Planning a Trip During a Pandemic – It Just Might Make You Feel Better

Pandemic

Lori and I have named the two chipmunks that jump through the flowerpots on our patio Blue and Schnickelfritz. This is what passes for our entertainment during the pandemic. It’s time for a vacation.

Chipmunk eating a blue flower

It’s been about a year since I planned a trip that wasn’t canceled. It was New York City during Christmas, something I highly recommend you do once in your life. We took a short trip to Ellicottville, New York this summer, but Lori did most of the planning.

I’m excited to begin!

Planning a Trip and the Joy it Brings

“To the most beautiful moment in life – better than the deed, better than the memory – the moment of anticipation.” – Jacques from The Simpsons

Jacques wasn’t talking about taking a vacation, but he might as well have been. There are more than a few studies pointing to the pleasure of merely planning a trip. Often the positive feelings of planning a vacation can be the same or greater than the journey itself. From personal experience, I agree.

Gettysburg

Where to begin? The destination.

As soon as Lori suggested Gettysburg, I knew we had our answer. It checks all of the boxes. There’s a historical component that I find fascinating, it’s within a four-hour drive, and neither of us has ever been there. Best of all, this may surprise some, but – the whole darn Battle of Gettysburg took place outside! Social distancing? Not a problem when you’re hiking and reading plaques in a vast field.

Gettysburg

Admittedly, my knowledge of the famous civil war battle is limited, but I’m ready to correct this. Before most vacations, I try to read a fiction and a non-fiction book about the destination. And when I don’t feel like breaking out the Kindle, I like to watch movies, documentaries, and YouTube videos to get a feel for the history, people, and culture of the place I am going. For this trip, my travel-media list looks something like this:

  • The Civil War by Ken Burns (at least the episodes that directly deal with The Battle of Gettysburg as I’ve seen it before and this is just a refresher)
  • Gettysburg – the 1993 movie
  • Gettysburg – the non-fiction book by Stephen W. Sears
  • The Killer Angels – the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the battle by Michael Shaara

At the same time that I’m diving into the historical part of Gettysburg, I’m reading through reviews, blogs, and travel guides to get an idea of what to expect on our trip. Where to stay? What sights to see? Where to find a good cheesesteak? (I can’t be this close to Philly without indulging.) Yes, I’m the analytical type, and by the end of this process, I’ll have an extensive spreadsheet.

I’m not militant enough to put together a schedule of events with a strict timeline, but I like to have options. I want to know what restaurants, sites, or tours are open each day and what hours they operate. I also created a resource list for planning a trip in this uncertain time, which you can access here.

Plan a Trip Today

“This virus can stop our travel plans, but it cannot stop our travel dreams.”- Rick Steves

Travelers – I encourage you to take dreaming a step further.  Begin the planning process. Immerse yourself into a good book, movie, or vlog about your dream location. Plan for the trip you might take next month. Plan for the trip you might take a year from now. Trust me (and academia); you’ll feel better.


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    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!

     

     
     
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    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 Travelers – 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.  


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    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.

    The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made by Travelers Planning for Retirement

    Three pictures of travel destinations lay on a map next to a old film camera

    Do you like to travel? Are you looking forward to a future when your leisure time will be measured in months, not seconds gained by cutting your 30-minute lunch “hour” short?

    A man checks his watch and is pressed for time

    There are pitfalls particular to travelers when planning for retirement. This article will help you avoid them so you’ll be ready to retire and tackle the next chapter of your life with confidence.

    Not Budgeting for Travel in Retirement

    A retirement study published by Merrill Lynch reveals that 84% of retirees over the age of 50 have done “hardly any” planning for leisure activities for the next ten years. And 67% have not budgeted for travel in retirement.

    The best retirement plan in the world is useless if it doesn’t include spending on travel in retirement. For the first several years, retirement-bliss is often filled with bucket list travel, which can be extremely expensive. Your new RV, a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and the two-week African safari won’t be cheap. Sure, your travel spending may decline after this initial period, but it tends to stay elevated for people who love to travel.

    Failing to plan for travel will present you with two difficult choices. Either come up with the money from other places in your budget or miss out on the travel you love.

    Why not build travel into your retirement budget in the first place? Your future self will thank you for it.

    Not Acquiring the Right Health Care Insurance

    Medicare will not cover you in an emergency when you’re traveling internationally, except for very limited circumstances. If you’re a traveler who plans on leaving the U.S. in retirement, you need to make sure you’re insured in another way.

    Some Medigap policies and Medicare Advantage plans will cover you outside of the country, but not all. There are also time constraints to this coverage. For example, Medigap policies will only cover you for the first 60 days when traveling.

    There is also travel insurance that can be purchased on a one-time or annual basis. A year-long policy may be less expensive, depending on how often you are traveling.

    Some credit cards will also pay your emergency medical bills when traveling. Read the fine print carefully, but for travelers without an ongoing plan, this can be a good way to cover yourself without having to shop for a new policy each time you leave home.

    As a traveler, it’s important to objectively analyze your needs and make an informed decision as you approach 65. How much is each insurance option? How much of your medical bills will each alternative pay? What is your exposure if you have a severe medical emergency? Are there time limits when traveling?

    There are enrollment periods when signing up for the government plans, so if you decide to make a change, you might have to wait a while. This is another reason to prepare for the critical decision concerning health care well ahead of time.

    Another concern is early retirement. Travelers that retire before 65 must find health care insurance before Medicare kicks in. Alternatives include the Health Insurance Marketplace, a spouse’s insurance, or a part-time job that provides the benefit.

    Not Using the Right Credit Card

    Finding the right credit card as a traveler can be a warm fuzzy feeling. You will earn miles or points, you will not have to pay foreign transaction fees, you will have access to airport lounges, and sign up bonuses can be tremendous – equivalent to a free flight or more.

    Remember the medical insurance we discussed earlier? Some higher-end cards will not only cover you in case of a medical emergency when traveling, but also include rental car coverage, trip cancellation insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and medical evacuation coverage.

    Two credit cards with stellar benefits are the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the American Express Platinum Card. The Points Guy does an excellent job of explaining the benefits of each. Don’t be shell-shocked by the $500 plus annual fees, as most semi-frequent travelers will easily recoup the cost via attractive benefits such as a $300 annual travel credit and reimbursement of TSA pre-check fees.

    If you’re using the wrong card, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars. That’s money you could spend on another trip!

    Paying Too Much in Taxes

    Raise your hand if you’d like to pay more in taxes. I didn’t think so.

    A woman raises her handMaxing out your retirement accounts is one of the best long-term, tax-saving moves you can make. If you work for a company that matches your contributions to a retirement plan, such as a 401k or 403b, make sure you’re at least investing enough money to capture the entire match. There are many additional tax-advantaged plans you may be eligible for, including an IRA, Roth IRA, SIMPLE, SEP IRA, etc. Use them to save aggressively.

    Do you have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA)? Max it out, and try not to touch the funds until retirement. An HSA presents the opportunity for you to deposit money before tax and withdraw it tax-free. Pay for your current health care needs with after-tax cash instead.

    People who love to travel don’t have to worry about what they are going to do in retirement, because…well, they love to travel. This can lead to early retirement and a prolonged period between a high-income career and the required minimum distributions that must be taken from retirement plans.

    During this stretch, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket when you retire, which presents the perfect opportunity to convert an IRA or a Rollover IRA into a Roth IRA. You’ll be taxed on the conversion, but this can be your chance to take advantage of a lower tax bracket. This money will grow and be distributed tax-free. It’s better to be taxed early, while in a low tax bracket, then wait until you are forced to take money when you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This maneuver can be complicated, so I recommend checking with a financial advisor to see if it’s a good fit for your situation. For do-it-yourselfers who want to dig into this topic, Kitces.com has detailed information on the conversion here.   

    Waiting Until Retirement to Travel

    Waiting to travel can be the biggest mistake you make as a traveler when planning for retirement. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s – don’t wait until retirement to travel!

    Few quotes hit home now, during our coronavirus-hellscape, more the one from motivational speaker Wayne Dyer – “Do it now. The future is promised to no one.”

    (David Tuzzolino caveat: “You might want to wait until the pandemic dies down before “doing it now,” but I’m sure you get my point.”)

    Don’t make the mistake of waiting until retirement to start checking items off your bucket list. Things change; you might not get the chance if you wait.

    Your health can deteriorate rapidly, or new responsibilities can come along that make traveling problematic. Money issues may crop up.

    If you love to travel, plan diligently, and create an extra-long list of retirement destinations, events, and experiences. However, the worst thing you can do is sacrifice the present by delaying your travel dreams for a tomorrow that may never come.


    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.