How to Travel on a Budget

More people are looking for adventures; here’s how to get out while keeping your wallet happy.

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Book trips later than usual. Some travelers have been slow to make advance bookings because of the economy, and many parts of the travel business, including hotels and cruises, have lowered their prices, says Tim Fitzgerald, senior director of travel products at AARP Services. "The wise consumer in the travel space is waiting until the last minute," when prices fall the most, he says. Of course, there is a risk that space on tours will run out.

Consider volunteer vacations. "It doesn't mean you'll be working in swamps for 10 days straight," says Greenberg. These trips, which are growing in popularity among seniors, usually incorporate traditional travel activities alongside volunteer work, ranging from collecting data in rain forests to visiting hospices. Seniors often enjoy bringing their grandchildren on volunteer vacations, Greenberg adds. For domestic trips, the government website connects people ages 55 and older to volunteer opportunities throughout the United States.

Explore alternate means of transportation. Greenberg recommends buses for trips of less than 400 miles. He says buses' bad reputation is outdated. "It's not gross. They have great leather seats, Wi-Fi, an attendant with soft drinks—it's quite nice," he says. Plus, with airplanes so often delayed, opting for the bus can save you time as well as money. A bus trip from New York to Washington runs $20 and up.

Regardless of the mode of transportation travelers choose, Judy Mac Isaac urges everyone to take trips while they still can. When her husband turned 50, they made a list of 31 retirement adventures, from parachuting from a plane to attending the Olympic Games. Thirty-plus years later, they've completed 21 of them. She says, "Now that we've reached this age, we've slowed down and have no big trips planned, but we're so glad we have those memories."

Twitter: @alphaconsumer