Since you're retired, you'll be able to travel during the week, which often is less expensive than on the weekend. According to USA Today, the cheapest days for domestic flights generally are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. For flights to Europe, weekdays also tend to be more affordable than weekends.
With total control over your schedule, you'll be able to travel when it is cheapest to reach a particular destination, rather than whenever it fits into your office schedule. This means you can save a significant amount by traveling during the off-season, such as heading to desert destinations during the summer and mountain towns during the spring and fall. Check with discount travel sites such as Hotels.com, Priceline and Expedia in your search for lower rates on hotels and airfare.
Since you aren't pressed for time anymore, consider driving to your destination rather than flying. Even with gas (and maybe hotel) costs, driving can be less expensive than flying. Rather than driving your own car, consider renting a car for long-distance travel over a short period of time, an approach that, in the long run, could be cheaper than driving the 10-year-old family vehicle. With the right attitude, you might even find a scenic summer road trip even more enjoyable.
You likely had a limited number of vacation days when you worked in an office, but now that you're retired, you can take one long journey instead of multiple shorter trips, saving money on back-and-forth airfare. For example, rather than taking separate trips to Italy, Greece and Spain, you could combine these countries into one trip, establishing a base and then traveling to the other destinations via low-cost air carriers or train.
House-sitting can be an excellent way to find a free place to stay. Many people simply want someone to watch their pet, water their plants and bring in the mail, and with a lifetime of work under your belt, you'll have a plethora of demonstrated responsibility to show off to potential hosts. To help decide whether house-sitting is for you, check out websites such as TrustedHousesitters.com.
AARP deals exist for many elements of travel, including train fare, car rentals, hotels, flights and entire vacation packages. Take advantage of these retirement discounts to save a significant amount on every step of your journey. Outside of AARP, many hotels, resorts, restaurants and tour operators offer special discounts for older travelers, but those businesses might not automatically let you know about the deals — especially if you seem willing to pay full price.
With more free time on your hands, make it your mission to learn about under-the-radar destinations that might be cheaper to travel to than expensive mainstays such as Paris, London or Rome. As a bonus, you likely will have a more authentic experience at a destination that doesn't cater heavily to tourists.
If you can find other retirees with flexible schedules, you can drive down the cost of your trip by sharing housing. Remember how your sister said she always to travel to Las Vegas with you? Invite her to go and by doubling up in a hotel room, you can slash your bill in half.
It's amazing what you can do with a small hotel refrigerator, some corner stores and a little creativity. You don't have to eat every meal in restaurants. Instead, go local and pick up a loaf of fresh bakery bread, some fruit and cheeses and sliced meat from a local deli. Many of the shops will have utensils and condiment packets, too. This approach should allow you to save a significant amount on your food bill — and think of the nice shopkeepers you'll meet along the way.