The 4 Goes of International Travel

Think you’ll travel more once you retire?

70% of Americans say they will.1

In many (though certainly not all) ways, traveling today is easier than ever.

We assume you’ve got domestic travel covered, so let’s focus on some things to help keep you safe (and sane) when you head overseas.

What follows are 4 basic "goes" for trips across the pond.

1) Go Flexible

Once upon a time, you were forced to plan vacations around your work schedule or kids’ school breaks.

As a retiree, you have the luxury of flexibility.

You’re no longer confined to traveling in mid-summer, meaning you can hit your destination’s ‘shoulder season’ – a time when crowds are a little smaller, and yet most businesses are still open.

Examples of “shoulder season” include:

  • Early spring and fall for Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Japan, and Mexico.
  • Late winter/early spring and fall for China.
  • Fall for Africa, South America, and Australia.
  • Late spring/early summer and fall for Iceland.

Shoulder season also means cheaper prices. In some cases, you can save 25% to 30% on hotels and flights (compared to peak travel season).2

And don’t forget, retirees can often get discounted pricing on:

  • Rental cars
  • Hotel rooms
  • Train passes
  • Trans-ocean cruise ships
  • Public transit
  • Airline tickets
  • Museum passes

2) Go small

Most people simply pack too much stuff. Sure, a steamer trunk gives you more room, but using a carry-on gives you flexibility.

Due to weather or mechanical problems, about 25% of all international flights are delayed at least two hours.3

When you’re on vacation, and you’re waiting for a connecting flight, if you have your luggage by your side and your flight gets cancelled, you aren’t stuck at the airport waiting for announcements and searching for the correct baggage carousel. You’re on your way to the hotel to get some sleep while everyone else angrily stands around wondering what to do.

Additionally, a common reason for international hospital visits is tourists whose luggage has been lost or stolen, and they don’t have important medications with them.

Remember, flight delays and cancellations happen.

And if you’re rushing to catch a connecting flight, you’ll have your carry-on with you instead of guessing as to whether your checked luggage will make it to your destination.

Additionally, since carry-ons are smaller and lighter, they’re much easier to maneuver through the cramped spaces of planes and trains.

Also, seasoned travelers well know that airlines are charging for bags. Many will allow one free carry-on. Do that and save money, worry and time.

Suggestions for packing light:

  • Versatile basic clothing.
  • Pick a single-color scheme.
  • Roll your clothes (or use a packing cube).
  • Stuff your extra shoes with socks and toiletries.
  • Don’t pack every single ‘what-if’ item (there are umbrellas for sale all over the world).

3) Go Global

When flying back home from another county, you’ve probably had to endure a long line at Customs.

But there are ways to avoid this.

Look into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s ‘Global Entry’ program. It offers expedited re-entry for pre-approved travelers.

It takes a little effort, but once you qualify, you’ll get:

  • TSA pre-check status (on three international trips a year, this could save you more than 6 hours of standing in line).
  • A 5-year membership for about $100.

4) Go Safe

While Europe is generally safe, pickpockets, purse snatching, and group muggings are not uncommon.

You need to be careful.

Before you depart:

  • Check the State Department’s websites for the latest travel advisories both before booking a trip, and again right before you leave (general strikes can shut down cities).
  • Make a photocopy of your passport, credit card, and other identifying documents. Keep the copy separate from originals. (If you’re traveling with someone, swap photocopies.)
  • Buy travel insurance.
  • Only carry the amount of cash you’ll need on a given day. If you’re staying at a hotel, keep the rest in the room’s safe.
  • Leave jewelry at home.
  • If you get accosted, give them what they want.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Drape any bag you’re carrying across your body. (Do this even when you’re sitting.)
  • Sign-up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows the U.S. government’s nearest embassy to contact you in case of an emergency.


Retirement travel dreams won’t materialize if you haven’t properly planned and prepared for the costs. If you plan to upgrade your travel once you retire, don’t be one of the 58% of retirees who don’t have a retirement travel budget.4

Even worse? Many retirees discover their travel expenses are 40% higher than originally expected.3

Make your retirement travel goals a part of the discussion you have with your financial advisor.


118th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers, December 2017
1USA Today: Airlines That Offer Senior Discount Rates, October 24, 2017
1USA Today: How to Look Up On-Time Percentage for Flights, December 27, 2017
1CNN Money: How to Budget for Travel in Retirement, February 5, 2018