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How to Plan an Affordable Vacation

Bob Edwards and AARP's Maria Gillen talk about ways to get the biggest bang for your travel buck

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Bob Edwards: Hello, I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP take on today.

This week, AARP The Magazine held its 18th Annual Movies for Grownups Awards in Beverly Hills. The awards celebrate 2018's standout films with unique appeal to movie lovers with a grown up state of mind. They also recognize the inspiring artists who make them. Comedian Martin Short hosted.

Martin Short: Welcome to the AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards, or as I call them, the Olden Globes.

Bob Edwards: The star studded awards ceremony included a touching tribute to career achievement award honoree Shirley MacLaine. Nominees for Best Actress included Sandra Bullock, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts.

Glenn Close: Thank you so much for all my fellow players in this incredible, incredible profession.

Bob Edwards: And nominees for Best Actor: Willem Dafoe, Hugh Jackman, Viggo Mortenson, Robert Redford, and John C Reilly.

Viggo Mortensen: I would like to dedicate this honor to anyone who stands up against discrimination, defamation of character, and injustice of any kind, and demands to be treated with dignity and respect. Thank you very much.

Bob Edwards: Tune in to watch the Movies for Grownups Awards on Friday, February 15th at 9:00 PM Eastern on PBS. You can also watch online the following day at and PBS apps.

Announcer: Madam Speaker the President of the United States.

Bob Edwards: And on Tuesday of this week, President Trump gave his rescheduled State of the Union address. His speech earned praise and criticism alike, but one part earned the applause of both sides when he talked about skyrocketed prescription drug prices.

President Trump: The next major priority for me and for all of us should be to lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs and to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. [crosstalk] We must do more. It's unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong. This is unfair and together, we will stop it, and we'll stop it fast.

Bob Edwards: AARP's CEO Jo Ann Jenkins responded that the organization was heartened to hear the President tackle the issue. She in a statement that, "Too many Americans are being forced to choose between paying for their medicines, or for food or rent."

To read more analysis on the President's speech, and reactions to it, go to

Who doesn't love packing their bags and hitting the road? But the reality is it can be hard on your wallet.

By planning early and strategically, you can turn an otherwise expensive vacation into a budget friendly trip. Whether it's close to home, or on the other side of the world, there are many ways to stretch your budget and make the most out of your time away.

I caught up with AARP's Maria Gillen to learn more about the ways to save on travel, and get the biggest bang for your travel bucks.

Welcome, Maria.

Maria Gillen: Thanks Bob.

Bob Edwards: AARP recently released its travel trend survey. What are some of the most surprising findings?

Maria Gillen: There are a lot more people are planning ahead for their vacations in the following year, in 2019.

Bob Edwards: Why are so many people planning their travel earlier than before?

Maria Gillen: Part of a strategy for saving money is planning ahead, and there is definitely a stronger interest in traveling more in the following year.

Bob Edwards: What are some ways to save?

Maria Gillen: There are a couple strategies. I think the most important one is definitely planning ahead, and picking and understanding what you want to do as far out in advance. I mean, for an international trip, you would want to plan three to six months out, a little bit shorter for a domestic trip. If you're going to be staying close to home, then you know, you can afford to not plan as far ahead, but of course, the trip would be different.

But saving, you plan ahead, and that would give you an opportunity to really understand what the airfare is, and airfare fluctuates considerably leading up to a time that you would want to take that trip.

Bob Edwards: Yeah, but three to six months out? I mean, things change remarkably in three to six months.

Maria Gillen: Well, for international trips, for example, if you are planning a trip in the summer for a trip to Italy for example, you had better get your itinerary in order in January, in February, and really monitor those airfares. As you get closer, if you make that a last minute trip, you know what? You're gonna be paying a premium.

That said, you know, you can find deals and another strategy is to definitely stay on the ball and be vigilant about deals and alerts that might come up last minute. But then you're gonna take a different kind of trip, right? Another budget saving strategy is definitely to consider the different types of destinations, right?

One of the things that we've seen in our survey is that National Parks are still a very popular destination for people 50 and older. They are a beautiful way to see the country. In some cases, the Grand Canyon, for example, rates as a bucket list trip, and that's here within the United States. I like to tell everyone that if you're working, there are a number of people, Gen X, who are 50 and older now, and they're working.

Take a long weekend, and head out to a State Park. Every state, whether it's a National Park or a State Park, every state has a part that's probably within driving distance. That's a good way also to create a budget friendly trip.

Another strategy for saving money is to take advantage of rewards programs. Now, that could be through your credit card. That could be through frequent flier. A multitude of ways that you can take advantage of a deal through just looking at your rewards points that you've collected over time.

Bob Edwards: What about, once your trip is underway? How do you save money there?

Maria Gillen: You can be pretty creative. You can go to a big city. Just because you go to a big city, like for example, D.C. or New York, you can still create an experience that is budget friendly by picking the things that are on the budget side.

You can see free museums in D.C., you can see free museums in New York. Or for New York, where there are museum fees, you can still find time periods where you can enter a museum for free.

Bob Edwards: Tell me about multi-generational trips?

Maria Gillen: A multi-generational trip is definitely a popular way of people taking trips. What we see in terms of saving money on a multi-generational trip is that people can afford to stay in certain accommodations or they can take cruises, right? These are ways you can accommodate the multi-generations. Within those categories of trips, you can choose to go budget or choose to go luxurious, right?

But that is definitely a way to travel.

Bob Edwards: What is some budget friendly destinations in the United States?

Maria Gillen: In the United States, what we have seen is that traveling to not the tier A cities, but some of the smaller cities, such as for example on the East Coast, Greenville, South Carlina is a nice destination that is smaller and has nice food scene. You can get there pretty easily, especially if you're on the East Coast.

One of my favorite places that I go to is the state of New Mexico. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are definitely two of my favorite places to go. Beautiful scenery, a wonderful part of the country, and less expensive. It's a little bit off the beaten path.

Of course, I love going to big cities. I lived in New York City for some time, and loved going there, but you can go outside of the city and explore parts of the Catskills and upstate New York, and get a really nice feel for a smaller or less costly side of the trip.

Bob Edwards: And internationally?

Maria Gillen: Internationally. When we think about the proximity to the United States, of course Canada and Mexico, the Caribbean are definitely popular destinations. It's much easier to get to in terms of flights, and there's also the option for driving to those destinations for some.

When you look farther out, what you want to try and avoid are those cities and those countries that are little bit over popular. Like for example, Venice was in the news recently for having its fair share of perhaps too many tourists. Going to places that are outside of big cities, like Lyons, France, for example, would be a nice place outside of the beaten path internationally.

Bob Edwards: What are some of the things people should do to prepare for an international trip?

Maria Gillen: That's a great question. In the case of an international trip, preparation is definitely key. When we think about planning for an international trip, the packing is definitely something you should take into consideration carefully. Travelers 50 and older who travel internationally will have to take into account medication, for example. Making sure that all your medication is properly packed, all together with the appropriate prescriptions. Making sure that your documents are all together in one place. Preparing in terms of calling your bank in advance. That's one way to make sure that you don't run into trouble while you're away.

Enrolling in the State Department's Safe Travel Enrollment Program is a way to stay safe while you're overseas, making sure you have the appropriate alerts. So those are the types of things you should consider. Even travel insurance and trying to understand the types of scenarios you might find yourself in when you're traveling internationally.

Bob Edwards: Where can we get more travel information?

Maria Gillen: You can find more information, whether it be vacation ideas, tips on being safe and planning on a budget, as well as member benefits at

Bob Edwards: Thank you very much.

Maria Gillen: Thank you, Bob.

Bob Edwards: For more, visit Become a subscriber. Be sure to rate our podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening. I'm Bob Edwards.

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Who doesn’t love packing their bags and hitting the road? But the reality is it can be hard on your wallet. Bob Edwards chats with AARP’s Maria Gillen about ways to save on travel and how to get the biggest bang for your travel bucks. 

On Friday, February 15, tune in to PBS to watch AARP The Magazine’s start-studded Annual Movies For Grownups Awards that celebrate 2018’s standout films with unique appeal to movie lovers with a grownup state of mind.

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