Your Travel Budget Is About to Implode – Here’s What to Do About It

A crying piggy bank is broken open and a travel budget (pennies) lies all around.

Econ 101

You remember Econ 101, don’t you? It was that class you took freshman year of college where you sat in an auditorium filled with 500 of your classmates watching a dry professor drone on about widgets while viewing an unending series of graphs. If economics wasn’t your calling in life, you probably forgot most of the material.

However, if there is one universal lesson that you learned, it’s supply and demand. And this is why your travel budget is about to implode.

If you’re gearing up for retirement in the next two or three years, it could be incredibly ugly. And even if your ultimate retirement date is far in the future, this economic concept is going to affect your travel plans greatly for the next several years.

Supply

COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to travel infrastructure. Cirium, a travel industry data and analytics company, reports global flight volume is down 54% year over year, and 30% of the worldwide airline fleet is in storage.

In a September American Hotel & Lodging Association survey, half of the hotel owners stated they were in danger of foreclosure. Popular travel destination and early-pandemic hotspot, New York City, is being especially hard hit. According to the Wall Street Journal, the state of New York could lose 250,000 rooms permanently, which equals about 20% of supply.

The cruise line industry has been decimated, and nearly all ships are docked.

Docked, deserted cruise ship

Industry leader Carnival is reducing its fleet by 18 ships, equivalent to 12% of capacity. It’s uncertain how many of these ships will be purchased and returned to service by other cruise lines and how many will be scrapped. This supply is not coming back anytime soon, either. Carnival has already announced there will be no ship deliveries in 2024 and only one in 2025. After scrambling to keep companies afloat in 2020, it will not be easy for cruise line management teams to jump back into growth mode and order new ships anytime soon. 

Restaurants are in better shape than many other leisure-related companies given their ability to operate at reduced occupancy and provide delivery, but their struggles are still severe. The National Restaurant Association expects approximately 1 in 6 restaurants in the U.S. to close in 2020. Everyone wants to open a restaurant, right? Will the old adage hold true with 2020 stresses a recent and painful memory?

This devastation extends to the entire travel industry, and it may continue to get worse as we suffer through a long winter with COVID cases spiking in many places around the world. The good news is several vaccines look promising, and the end might be nearing. But what will remain of the travel industry?

Demand

I love to travel, and I miss it tremendously. I find myself reading blogs and watching videos about travel to pass the time while waiting for a vaccine. By the middle of next year, I will be visually vibrating with anticipation. I’m certainly not alone.

A November survey by Destination Analysts states that 80% of U.S. travelers have tentative trip plans sometime over the next year. And this is before a winter, where the northern part of the country will be in virtual lockdown.

Globe wearing a surgical mask

Combine COVID fatigue with an effective vaccine, and you’re going to see an explosion in revenge travel.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s don’t put off doing the things you love. I think travelers are going to take this to heart in a big way. Not only will they be traveling, but exotic, bucket-list trips will likely move to the front of the line.  

Cruise lines are already seeing signs of this pent-up demand. In September, Carnival announced that 2021 second-half bookings were at “…the higher end of the historical range…”.

The exact timing of a travel recovery is uncertain, but it will undoubtedly come when the pandemic is under control. Unfortunately, the COVID-fatigued group of travelers that are finally set free may be in for an unpleasant surprise.  

Demand Up and Supply Down

You don’t have to dig out your Econ 101 textbook and a mechanical pencil to figure out what’s going to happen when a flood of travelers descends on a battered leisure industry operating at reduced-capacity. Prices will increase – dramatically.

Expect to pay more for nearly every component of your vacation. You’ll be competing with other travelers for every flight you book, cruise you schedule, and hotel reservation you make. The days of finding last-minute discounts will be over as soon as safer conditions prevail.

I don’t see this supply-demand dynamic reverting to normal for years. Sure, new restaurants can be opened in a relatively short amount of time, but will there be a long line of entrepreneurs willing to take the risk after witnessing the COVID carnage?

Airlines and cruise lines can not turn on a dime. Wikipedia lists over 30 airlines that have entered bankruptcy in 2020. Some of these companies will restructure, but others will cease operations. Airlines that continue to fly are putting planes into storage and may find it uneconomical to return the aircraft to service. Building new planes can take only a few weeks, but the industry backlog could grow rapidly with an increase in demand. Building a new ship can take years, and larger vessels cost over a billion dollars.

The crush of travelers released from COVID hell will run full speed into a reeling travel industry. Prices will spike. It may take some time for these companies to heal, and a rush to increase capacity is unlikely. The travel industry will enjoy robust pricing (deservedly so given their recent pain), and your vacations will cost more. There will come a time when entrepreneurs increase capacity to meet this high-margin demand, but gun-shy business owners may be slow to react.

Solution

It’s time to take a hard look at your travel budget. Does it still make sense? Will you be able to afford the elevated prices that could last two to three years? If you’re like me and refuse to give up your travel dreams, here’s what you need to do.

Save more money. It’s time to start funneling more money into your travel budget. If you’ve been fortunate enough to keep your job and are working from home, you’ve likely decreased spending on dining out, commuting, entertainment, etc. Earmark at least some of your savings for travel, and you’ll be prepared for higher prices.

Money being placed in a pink piggy bank

Consider less-popular destinations. Resist the temptation to join the masses at tourist hotspots. Sure, you might want to show off your newly-gained immunity by mingling with large crowds, but your travel budget will suffer. Less-touristy destinations will allow your dollar to go further.

Book your travel far in advance. Many businesses are offering fully refundable options. Take advantage of these and book your trip early. Prices should be lower this winter, given an uncertain future. Even if you’re unsure of the timeline for a vaccine and a return to safe travel, feel free to book a vacation as long as you’re guaranteed a full refund if you need to cancel. Make sure to read the fine print so that you completely understand the cancellation policy.

Summary

Studies have shown that the simple act of planning a trip can lift your spirits. So, don’t let the current pandemic stop you from dreaming about your future travels. Be proactive. Consider less-trendy destinations and increase your savings to fortify your travel budget against a more expensive travel-future. If you prepare now, when things clear, your biggest decision will be where to go on vacation, not how to afford it.

Need some inspiration? Intrepid Travel has put together a wonderful list of 9 mind-blowing travel videos. Enjoy!


Enjoy what you just read? If so, you can subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for travelers looks like. Thanks for reading!

 

 
 
  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Coronavirus Travel Advice – a Resource Guide

    A traveler puts a pin in a map

    Travel as we once knew it is gone. The timeline for its full-fledged return is uncertain.

    However, humans are curious creatures filled with wanderlust, and as the current pandemic begins to clear, we will return to the road. Cautiously, at first, but return, we will.

    I created a resource guide for when you feel ready to dip your toe back in the water. Safe travels!

    Travel Advisories

    Travel.State.Gov

    Type in your destination, and you’ll receive travel advisories issued by the U.S. government. There’s a ton of additional information as well, covering each country’s visa requirements, local laws, and the quality of their health care.

    Smartraveller.Gov.Au

    Want a second opinion? If one travel advisory is not enough, the Australian government provides them as well.

     Mona Lisa wears a mask to protect her health

    Health

    Traveler’s Health – CDC

    Where are you going? Type in your answer and the CDC provides you with detailed health-related information, including recommended vaccines and if there are any health notices.  

    CDC

    Everything you could ever want to know about COVID-19 and other diseases. The CDC website also includes important food safety alerts.     

    Coronavirus and Travel in the United States – CDC

    The CDC covers coronavirus and travel in the U.S.

    World Health Organization

    Coronavirus news, advice, and country-specific information delivered by the WHO.

    Mayo Clinic

    A wealth of information, including best practices to avoid coronavirus and a self-assessment tool to see if you should get a COVID-19 test.

    U.S. Travel Association

    A helpful resource if you are concerned about taking a trip and would like to know what the travel industry is doing to protect travelers.

     A blue, rustic open sign

    What’s Open?

    The New York Times – Summary of States That Are Open

    A self-explanatory guide that is continuously updated by the New York Times.

    National Park Service

    If you’re planning a trip to a national park, this is the website for you – a list of openings, closures, and alerts.

    Tourist Attractions

    A list of over 800 tourist attractions around the world. Information includes the attraction’s current status, opening date (if known), and the safety measures that are in place.

    Money

    Numbeo

    Enter your destination and currency to find the cost of everyday items. You can search by city or country. Prices on meals, hotels, taxis, and coffee! A pint of beer is going to cost me $1.47 in Botswana. How did I know? Numbeo!

    Oanda

    Detailed currency exchange, so you know how much your trip is going to set you back.

    Insurance

    In the age of coronavirus, you may feel the need to insure every aspect of your trip. Don’t do it! Try to dispassionately determine your needs and find a policy that will cover losses that would be a significant burden if they occurred.

    Insuremytrip

    Research insurance plans, get quotes, and compare reviews.

    The Points Guy – “The best travel insurance policies and providers.”

    This is an outstanding article reviewing travel insurance providers by the respected website – The Points Guy.

    Medicare 

    If you’re leaving the U.S. and you have Medicare, you are only covered for emergencies in very limited situations. Check out this government site for details on Medigap for additional coverage.

    Getting from Point A to Point B

    Google Maps

    Detailed information to help you get between any two places, and includes subways as well. The site has a fantastic Covid-19 resource and gives you links to local government websites where you are traveling.

    Rome2Rio

    Their tagline – “Discover how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry & car.” It lives up to its name and can be used alone or in conjunction with Google Maps to compare results.

     A photographer takes a picture outside a maroon train

    Trains

    Seat61

    The Man in Seat Sixty-One is, well…the Man! A fantastic resource for train travel around the world put together by train-enthusiast Mark Smith.     

    Omio

    Trains, buses, flights, and ferries. Omio will provide you with a transportation schedule in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Additional locations will be added in the future.

    Airlines

    Kayak

    Kayak is my go-to travel search engine for flights. It is amazingly flexible and simple to use.

    SeatGuru

    If you book a long flight without consulting SeatGuru first, you’re begging to sit in a seat that doesn’t recline near the bathroom. SeatGuru highlights the best and worst seats on each flight. Find the right seat in coach, and it will feel like you’re in first-class – sort of.

    Credit Cards

    The Points Guy – Review of Travel Credit Cards

    The Points Guy has your back with this discussion of the best travel credit cards. Each situation is different, but after reading this article, you should have a good idea of what makes sense for you.

    A traveler holds up a phone to take a picture on a crowded Turkish street

    International Phone Plans

    Reviews.org – Best International Cell Phone Plans

    A thorough guide to U.S. phone operators and their international plans. All cell phone carriers are not created equal when it comes to international options and pricing.

    Travel Expedited

    Are you looking forward to standing in line with a mass of humanity for hours at a time?

    Answer before coronavirus: “No!”

    Answer after coronavirus: “Hell, no!”

    TSA Precheck

    Leave the long airport security lines for those poor saps without TSA Precheck. Keep your shoes on, leave the liquids in your bag, and prepare for stares of absolute envy – nirvana!

    Global Entry

    Speed through customs and avoid the lines when returning to the U.S.

    US Embassy

    You’re not getting anywhere quickly without your passport – a list of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions by country.

    Hotels

    TripAdvisor

    Hotels, things to do, restaurants, forums – TripAdvisor has it all. Are some of the reviews fake? Unfortunately, yes, but it is still my favorite place to find hotels. Gravitate toward the hotels with hundreds of enthusiastic reviews and a score of 4.5 or above, and you won’t go wrong.  

    HotelsCombined

    Frommers’ top-ranked hotel aggregator/search engine for 2020, and lauded for its ability to find the best rate.

    Airbnb

    Places to stay and experiences. A good option for travelers looking for lodging a little out of the ordinary or potentially less expensive than traditional hotels. Fees can add up, however, so keep an eye on them.

    Restaurants

    TripAdvisor

    I use TripAdvisor for restaurants in the same way I use it for hotels. It rarely disappoints.

    Travel Guides

    Rick Steves

    On my first trip to Europe twenty years ago, I used a dog-eared copy of a Rick Steves’ book to find my way. I always appreciate the candor in his guides. His website has a ton of great information, including helpful forums.

    Wikitravel

    A crowdsourced travel guide that covers a vast number of destinations around the globe.

    Kids

    Kids-World-Travel-Guide

    “See the world through children’s eyes.” A resource for children that includes interesting information about things only a kid would ask, such as “What is the name of the bird on the Guatemala flag?”

     Lightning strikes in the distance of a city at night

    Weather

    The Weather Channel

    If you want to know average temperatures and rainfall for your destination, this is the website to visit. It’s difficult to pack light if you don’t know what to expect on your travels. 

    Cruises

    cruisecritic

    Are cruises dead? I don’t believe it. They will be popular once again, but it might take some time. A website that combines a cruise search engine, reviews, and hundreds of articles in one place – not too shabby!

    Tours

    viator

    Type in your destination and viator will display a list of possible tours. Select categories to refine your search even further. Each tour has a rating and reviews. When you’re done with your search, book directly through the site.  

    TripAdvisor

    TripAdvisor owns viator but is another good source for tour information and reviews.


    Enjoy what you just read? If so, you can subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for travelers looks like. Thanks for reading!

     

     
     
  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Retirement Planning for People Who Love to Travel – Beware the Bucket List

    Beware the Bucket List - People run with the bulls, photo from above

    Failing to Plan for Travel Spending Later in Life Can Sink Your Retirement Plans

    The rule-of-thumb for spending in retirement is your expenses will drop to 80% of what they were pre-retirement. This number may be adequate for some retirees, but for travelers – it’s unacceptable.

    The Botswanan safari you’ve always dreamed of is expensive. The RV you’re going to use to explore the country will set you back a fair amount too. Plane tickets to visit the Cup of Noodles Museum in Japan – not cheap, and a little odd, but no one is judging you here. That bucket-list of travel experiences and destinations you want to conquer can significantly affect your budget. And according to Merrill Lynch, 67% of retirees age 50 and older have not budgeted for travel in retirement.  

    bucket list travel - safari where a giraffe stretches upward to eat leaves from a lone tree in the savanna

    As a traveler, you should expect an increase in travel-related expenses for at least the first several years of retirement as you work through your bucket list. You’ve been dreaming about the moment for many years, you’re feeling healthy, and the jump in leisure-time all will contribute to a jump in travel spending.

    How do you prepare for this new chapter in life? Create a retirement budget that includes all of these new, travel-related expenses. The earlier, the better, so you can make the necessary adjustments in your spending and saving habits along the way.

    Expenses That Will Decline

    Let’s start with the good news first. You have expenses during your working life that will likely go away or drop substantially when you retire.

    Your daily commute can include gasoline, parking, wear and tear on your car, and the cost of public transportation. These will disappear except as they relate to leisure.

    Your wardrobe will likely change, as well. Goodbye work clothes, hello loungewear! Yes, this may be an oversimplification, but you should be able to retire enough clothing to the point of actually being able to find something in your walk-in closet.

    College tuition for children and mortgage payments are additional expenses that can go away. Taxes should decrease given the drop in work-related income. In addition, there’s no need to save for retirement anymore, because you’re living it!

    Expenses That Will Increase

    Yes, spending will increase in certain areas of your life during retirement. Some of these expenditures you will welcome with open arms, and some you will grudgingly pay wearing a look of disgust.

    Travel expenses can jump dramatically in the first few years of retirement. However, there can be a considerable difference depending on your travel style. Flying in first-class while hop-scotching around the Pacific, staying in 5-star

    5 Star Resort in the South Pacific on many people's bucket list

    resorts, and dining at 3-star Michelin restaurants is one end of the spectrum. Driving a few states away to attend a barbecue with your family who put you up for the weekend will be less expensive.

    The cost of health care in retirement is what every red-blooded American fears. But preparing for these expenses ahead of time can ease the sting.

    Budgeting

    If you don’t currently have a budget, I highly recommend you put one together. It’s retirement planning 101 and is key to projecting when you’ll be able to retire.

    Your budget is likely to change dramatically, however, at retirement, especially if you’re a traveler. I recommend you put together a second budget, which will begin once you retire.

    Many expenses in your life will not change at all. However, for those that will, do your best to estimate the change, especially for items that will significantly affect your budget.  

    One expense that can drastically move up or down is housing. Paying off a mortgage or downsizing can bring down the cost substantially.

    Is relocation a consideration? What does the cost of living look like in the new location? Do you want to buy a vacation home, but keep your original home? Adjust your budget for the potentially significant changes. 

    Budgeting for Travel

    If you love to travel, this part should be fun. Let your mind run wild and think of all the adventures you’d like to have in retirement. Create a travel bucket-list that contains all of the events you’d like to attend, destinations you’d like to visit, and experiences you’d like to…well, experience.

    Do your best to estimate your travel costs accurately.  How many trips will you take per year? How long will they be? Will spending be extravagant or constrained?

    Also, ask yourself how your travel might change. As people age, they tend to value service, comfort, and safety more, and they are willing to pay extra for it. Staying in nicer hotels and traveling with higher-end tour groups can be the result. For all but the most intrepid retirees, gone are the days of solo backpacking through Europe and sleeping 10 to a room in hostel bunk beds.

    Travel in Style - a hostel room filled with bunk beds

    However, there are also changes in retirement that can reduce the cost of travel. The time-freedom that comes with retirement allows travelers to vacation during the off-season, book last-minute deals, and travel in a more deliberate way, such as taking a bus or train instead of an expensive flight.

    If you’re like me, you weren’t in a very good mood the day your first invitation to join AARP arrived in the mail. However, a benefit of being over 50 is discount offers start piling up. By the time you turn 65, discounts on airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. are prevalent.

    Now that you’ve put some thought into retirement travel, include it in your budget. Be as accurate as you can, but don’t be afraid to err on the high side. It’s better to budget for a bucket-list trip and decide not to take it than the other way around.

    Here are some websites that will help you put together a budget and assist you with finding discounts:

    TripAdvisor – an excellent resource for trip planning and pricing flights, hotels, tours, and more.

    Kayak – another fantastic resource for pricing the major components of travel, includes one of the most flexible, user-friendly airfare search engines available.

    The Senior List – an extensive list of discounts on transportation, lodging, and dining for people 50+.

    Numbeo – if you’re trying to determine how expensive/inexpensive a city or country is, this website is includes the local cost of living index and the prices of everyday items.

    Winding Down

    A difficult part of budgeting far into the future is the many unknowns. One of the most important factors is health. I want to think I’ll still be the healthy, adventurous soul I am now when I’m 90. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case.

    Travel spending tends to decline with health. Ask yourself – how healthy and active are/were your parents later in life? How about your grandparents?

    Studies show, on average, travel spending starts to decline as travelers enter their 80’s, so this is a good time to start lowering the travel component of your budget. Just don’t do it too rapidly, as many older retirees are still actively traveling. If you want to be conservative, don’t drop it at all.

    Summary

    Don’t be part of the two-thirds of Americans who fail to budget for travel in retirement. Instead, take a pro-active approach to plan your future and start saving early. The 80% rule-of-thumb may leave you ill-prepared for the active retirement many travelers desire, so try and budget for the large expenses later in life as accurately as possible and be conservative when making estimates. A little planning should ensure you’ll end up crossing off your bucket list in style.  


    Enjoy what you just read? If so, you can subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for travelers looks like. Thanks for reading!

     

     
     
  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Travel Insurance – Do You Need It? and Sweet Mont Saint Michel Drone Footage – Links

    A bridge between two buildings high above the street in Mont Saint Michel, France

    Retirement

    Do you need travel insurance? I make a case for why you might not, even in today’s uncertain times – (PathBridge Financial)

    “Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.”


    What to do with the money you didn’t spend on travel this year – (Simple Dollar)

    Two fun and two responsible ways to use your 2020 travel budget. Why not a little of both?


    The importance of sticking to your investment plan – (Dividend.com)

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an interesting case study in the importance of sticking to an investment plan.” How did you do?


    Retirement Planning for Travelers – what it is and what the heck I’m trying to do around here – (PathBridge Financial)

    I wanted to create a financial advisory firm that did things a little differently. In what way? Here are the details.


    Travel

    It’s strange what a pandemic will do to a traveler. In an attempt to quiet my wanderlust, I’ve turned to drone footage. Here are three of my bucket list destinations shown from a perspective only a well-piloted drone can provide. Trust me; these are cool.

    Mont Saint Michel

    I have always been drawn to this town and would love to spend the night wandering its streets after the day-trippers leave. There’s lots of drone footage of the town teeming with tourists, but I thought this was perfect considering the pandemic.


    Grand Canyon

    Here’s some drone footage a little closer to home. I drove by the Grand Canyon once in the middle of the night, but youthful and foolish, chose not to spend time in the area. It remains on my U.S. bucket list. 


    Cinque Terre

    I have been to Italy several times, but there’s so much I’ve yet to see. The Cinque Terre and Lake Como are on the top of my list for next time.


    If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can do so below. You’ll also get a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for travelers looks like. Thanks for reading!

     

     
     
  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

     

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel. This summer you’ll find him watching drone footage while anxiously awaiting a return to normal travel.