For anyone planning a winter trip or even just considering it, here are 14 destinations perfect for seniors.
Published on October 30th, 2023 in Destinations
It can be tempting to just hunker down in the winter and wait for spring. The weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and it can just seem like a chore to travel. These can be trying conditions for anyone, but especially seniors.
That said, there are many advantages for taking the right kind of trip in the winter. In this post, let’s look at some top winter vacation destinations, the reasons to take a off-peak season trip, and the protection needed to ensure a safe once-in-a-lifetime getaway.
Why plan a winter vacation?
When it can be so easy to just sit at home and watch television or check Facebook, why does it make sense to make winter travel plans?
Here are five things to consider:
Escaping cold weather
Sure, a person can spend their winters in snowy Salt Lake City, bone-chilling New England or rainy California. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with enduring winter in any of these places. Some people might even prefer it.
Still, it’s not the only option.
One of the best things about seeking out winter travel places is that it gives a person an opportunity for a few days or weeks or however long they like a chance to get a break from their weather. They can trade 40-degree Nebraska for tropical sunshine or elsewhere.
Embracing colder weather
Then again, some people might live somewhere where it rarely, if ever, snows. The ideal winter travel destinations for these seniors and others might be those that allow for a brief experience with snow.
Such excursions can allow for all the joys of going to the snow, such as the chance for skiing or snowplay, without all of the responsibilities that can come with living in a snowy environment. By that same token, even people who enjoy living in areas with snowy winters might enjoy winter vacation getaways to snowy places where there are no chores.
Traveling in the winter might mean going to colder destinations with fewer people. But this can also mean scooping up discounted rates. One hospitality industry website noted that room rates can drop $50 to $100 per night during what’s known as cold shoulder season.
With many seniors living on fixed budgets, the chance to have unforgettable experiences while saving money, can be a good thing.
Ice skating or sand castles: Fun for different generations
A person might formulate winter vacation ideas for themselves or plan a trip with their significant other. Those seniors who can afford to do so, though, might also look to plan winter vacation trips for their grown children or grandchildren.
One of the advantages of winter travel is that, because of the discounted rates, it can make it easier to take multiple generations of family on trips. And once they’re there, the kids and grandkids might love doing puzzles, going cross country skiing or ice skating at mountain cabins; or enjoying a warmer winter getaway and building sandcastles on Mexican beaches.
That said, let’s take a look at some winter destinations for every budget and adventurous appetite.
International winter getaways
Ideal winter vacation spots in other parts of the world often come down to a person’s tolerance for cold weather.
As such, we’ll look at four popular wintertime travel destinations, some with snowy environments and others where a person might spend most of their time in a swimsuit and sandals.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Going south of the border to find winter travel getaways used to just mean venturing down to Mexican cities like Guadalajara or Zihuatanejo. However, it has become more unsafe in recent years for Americans to travel to Mexico, with the U.S. Department of State urging travelers to avoid different parts of the country due to crime and kidnapping.
While the state department lists some elevated risks for Costa Rica, entire states are not considered unsafe for Americans to step foot in. Provided someone stays aware of their environment and takes some basic precautions, they can have a great time in beachfront districts like Tamarindo, which is known for eco-tourism and surfing.
Aside from central or South America, there are plenty of other places near or south of the equator that will boast warm weather at times it is otherwise cold in the United States. Sydney might be among the most serene of these, with daily averages in the 70-degree range from December through March.
Aside from the weather, Sydney offers a range of winter travel ideas, including seeing its renowned Sydney Opera House, visiting Sydney Olympic Park built in the suburbs for the 2000 Summer Games, or enjoying various outdoor activities in the summer weather. January also includes the Sydney Festival, which came back in 2023 after being canceled in 2022.
Rome’s Mediterranean climate is comparable to that of California in the winter: a little cold and rainy, but not with the extremes of other winter travel locations.
Still, because it gets a bit colder, Rome’s considerable amount of historic attractions from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum to the Spanish Steps can be far less crowded in winter months. Hotel rooms can also be had much cheaper this time of year, even if they’re within walking distance of some of these monuments in the historic district.
The Vatican City also remains open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days of the winter for anyone who wants to see St. Paul’s Basilica or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
We promised some cold-weather winter vacation places. This hidden gem might be one of the world’s best.
Like the Aspen, Colorado of the French Alps, Chamonix is a remote and charming small town that provides unforgettable skiing opportunities. Take a cable car up majestic Mont Blanc to the summit of Aiguille du Midi at an altitude of 12,604 feet for superior views.
Domestic winter destinations
Of course, one need not travel internationally to find winter vacation locations. Here are some to consider:
Hawaii gets over 900,000 visitors in December, most of them coming at the holiday time at the end of the year and it’s easy to see why this is. As opposed to spending the winter holidays somewhere cold or rainy, seniors (and maybe their families as well) can sit on a lanai preparing for a perfect day by the sea.
One thing to note about Hawaii: In years past, Maui had a reputation as the best Hawaiian island in the winter. Due to the devastating Lahaina fire of August 2023, it could be awhile before Maui is ideal for seniors to visit again. In the meantime, other Hawaii destinations such as Kauai, the Kona side of the Big Island, or cosmopolitan Oahu might be better for seniors.
U.S. territories in the Caribbean
For those who want to feel like they’re traveling internationally without having to grab a passport, remote U.S. territories can fit this bill. As an added bonus, some of these territories can make superb winter travel destinations because of their warm weather and other factors.
These include destinations in the U.S. Virgin Islands such as Saint John and St. Thomas. Puerto Rico also has a number of resorts, including some five-star hotels with a wide range of amenities.
Every year, the population in the area of this city on Florida’s west coast goes from about 22,000 to more than 300,000. The reason this happens: snowbirds, people who’ve determined they’d rather beat the winter weather and go somewhere that isn’t cold and desolate.
Some people own second properties in Naples, but that’s not the only option for getting down there in the winter. Thanks to home sharing and the vacation rental industry, it’s easier than ever for seniors to get a taste of Florida living without having to break the bank.
It’s not to say winter weather should be avoided at all costs. Minnesota amenities include the annual Winter Carnival in Saint Paul. There is also ice fishing. While the northern lights aren’t as predictably visible as they are in summer months, the winter season still makes a nice time overall to visit the Land of 10,000 Lakes, provided travelers prepare for the cold.
Sundance Film Festival (Park City, Ut.)
Some seniors might want to travel to winter festivals, which could mean going to Rio Carnival for anyone adventurous enough to head down to Brazil or a winter wonderland like SnowFest near Lake Tahoe (pro tip: stay in South Lake Tahoe to save money) for people looking for something closer to home.
Or, attending a winter festival could mean getting to America’s premier film festival, located about an hour from Salt Lake City.
A haven for independent films, movies that have opened at Sundance include “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Napoleon Dynamite.” While a film festival might sound more like an elitist enclave than a relaxing winter getaway, it’s quite welcoming for attendees of all ages, with tickets to single screenings typically starting at $25.
For those who get tired of sitting in theaters, Park City also has excellent skiing, with city buses able to take people and their skis up to the slopes. Two of America’s best national parks that stay open during the winter – Bryce and Zion – are also located in Utah and within a few hours’ drive each from Park City.
The most populous state on the Pacific Coast is one of America’s greatest places to visit. Its perpetually warm weather, particularly in Southern California, makes it ideal for winter getaways.
Those looking to beat the winter blues can venture to Palm Springs, which is conveniently located near Joshua Tree National Park. Catch a little winter sun in San Diego or drive the glorious stretch of U.S. 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura. Those who make it to San Diego will want to check out Balboa Park, Southern California’s answer to Central Park in New York City or the bohemian Pacific Beach.
Venturing to the central part of the state, Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stays open year round.
It’s not to say there isn’t also a more traditional winter destination or two in Northern California. Sacramento has a seasonal downtown ice skating rink. Numerous ski resorts can be found to the east in the Sierra Nevada foothills, from high-end sites like Palisades Tahoe (which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics under its previous name, Squaw Valley) to more affordable ski resorts such as Boreal Mountain. There are opportunities for both downhill and cross country skiing.
Winter vacation cruises
Aside from international or domestic trips, another option for seniors looking for a winter travel gateway is to book a cruise.
Not every potential cruise destination will have warm air or cool waters this time of year, with otherwise iconic cruises like Alaska or Scandinavia best saved for the summer. There are still plenty of locations worth cruising to for winter getaways, such as:
Florida and The Bahamas
This one’s kind of a two-fer. Seniors can start off by visiting a destination like Walt Disney World or Universal Studios Florida in Orlando and then heading off on a cruise to the nearby Bahamas.
Bahamian locations that can be stopped at include the tiny island of Bimini (boats dock at North Bimini) and capital city of Nassau. The latter stop is a relatively small island as well, able to be driven around in a rental car in a matter of hours.
All in all, turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean and relaxed island vibes can make for a very nice cruise.
Want to see one of the places where Charles Darwin did evolutionary research nearly two centuries ago? These islands off the coast of South America contain a link to history. The Galapagos are also a popular winter cruise destination, with five-day packages starting around $3,000.
These islands are also ideal during the winter, remaining fairly temperate throughout the year. That said, one word of warning: November through March averages 10 days of precipitation per month. While the rainy areas aren’t universal throughout the Galapagos, travelers will want to at least pack a windbreaker along with swimsuits and suntan.
Maybe the safest current method for seniors to experience a little bit of Mexico might come through taking a cruise down there. After all, cruises are controlled environments that will be difficult for would-be thieves or kidnappers to infiltrate. Shore excursions can be done in organized groups, with the old saying being that there’s safety in numbers.
Popular Mexican cruise destinations include Ensenada, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, with a range of packages and price points available.
These days, going on cruises doesn’t just have to mean hitting international waters. Some seniors might prefer a cruise along various rivers in the United States.
For the winter, it’s good to find a river where the climate will be warm enough to be able to enjoy time out on the deck of the ship. The Mississippi River, which runs from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Minnesota can meet these requirements, particularly in more southern areas of the river such as New Orleans. River cruises go from there to cities like Memphis, with side jaunts to places like the Music City, and Nashville.
More adventurous seniors can also bookend a wintertime riverboat cruise from New Orleans with a visit to the city for its famed Mardi Gras revelries.
Prepare for your winter getaway
We hope this has been helpful for planning the perfect winter vacation. Wherever you wind up going, Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) can give you the protection and support you need while on your winter trip.
Different than just ordinary travel insurance, we offer the following for our members: