Bill and I started traveling regularly shortly after we were married in 1970. The university I worked at then was just getting into the alumni-travel business and the person who was organizing the first trip was a good friend who wanted some moral support for this great experiment. We got to go to Copenhagen for ten days for $299 each, including hotel, airfare, most of our meals, and lots of extras. Pretty amazing in itself, but it also sparked a life-long love in both of us for the adventure and fun of travel.
We've been on many, many trips since then and continue to find enormous pleasure in all of this. There is so much to see and to learn, so many interesting people to meet, and so many opportunities to understand the world in different ways.
There is just no substitute for travel – you can see pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Michelangelo’s David in books, but seeing them in person is an entirely different and much richer and more emotional experience. I was entirely overcome when I first saw the Taj Mahal; it is breathtakingly stunning in a way that a photograph just doesn’t convey. You can read about how friendly the people of Namibia are, but having the opportunity to feel their warmth and graciousness up close and in person is an unforgettable experience.
But speaking of rich, we are not by any means! We were lucky to discover at a young age that part of the fun and excitement of travel is to be as economical as possible. We learned much more about Paris by riding the Metro than we would have if we had taken taxis everywhere. We loved Venice all the more by staying in an apartment in a quiet, residential neighborhood rather than in a fancy hotel in a touristy section of the city. Going food shopping at a small grocery shop in Florence is a much different experience than eating in an expensive restaurant. Unlike in so many other endeavors, trying to save money traveling can actually lead to a better trip.
We have also discovered some really useful ways to stretch our travel dollars significantly by using frequent-flyer miles for both airfare and hotels. Before I retired, I traveled a great deal on business, so I was able to really rack up the miles. There was one glorious period in the mid-1990s when Delta Airlines was offering triple mileage credit for flights between Connecticut and Utah and lucky me, I had a client in Utah that I needed to visit fairly often. Three months after that project ended, Bill and I traveled, for free, round-trip to southeast Asia on Singapore Airlines, first class – pretty thrilling!
Since retiring, I have gotten into the hobby of collecting frequent-flyer miles and points through the very careful and judicious use of credit cards, especially when they offer sign-on bonuses. There are a lot of details to keep track of and it requires work to stay up-to-date on all of the various offers, rules, restrictions, and so on, but the reward is that we haven’t paid for airfare in many, many years. If this is something that interests you, I suggest exploring these three websites that I have found very useful. All of these sites offer blog postings and email signups, as well as "getting started" areas to cover the basics:
I have a dear friend who recently turned 88 and is currently planning her gazillionth trip. Yes, it’s a bit more difficult for her now than it was when she took a bike trip across Europe just after her college graduation. But she’s learned all of the clever ways to accommodate and adjust to her limitations and none of that has at all diminished her love of seeing new and unfamiliar places and most of all, getting to meet new and interesting people. She is my model for a happy life.
I'm Linda Fleit. My husband and I were lucky enough to retire when we were 61, about nine years ago. We love being retired and want to share all that we've learned over the years about this wonderful stage of life.