Planning To Travel When You Retire? Here Are 10 Good Reasons Not To Wait

10 Good Reasons You Shouldn't Wait to Travel Until You Retire

Travel is a dream that many people put off (along with a whole laundry list of other things) until they retire from the workplace, and they’re free to pursue their own interests.

But is it realistic? Will it really be easier to travel when you stop working?

Here’s the thing. I’m all for delayed gratification. I have a retirement savings account, and in fact, think that the ability to plan for the future is one of the markers of true maturity.

So why am I telling you that putting off travel until you retire just might be a bad idea?

This isn’t about hedonism, or abandoning your responsibilities, or throwing away your future security. This is about taking a good, hard look at the realities that life can throw at you, and making a choice about how you want to live.

Here are 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t wait until you retire to travel.

It’ll probably cost more to travel when you’re older

It’s a simple fact that travel insurance is more expensive for older travelers. And that’s if you’re lucky. Many older travelers can’t even get travel insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions. Plus, if you’re like most people (me included), you’ll crave (or need) more creature comforts as you get older, adding to your travel bill. It’s one of the reasons you don’t see a lot of 70 year olds sleeping in hostel dorm beds.

You could die first

I’m not going to mince words with this one. Actuarial tables say that roughly 17% of men will die between age 25 and 65. Will you be one of them? It’s a gamble you take. For women, the odds are better, but there’s still roughly a 10% chance you’ll die from the age of 25 to 65.

Here’s how we got those numbers. If you look at the US Government’s Social Security actuarial table, if you start with 100,000 people, on average at age 25, 98,043 men will still be alive (98,447 of women), but at age 65 only 80,308 men will still be alive (87,769 for women).

Life has a habit of getting in the way

Life has a way of getting more complicated as you get older. You could marry someone who doesn’t want to travel or your current partner may decide they don’t want to. If you become a grandparent, your kids could need you to help take care of their little ones. Even more commonly, you could end up having to take care of your parents as they age. In short, a thousand things could change, making it harder for you to get on the road.

Will you be healthy enough to travel?

It’s a sad fact, but our health can often start to take a turn for the worse just as we approach the age of retirement. Your health could decline to the point that travel is difficult or near impossible.

Anxious to go on a walkabout through the Australian Outback or want to climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower? Make sure you’re healthy enough when you retire to still be able to do it.

Here’s a scary fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that almost 23% of Americans 65 or over are in poor to fair health (Table 52, Health United States, 2013). Couple that with mortality rates and your odds of enjoying your golden years abroad are diminishing all the time.

The world, she is a changin’

If there’s someplace you want to go now, keep in mind that the world may change a lot before you retire. Whether you want to hit the open road, hidden gems are getting harder to find and more and more people are traveling all the time. The world is getting to be a smaller place every year and a lot of time, our dream destination is often more than just a destination, it’s a frame of mind.

Ten years ago, seeing the pyramids in Egypt was on every round the world trip itinerary. Today, political unrest has made Egypt a much more dangerous place to visit. The same thing can be said for Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. Of course, places can change for the better as well (just look at Sarajevo, which was a bombed out shell in the 1990’s), but you never know.

Just realize that if there’s someplace you’ve always dreamed of visiting, by the time you retire it might no longer resemble that same dream anymore.

What if you lose your nerve?

Adventure is like a muscle; if you never use it, it tends to atrophy. If you don’t travel at all when you’re younger, will you have the nerve to start after retirement? Will you have gotten so used to your routine that you can’t imagine finally breaking free from it?

Your kids are only young once

If you have little ones, think of the gift you could give them by letting them see the world while they’re young. Sure, traveling with little ones can be hard, but it can be an amazing experience as well. If you’re planning to travel with your older kids when you retire, consider this: by then, your kids could be well established in their own life, and have no time to wander around the world with you.

What if you’re short of money?

A lot of things can put a wrench in your financial plans for retirement. Divorce, losing a job later in life, rising house costs, increased health care costs, or just an increase in the cost of living can all push your retirement date later, or mean that you have to retire earlier on less money. What makes you so sure that all of a sudden you’ll have more money to spend on travel if you can’t afford it now?

That nest’s not empty

If you’re putting off traveling until you retire and your kids are out of the house, here’s something to consider: What if they don’t leave? A whopping 56% of young Americans aged 18 to 24 still live at home with 36%  of them 18 to 31. Will you still be paying for a place for them to stay, and their meals? And don’t forget, university is expensive.

Carpe the diem, baby

Seize the day. Life is short and sweet and you only have one chance to make this one count. If you truly want to travel, find a way to make it happen, today.

Of course, the other part of this equation is figuring out how to make travel a reality when you’re younger. You can find some help here:


36 Responses

  1. Sam

    I totally agree! It is indeed a good idea to have some savings put aside for when you maybe can’t earn as much because you can’t work so hard, but people putting off travelling till they are older just doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like people who have young children have an easy excuse (at least one that people easily accept), but I can only imagine how amazing it must be to grow up having travelled as a young child! Do it, and do it now, people!

  2. Amy

    Agreed! So much can happen in life, it’s crazy to keep putting off living until another day. I think my parents are a great example – they planned to travel when they retired now say they are too tired and are not really interested in visiting places that don’t have the luxury comforts they’ve come to enjoy. Priorities and interests change.

    • Micki Kosman

      Amy, we hear this all the time from older people who wish they’d traveled when they were younger. It’s just so easy to get used to a certain kind of life, and not want to step out of our comfort zones when we’re older.

  3. Casey @ A Cruising Couple

    I agree with every one of these! There are so many excuses that we make for anything and everything, but the truth of the matter is that if there’s something we want out of life, we need to make it happen now. A great reminder 🙂 As a side note, I was amazed at your statistics of how many young adults still live at home!

    • Micki Kosman

      Casey, I know! But it seems that almost everyone I know who’s under 25 is still living at home. Here in Canada at least, rent is still pretty expensive, and houses are still expensive to buy as well. It makes a lot of financial sense to live at home if you can. It’s funny, though, I moved out of home when I finished high school at 17, and it didn’t even OCCUR to me to stay living at home. And I’m not THAT old. I swear. 😉

  4. cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    When I considered not moving abroad for a year, I had this nagging voice in my head that said, “If not now, never.” So glad I followed by gut and realized the time IS now! Great, inspiring post!

  5. Sheralyn

    I totally agree! It’s risky to save too much of one’s travel plans for retirement – there are no guarantees we’ll be healthy enough to do the things we want then, let alone still be alive! I know… odds are totally in our favour that we WILL still be alive… but just in case, better to live a little now:)

  6. Peter Thomas

    These are very good reasons not to wait to get old before you travel. I have to admit it got me thinking, maybe I should travel a lot more often now since I’m on a perfect age to do so. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Drea

    This post is right on point. I always tell others not to wait until they retire to travel, with the same points you made above. No one can predict the future, so no point of waiting around until you retire to enjoy yourself.

  8. Deb Schaffer

    Wow. So true. Now that the kids have graduated from college, we are working on hitting the road! We started getting out and about when the kids reached their mid-teens – we finally had the money to travel. I wish we could have taken the kids on more adventures when they were younger. Don’t wait and wish!

    • Micki Kosman

      I love this advice! As far as traveling with little kids go, my thoughts are that parenting can be hard work wherever you are, be that at home or traveling. So why not do the hard work of parenting somewhere that’s interesting and fun for you?

  9. Aggy

    Awesome tips! I agree, travel should be done as soon as possible – don’t waste your time getting old, the world’s a huge place that needs to be discovered!

  10. Penny Sadler

    Great article you guys. I often use many of those arguments on myself when I try to talk myself out of going someplace I really want to go. Especially the “I can’t afford it” excuse. Could be worse later. And health, yep. That’s a big crap shoot. Love this

    • Micki Kosman

      It’s strange; after I wrote this article one of the blogging groups I’m in has had a terrible series of tragedies, where a couple of the spouses and even a 14 year old son of one the members has passed away. It breaks my heart to see people going through this, but it’s an incredible reminder of how fragile our lives and health really are.

  11. Michele

    Agree totaly we teaveled when our children were young amd now they have left home we sold everything and have hit the road indefinitely. We are not retired and realistically we know we may need to work again but we have no regrets so far.

  12. Mary @Green Global Travel

    Great insights into why people should travel now. The world is definitely changing especially in regards to global warming and low lying islands. We would very much like to visit the Maldives, but if we wait too long we may miss our chance forever.

  13. Jaryd

    Love this! I call it pissed at 60. I don’t want to get to a ripe old age and be pissed off I didn’t do what I really wanted with my life and especially have all those drama’s that are more than likely going to be true when I am too old. The longer you put something off the more likely it will never happen.

  14. Caroline

    Amazing list with powerful points … best to go now when you don’t have major roadblocks in your way!

  15. Emily Goodenough

    Fantastic article! It was great to read especially after getting a 15 minute lecture from a friend who says I am silly to travel while I’m young! I will definitely be passing this on to him 🙂

  16. Ngaire

    Couldn’t agree more! And if you see places now and they do change then its a great excuse to return later in life! The world is so incredibly big, you’ll never be at a loss at to not enough places to go later in life and you can figure out your favourite ones to return to!

    Traveling grows and changes you as a person, I know things now that I wish I’d learnt as I was growing up, yet sometimes depending on where you live you’re so far away those things don’t seem important to be shared with you. It’s the best gift you can ever give to yourself and to others – to understand other history, cultures and ways of life.

  17. NZ Muse

    I couldn’t agree more. I asked myself, what would I regret more, getting to 65 and not owning a house, or never having travelled? The answer was clear.

  18. Contented Traveller

    Well of course I am going to disagree with many of your points. Many people, like us, are fit, free and finical and are spending your inheritance happily :)) A lot of people retire early for a start but I think that you will find that a lot of we baby boomers have never stopped travelling. We slung kids on our shoulders and did the hippy routes and we have never stopped. There are very few people that I know that have not seized the day. You may be just a little surprised at what we do get up to. We also do have houses we own and money in the bank and a nothing can stop us attitude. We were born rebellious and nothing has changed. I hope that you all are still travelling all of the time no matter what your age, no matter what world conditions may or may not be and that you have a good balance figured out. This is by no means an attack just a statement from the “other” side – not the dark side 🙂

    • Charles Kosman

      You bring up a lot of good points Contented Traveller however I don’t see a single one that conflicts with what Micki wrote. You slung kids over your shoulders, did the “hippy route” and have been traveling for years. That is exactly the life we intend to lead. The point wasn’t that you shouldn’t travel when you retire but that you shouldn’t put off all your travels until then.

      As for you guys, you’ve made it and now you’re enjoying it. That’s awesome however not everyone will have the money, health or the courage to do it once they get there.

      This post was simply to remind everyone that there’s no guarantees in life and putting off something as rewarding as travel until “the right time” when the kids are gone and you have enough money and time to enjoy it is a fallacy. We have no doubts that we’ll still be traveling extensively as we get older. We also have no illusions concerning balance in one’s life. Just like there’s more to life than travel, there should also be more to life than work and “putting in your time”.

      We’ve had countless comments about people waiting for the right time or the right situation to go on a journey themselves so the fact that you don’t know very many people who have not seized the day means you’ve managed to surround yourselves with outgoing, similarly minded people and you should consider yourselves fortunate to be in their company. There’s a lot of people not so fortunate or that are so caught up in the 9 to 5 mentality that they don’t take the time to look up and see the path they’re currently on.

      We all have to stop and smell the roses every now and then or the likelihood of reaching and enjoying our retirement years will be lessened. This post just points out a few reasons to do so.

      Thanks for commenting. The fact you guys are still going strong gives us hope that we’ll be the same however that doesn’t mean we’ll wait until then to get out and enjoy what this beautiful world has to offer. 🙂

  19. Suzhie

    I love these reasons why you shouldn’t wait to travel. I love travelling since how far I can remember. When I was young, I have the energy and the time.. but I don’t have the money to travel. When I became a professional, I have the money and energy but sadly, time is now lacking. And finally, in which I don’t want happen, when you grow old, you have the money and all the time… but unfortunately, you don’t have the energy anymore. So, why not travel a little earlier. 🙂

  20. Heather @ TravelingSaurus

    Such great advice! My parents always encouraged me to travel when we have the time and the money and the will, as you never know what lies ahead. I know quite a few older couples that waited to travel, then had significant health problems, and really, really regret not doing it sooner.

  21. Albert Abroad

    Interesting article indeed.
    I love it when I see an old couple in their 60’s staying in a hostel; traveling around.
    Although, when I think about it, I rather travel when I am young then when I am old.

    You can learn a lot while traveling for the future years to come. You never know when life ends. A personal lose really pushed me to follow my dreams and go abroad.


  22. Aggie j ram

    Hello I enjoyed reading your blog. I am a single mom with 2 kids, but i dont use that as an excuse not to travel. Me and the kids travel when time and financial permits. There is nothing in the world to see my kids’ expressions when they see something awesome!


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