retirement

5 tips to affordable retirement travel

4. Hop on the tour bandwagon 

Another way to save is through group travel organized by tour companies, alumni associations, church and retirement community travel groups and other programs.

"Group tours are much cheaper than independent travel because you are getting a group discount on everything from entrance fees to hotel rooms," Zepke says.

Elderhostel offers nearly 8,000 travel programs worldwide and appeals to the adventurous sort among the 55-and-older crowd. Elderhostel is a nonprofit organization founded in 1975 on the campuses of five colleges and universities in New Hampshire. Its hallmark is the inclusion of a learning component in each of its travel programs, which are created in collaboration with educational institutions, museums, performing arts centers, national parks and other facilities.

Prices are all-inclusive, except that transportation to your destination is included only on trips outside the United States and Canada.

Elderhostel has several U.S. and Canadian programs for less than $600. It offers a limited number of need-based scholarships for credits of up to $800 for U.S. and Canadian travel. The online application form asks for information about household income and special financial or medical circumstances. These are partial scholarships: Recipients have to pay least $100 toward the cost of their chosen program.

Pete Clark, part-time aging and retirement life coach and coordinator of the Northern Illinois Chapter of Elderhostel Alumni in Lake County, Ill., has participated in 26 Elderhostel programs, including a trip to New Zealand and Australia, where he snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef. Next stop: China. Clark says Elderhostel is a good bargain because it provides enriching educational experiences for which you would otherwise pay extra.

Bill Dunn, of Atlanta, is another seasoned Elderhosteler who says he hopes to retire at the end of 2008 from his job as CFO and technology officer for Planned Parenthood "but may hold on a little bit longer." His first Elderhostel experience was a weeklong hike in the Grand Canyon. One notable Elderhostel advantage, Dunn says, is that trip insurance, which goes up with age, is included in the price.

5. Swap your house 

You've got a condo with a fantastic city skyline view. They've got a place overlooking a Caribbean beach. You want to go there. They want to come here. Several programs let you exchange your home with other vacationers, thereby eliminating the cost of lodging and enjoying a comfortable upgrade over a cramped hotel room.

Marian and Andrew Anderson, of San Francisco, did 11 home exchanges before health concerns began to limit Andrew's ability to travel. After their retirement, Marian, a former business owner and freelance advertising copywriter, and Andrew, who was a public relations officer with Southern Pacific Railroad, joined Intervac International Home Exchange. The service charges a $65 annual membership for U.S. listings and $95 for international listings. The Andersons have been to Germany, England, Sweden, Canada and several other destinations, staying an average of three to four weeks.

The Weinsteins in Key West are members of HomeExchange.com, and have logged seven trips since their retirement nearly three years ago. They figure they've saved an average of $2,000 a week in hotel costs per trip through the program, which charges a $99.95 fee for unlimited membership for one year.

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