Planning a once-in-lifetime travel excursion means accounting for a wide range of factors. Here’s how to do it.
Published on December 7th, 2023 in Destinations
Senior travel unlocks a world of possibilities, from getting to see new places to making new friends. Still, it might also be daunting to know where to start.
Today, we offer the ultimate guide for senior citizens looking to plan a vacation anywhere in the world. We’ll cover the advantages of making trips, travel tips on best practices for planning excursions and types of trips for older travelers to consider.
Join us as you plan your next adventure!
4 reasons to plan
There are numerous reasons to consider embarking on tours or other travel experiences, more than can probably fit on this page. Here are four of the most salient reasons:
1. A safe way to see new places
It’s understandable if a person is apprehensive about visiting a part of the world where the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory or even where there’s been dramatic news coverage. People have to take their safety into account when they travel, as while incidents overall are rare, things can happen.
As the Seattle Times noted in October 2023, “Travel will always be dangerous, to a certain extent. Even the safest places can be problematic.”
With organized travel tours, senior citizens get a line of defense. They get a company with experienced tour directors and other staff who can plan a reasonably safe itinerary of excursions. They get a group to travel in, offering the proverbial safety in numbers. And they get activities planned with their age group in mind.
2. The chance to forge new friendships
It gets harder to make new acquaintances once a person has stopped going into an office or other place of work each day. Seniors have to actively work sometimes to get out and meet new people and that isn’t always the easiest thing, either. It’s easy for folks to stay home and stick with old routines such as watching television, gardening or reading.
Vacations put an end to isolation. Whether on a bus, cruise ship or other means of transportation, people from different walks of life who are traveling together will get to know one another. Lasting friendships can be formed. There’s even a chance for people traveling unattached to meet new romantic partners—in a recent survey of Americans who’d traveled internationally, 23 percent said they’d met their spouse while on vacation.
3. It’s good for physical health
Some seniors removed from having to work 40 hours a week might find themselves struggling to figure out how to fill the hours of the day. And this can quickly lead to malaise and physical issues like weight gain and higher blood pressure and cholesterol.
Just as seniors have to strive sometimes to meet new people in retirement, they’ll also want to do what they can to keep themselves active. Travel is excellent for this, giving senior citizens a chance to get all sorts of exercise, whether it’s going on walking tours through museums, dancing with a loved one in a plaza in Florence, Italy, or—for those who prefer less walking or active vacations—lounging on the deck of a cruise ship.
4. It’s good for mental health
People of all ages are wise to look after their mental health, whether by eating well, exercising or taking time for themselves to rest, among other things. For seniors, this is especially important. Columbia University Irving Medical Center noted in 2022 that nearly 10% of people over the age of 65 have dementia, while an additional 22% were experiencing mild cognitive impairment.
The good news is that there are many activities people can engage in to either lessen the risk of developing memory issues or to reduce how much these issues interfere with their quality of life. Interestingly, a 2022 study by Tourism Management found that travel could be among these activities. “The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but experts have proposed there may be significant (advantages) of travel for people with dementia, particularly in the areas of mental health and well-being,” an article on MedicalNewsToday noted.
Best practices for senior travelers
Planning an ideal trip for senior travelers may not be quite the same as putting together plans for younger travelers. There are all sorts of different considerations as older adults are a unique demographic with their own needs and different interests when it comes to vacationing domestically or abroad.
Here are a number of best practices to keep in mind so that older travelers will have a positive experience:
Research the company you travel with
There’s no shortage of potential travel companies that a person can use these days. There were a staggering 168,897 global travel agency services in 2023 (which actually represented a 2.6% decline from 2022.) In a world that hit 8 billion people in November 2022, it works out to about one travel agency for every 47,000 people, meaning that if you live in even a modest-sized metropolitan area, you likely have several different local options.
For seniors, it’s smart to go beyond just local travel companies and seek out ones that cater to older adults. A few companies along these lines are:
Choosing the ideal company for your needs can help ensure you have the right mix of activities, whether you desire a relaxed pace or something more strenuous.
Consider traveling with people you know
When older adults get an idea to travel somewhere, their options aren’t necessarily just to embark as solo travelers or on guided tours with total strangers. There’s a good chance would-be older travelers also have some old buddies who’d be happy to make the trip with them, whether it’s to Cairo, Illinois or Egypt.
While it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to forge new bonds on small group tours, people who’ve known each other for decades getting to experience an unforgettable trip together can bring out new levels of friendship. It’s a way to get to know people much better. It’s also good to have familiar faces in unfamiliar lands.
Get strategic about time of year
Many people travel in the summer, with June and July generally the most popular months. It makes sense that families look to getaway those months, with weather heating up, children out of school and many industries open minded about workers getting time off at this point of the year.
Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with planning a tour at even the busiest time of the year. Some experiences just have to be had, whether it’s watching Fourth of July fireworks in Hawaii or lingering on the deck of a cruise ship to enjoy the seemingly-endless daylight of a June evening in southern Alaska.
Having acknowledged this, though, there’s something else to say here: Seniors can be strategic about when they make their trips. Less encumbered by the schedules of children or jobs, seniors can take advantage of off-peak deals. It might mean tolerating a bit of incumbent weather, but it can mean fewer crowds and a lot of saved money on things like hotels.
Be open-minded about where you go
By this same token, it’s also smart to keep an open mind about where trips or organized tours might wind up.
A person in their senior years probably has a favorite travel destination – whether it’s an old honeymoon location returned to at various points or just a spot that’s reliably brought joy. Still, it’s never too late to mix new places into the repertoire, whether it’s Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany or even Burning Man in the northern Nevada desert.
There’s a chance a person might find a new favorite place by going somewhere they’ve never been, even if this comes late in life. Beyond that, while senior discounts can materialize wherever, people can likely travel more easily on even a tight budget and score deals on hotels or airlines if they’re less tied to going to any particular place.
Common types of senior travel tours or trips
The thing about choosing a particular destination for a senior vacation is that there’s pretty much an endless number of possible places to visit in the world. That said, popular trips for seniors often segment into one of the following four areas:
It’s gotten easier over the years to travel by motorhome than having to spend $200,000 or so to own one of them. People can easily rent RVs these days as they need them through companies such as Cruise America or from individual owners on websites like RVshare. While there are still numerous tips and tricks to consider, such as booking long in advance and making sure that sleeping accommodations on the rig will suffice, rental motorhoming is something that can be enjoyed by people across the age spectrum.
For those who can afford it and travel frequently enough to justify the cost, motorhome ownership can also lead to many enjoyable trips in retirement. There are meetups in places like Loveland, Colorado or Chattanooga, Tennessee and many more. Some older adults might even choose to live out of RVs, though so-called van life isn’t for the faint of heart.
If you’re looking for some RV trips, consider the Oregon coast along U.S. Route 101 offers glorious views, mild temperatures and cute small cities to stop in such as Astoria (where movies like “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop” were filmed.) Anyone who wants to cruise further north or south along the 101 can also rejoice. This highway spans clear from San Luis Obispo in California and to the Canadian border in Washington state.
Related reading: Planning the Ultimate RV Road Trip
An idea has floated around the internet in recent years of retiring on cruise ships, given that it can sometimes be cheaper than going into assisted living or even high-end independent senior condos. Certainly, cruises are popular among seniors. A 2022 CNBC article on the burgeoning cruise ship retirement trend noted that one-third of people who’d cruised in a recent year were over the age of 60.
Even for people who don’t necessarily want to make the likes of a cruise line their old age home, cruises can be a fun adventure in retirement. There are fine dinners, live music and shows onboard – sometimes even with famous acts – and shore outings in various ports of call.
Cruise to consider: For anyone who doesn’t want to board an ocean liner the size of a small city, here’s an alluring option – small ship cruises along waterways like the 1,900-mile Saint Lawrence River that runs through Canadian cities such as Montreal.
Organized senior tours
Many seniors can and do travel independently to destinations as wild as the Amazon in South America. There’s nothing wrong with hooking on with a tour, though, that can provide focus, similarly-inclined participants and itineraries of places to visit on a daily basis.
Going on an organized tour can take the stress out of travel, allowing seniors to sit back and take a chance to explore and enjoy new sites. There can also be a variety of tour types to choose from, such as ones that go to casinos or national parks.
Organized tour to consider: The California coast between Carmel and Big Sur, which feels like a world unto itself with ragged cliffs, secluded beaches and sparse development. The views out the side of a tour bus are unforgettable in this part of America.
Guided tours with the whole family
It’s worth noting that organized tours don’t have to be just for seniors alone. Many tour companies will also allow seniors to bring along multiple generations of family.
Guided tour to consider: A bus tour through Europe allows a person’s children, grandchildren and other treasured family members to take in historical sites while ensuring that no one has to brave driving on the Autobahn or other international roads.
Prepare for your next senior vacation
Vacations are an activity every person should get to enjoy in their golden years and we hope this has been helpful. When the time comes to embark on your next adventure, be sure to bring along Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) for the journey.
As opposed to just ordinary travel insurance, we deliver various advantages for our members, such as:
A deep dive into the basics of off-season travel, a few different regional destinations, and tips for making the most of traveling in low season.Continue Reading