saver when I was served with a jury duty summons while we were traveling.
  • We did have to purchase additional insurance...after we checked with our personal medical coverage (so do check!!)
  • One of my best purchases was a Dual Sim phone. Thus, inside my phone, I had my US Sim card and then a local SIM card I purchased when arriving in Europe. As mentioned, do talk with your US-based cellular vendor to get the best options. Most travelers seem to need more data. (For us, when we were house-hunting, we did more phone calls).
  • Check with your DMV as we were able to secure a second copy of our driver's licenses (They had to have the same info, exp. dates, etc.). This came in handy when my wife lost her wallet shortly after arriving in Europe.
  • We both had older parents at the time and coordinated their information, similar to how we set ours up. (again, all info in the safe deposit box)
  • Fund your primary US banking account. As ATM's will probably be the best way to access your US money, many ATM's in Europe will only read your primary account (which for us was checking - Now we use Quicken to move money from Account to Account, but back-in-the-day, we always made sure the funds would be available for us to last 75+ days).
  • Goes without saying, but do make sure your passport expiration date is more than SIX MONTHS beyond your projected return date!

We always approached our extended trips with a very loose itinerary. We had 3-4 things/places we MUST see, but we generally relaxed and enjoyed being localized - which was the purpose of our extended stays. Good Luck!

Posted by
1746 posts

You've received a lot of excellent advice from the other posters, and plenty of food for thought to get you started on your planning.
We retired in 2007 and have been travelling as you propose to do since then. We've generally found that extended stays are fundamentally different than the shorter trips we used to take when we were on the clock - not just a more relaxed pace but a more relaxed mindset than what we were used to. We'd had the luxury of scouting out potential future destinations during my business travels and so had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to start once our time was our own. In our case our first extended trip was to Ireland - 90 days just meandering around the country, typically booking self-catering cottages and vacation rentals for a week or so while we explored a particular area in more detail than a quick visit would permit.
One resource that we settled on early in our travels was the Back Roads series of guides from DK publishing. There's one for virtually every country in western Europe and we've always found them to be a treasure trove of off-the-beaten-path day trips and excursions. Some of our most memorable experiences have occurred while seeking out and exploring some of the little known attractions that don't appear in any of the other guides. They're excellent planning resources too - see if there's a copy of one in your local library to see if it might be of interest. We typically pick up cheap, used copies for just a few dollars on Amazon.
Don't underestimate the cost savings involved in staying in self-catering accommodations - they can be real budget stretchers . Aside from the pleasure of just having more room than a hotel or B&B provides, having our own cooking facilities has proved to be a great cost saver for us, and in some cases the chore of shopping for groceries has resulted in some memorable cross-cultural experiences. My wife would add that having our own laundry facilities ranks high on our list of must-haves when we travel for extended periods. That feature alone has permitted us to keep our packing to a minimum - we basically pack for a week using a couple of 22" carry-ons. Works fine since we're able to do a load of laundry every few days.
I'd also suggest heading the other way at least once and exploring Australia and/or New Zealand once you have the discretionary time for an extended stay. Both are beautiful, with the extra advantage of being perfect winter destinations if you'd like to escape the gloom of a New Jersey winter.
Safe Travels.

Posted by
38 posts

Wow! The personal experiences and practical information you are all sharing is great! I knew that in addition to my specific questions, the posters on this forum would be able to alert me to things I hade not yet considered.

Paul, I appreciate your advice about housing. Our plan is to sell our house in NJ upon retirement and move closer to our daughters, who live in states with lower taxes and property values. Besides the fact that we will be closer to our kids, this will provide us with additional retirement funds as the value of our current house will very likely exceed the cost of our next house. Our taxes will be lower too, but those savings might well be eaten up by more costly flights! I have thought about what might be the best housing situation for us at that time given our plans for traveling. We'll have the luxury of time over the next few years to consider the options.

Ron, you provided quite a list of practicalities to consider. This information is so helpful!

Bob, you gave me something to consider when you mentioned having fewer social contacts post retirement and going on tours on which you and your wife enjoy the company of others on your travels.

Barbara, what you said about stopping post retirement trip research is how my husband and I feel about our current, pre-retirement trip plans. Like many of you, we had to cancel multiple trips this year. Researching trips that won't happen for another seven years is more enjoyable to us well, because to us it seems more likely for those trips to happen versus a 2021 trip. I know you spend a lot of time in Croatia; this is where my parents were from and my family and I spent a few full summers in my youth splitting time between Croatia and Italy(truly living like locals), where each of my grandmothers lived...and here I am discussing two month trips forty years later!

Robert, we are considering some trips beyond Europe. We are hoping to visit at least Peru (Machu Picchu) and Cambodia/Thailand, perhaps prior to retirement. We are thinking about doing a few trips like these in the next few years, with the thought that the long flights and conditions on the ground (altitude adjustments, strenuous hikes in Machu Picchu) would be easier to deal with at a younger age. We also are planning some one month domestic itineraries for post retirement.

Posted by
670 posts

Hi. You say that you've had annual trips to Europe. After one has visited the major sites, it may be time to consider something else. Here are a couple ideas. We took the time to drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria (see www.grossglockner.at) and had a wonderful time. On another trip we went to a Real Madrid soccer/football match; we enjoyed the game and also appreciated the cultural experience. Others here might suggest things along this line like music events, fairs, and so on.

Something else to consider for longer term travel in retirement is volunteering. We've taught English where we've paid our own transportation and food, but lodging was provided. Another time we volunteered with a faith-based organization and we paid the whole kit and caboodle. Of course, there are other options along this line. Find something in your line of expertise. Happy dreaming/planning!

Posted by
1109 posts

Has anyone done a Camper Van rental on an extended trip in the UK or the Continent? I've read that there are some nice campground locations with some great facilities. Experience in National Parks? Would you worry about security if you left the Van parked in Campground the day?

Posted by
1570 posts

Do you plan by country/region/some other way?

I plan by region, most recently Central Europe. I'll have initial destinations that are the core of my trip. I research to find economical flights. Then I connect the airports and my destinations by 2-4 hour train rides, adding interim stops to break up a long distance. I've added some destinations - because they were "along the way" - that turned out to be favorites!

If I find a great round-trip fare, I'll craft a geographical loop, avoiding backtracking. Sometimes I'll find a great open-jaw flight and fit a one-way journey to the arrival and departure airports. I grow (usually) or shrink (rarely) the size of the loop or course of the journey to fit the amount of time I want to spend and the best dates I find for airfares.

With retirement, you can have the flexibility, adjusting the time to suit the distance of your travels - rather than the reverse of fitting your distance into a limited time.

Did you plan a shorter trip first, and what itinerary pace worked for you?
I'll often look at the Rick Steves tour itineraries and double, or even triple, the number of nights in a location. I try to allow time for side trips from a city, though often I find so much to do that I still don't make time to prioritize those side trips.

I build days into my longer itineraries for a "vacation from my vacation" - a phrase I adopted from the forum. Those are days intended for laundry, sitting on balconies with a cup of coffee, wandering along a river or through a park, or sitting in a piazza with a glass of wine: with no schedule.

Posted by
1109 posts

Thanx MariaF: for the link. I think I remember reading this. One reason I posted on this thread is because as a Westerner it seems we all are RVers out here. I think that Europe and especially the UK, until Covid, were getting too crowded for the fancy free RV traveler. I know it is here. All our National Parks and State Parks all have reservations months in advance. Might as well stay home since I live on an Island in the Salish Sea with Orcas as my neighbors, I am not too sad even though I miss going to Vancouver, BC.

Posted by
4304 posts

We lived overseas while working for the US Military as civilians. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 5 years and Germany for four.

While overseas, travel was easy. In Germany, we would just hop in the car and go for a long weekend. We traveled cheap those days.

We didn't travel overseas a lot between Germany and retirement, since we had to put three kids through college.

Once retired in 2010, we have averaged two overseas trips a year, with a few years doing 3. We have done Europe a lot, South America three times, East Asia three times, Australia/NZ twice.

Time is on your side once you are retired. No work constraints. Still, we find after doing some long trips (7 weeks) we prefer no more than a month now.

We prefer staying home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our spending limit is about $25,000 per year.

I have been to 78 countries and with still more to go. Our bucket list is about 3/4 done.

Type of travel varies. We do some cruises, but even if we do a cruise, we do a lengthy land trip.

We have done 4 river cruises. They are a bit expensive, but sometimes they are a great option. Our Russian River cruise was amazing. Also, loved the Douro River in Portugal and the Rhone in France.

Sometime we rent a car (4 weeks in England and Wales), or take the train. Italy is great for taking the train.

We would never want to stay in one place for three months. However, we have used some places as a base to visit nearby cities.
We prefer Bed and Breakfasts close to the inner city where we can walk to the main sites. Also, you save on the free breakfast. 4 or 5 star hotels we don't do, unless we are in a third world country.

How to leave home for a long time:
1) put your bills on automatic pay;
2) arrange for someone to check your home regularly (we have cats, so someone comes every day to feed and care for them);
3) plan your trip as much as possible. The more you plan, the more time you don't waste when you get there
4) Buy medical coverage and medical evacuation insurance when overseas. We do that even though our Blue Cross covers us overseas;
5) We prefer going to Europe in the late Spring or early Fall. Things are not as crowded as mid-summer.
6) Bring one suitcase per person. Doing laundry in Europe can be a pain. Hotels are too expensive. Check the internet for location of laundry mats (launderettes in the UK) before you go. Books to read on the airplane. Make copies of your passport and keep in safe place as well as phone numbers of credit cards incase stolen or lost.
7) Good sites for planning are Kayak.com for hotels, cars and flights. Also, TripAdvisor is great with reviews and a map feature that shows location of hotels/B&Bs.
8) We are not big cellphone people, but I found a great option if you don't have a phone plan that includes overseas calls. It is with MOBAL.
9) On your first trip, don't try to do three months, do a month.

Posted by
675 posts

I just retired (literally). While still working I was fortunate enough to be able to take one 2 week and one 5 week vacation each year.

For years I thought when I retired I'd want to go for 3 months at a time (the Schengen 90 days) but now that I'm retired I don't really want to do that. I LOVE traveling, but I do like my home and don't really want to be away from it for that long at a time. But mostly it's the pets. I don't want to leave them for that long. Shorter trips also mean you don't have as many hassles re paying bills, etc. Most bills are automatic these days, can be pre-paid, and/or can be paid on line so that's really not an issue. But for me at least there's gardening issues and things like that for which very long trips are a problem.

While I'm not usually 'tired' of traveling after 5 weeks, I do think I might be long before 90 days.

So I'm planning on mostly 6 week trips (give or take depending on where). But I am planning on at least two trips a year. While you save on airfare by doing one longer trip than two shorter ones, in the grand scheme of things it's not that much. Also this gives you more flexibility in terms of climate. While I wouldn't mind being away from where I live for three months in the winter, that's not a great time to travel in Europe. So if I do a March/April trip and a Sept/Oct trip I can get 'decent' weather in Europe and still be home when it's nicest here.

For trips of 4-8 or so weeks I look at them as several shorter trips strung together. For example, the almost 6 week trip I was supposed to be on this fall was going to be 3 weeks in Greece, and the other 3 between northern Italy and Switzerland. I don't like to fly every week or so, but over a month or longer I don't mind two or even three intra-European flights. One year I did 5 weeks in just northern Spain and as much as I love Spain I wished I had some time in a different region on that trip.

On longer trips I don't like to move around every couple of days, but neither do I have a hard and fast rule that I have to spend a week or two in each place. A slower pace. But if passing by someplace that only warrants a couple of days there's no rule that says you must stay a week or it's not 'worth' it. You just need to plan an itinerary where it's not an entire 2 months of very short stays.

Apartments are great if there is somewhere you want to spend a week or more, but lots of other places (including some called 'hotels') will have kitchenettes so you can at least do some meals. I did a five week trip last summer (2019) and all the stays were between 1 and 6 nights and they all had some kind of kitchenette facilities. That trip included Italy, Croatia and France.

I enjoy traveling with my husband but I also enjoy traveling solo (or with a friend or my daughter) so we're planning on one trip together each year and then one or more (maybe shorter) trips where one of us stays home. This solves our pets/house problems but also I think makes for a better marriage. I just retired so I can't say for sure, but certainly seems like a little time apart might be a good idea for any relationship.

Posted by
170 posts

I enjoy traveling with my husband but I also enjoy traveling solo (or with a friend or my daughter) so we're planning on one trip together each year and then one or more (maybe shorter) trips where one of us stays home. This solves our pets/house problems but also I think makes for a better marriage. I just retired so I can't say for sure, but certainly seems like a little time apart might be a good idea for any relationship.

Excellent points here. While my wife and I do enjoy traveling together, we also do some separate "solo" trips (or trips with one of our adult children or a close friend) for the reasons you note. Also, we agree on most things in life, including places to visit, but there are some places I want to visit that she is less interested in, and vice versa.

Posted by
974 posts

I mentioned in an earlier reply that we enjoy RS tours because of the camaraderie, given that retirement has resulted in fewer regular social contacts. It is also true that retirement often means more togetherness with the spouse. The RS tours combined with independent travel before and after gives us a chance to be around new people and also have some time on our own. (Note: I have been retired for three years. and my spouse was already retired at that time).

Posted by
1576 posts

I hope to do this one day, lucky you!
A few thoughts:
Cell plans change, but were I going now, I would continue to use TMobile because their international service is affordable and seamless. No fussing with sim cards or number changes, but no pricey surprises.
If your trip straddles seasons (the only time packing should be challenging), you could consider storing some items, or even shipping some items home. It all depends on how much you will move around.
What I dream about it staying for months at a time in some of the places we have most loved zipping through, so ponder where you have been that made you think you'd really like to spend more time there. Even with a generous amount of vacation time, there are places where you barely scratch the surface--Rome would be a place I'd like to stay a while. What places or regions have you loved that you would like to explore exhaustively? What languages would you like to learn (staying in a town with a language school would be useful but also provide some social structure as some have mentioned). Frankly, once the jobs and pet are not a consideration, I'll scale back the garden and then I could go forever, but there would be lengthy home rentals as part of the "travel."

Posted by
82 posts

Our son is going away to college next fall and I'll probably be retiring. My husbands company doesn't have an office so he can work from anywhere so we're going to travel a lot. We have a dog though so while he is still around we will be maxing out at 2-3 weeks. I figure we can use those years to hit lots of different places. Once we can stay longer, I want to stay as long as possible in Paris. It's my favorite and I've been 3x, going next October for 2 weeks as well. I'd love the experience of sort of living there and doing day trips/1 or 2 night trips from there.