The short answer: Take your fuel-efficient car to a cheap motel with a kitchenette and a TV. But who wants to do that?
To take a vacation that's inexpensive and appealing, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, you have an advantage if you're retired. You have flexibility. You can pick up and go on a Tuesday if you want to, and that flexibility can save you hundreds of dollars on hotels and airfare. Also, you're not tied to a school year schedule or limited by company deadlines, so you can travel any time of year.
Those two things -- traveling mid-week and off-peak -- can decrease the cost of a vacation substantially. "The more flexibility you have, the better chance you have to save money on vacations," says Heather Hunter, a spokesperson for AAA.
Hunter adds that the old advice to look for last-minute discounts no longer really applies. These days, planning pays off. "We're not seeing as many last-minute discounts as we did a few years ago," she says. "When you find a great rate, go ahead and jump on it."
It pays to run some discount numbers, as well. If you're a member of a group like AAA or AARP, or if you have rewards points with hotel chains or airlines, the fine print in your agreement will show you how to make the most of those rewards.
For example, AAA members can get 10 percent off breakfast at Hyatt hotels or 15 percent off their stays at Marriott properties, with a free breakfast. If you consider that breakfast for two at some resorts can cost more than $30, those are not insubstantial savings [source: Hunter].
Another tip, Hunter says, is to consider a trip to a big convention town. Check the city's convention schedule for off-peak times, and plan a trip there when the local travel industry is low on bookings.
Also, with gas prices on the rise, many people are looking to take short trips to nearby resort areas rather than extended trips to exotic locales. Research your area to find fun trips you can take on the weekends.
For more great travel tips, check out the links on the next page.