You’ve worked hard your whole life and you’ve dreamed of traveling to several exotic locations. Now that you’ve retired, you’re ready to hit the road (or runway). Perhaps you want to travel with your spouse, join a group of older adults or join family or friends on their vacations. The options are limited only by your pocketbook and your imagination.
Senior Travel Tips
You’ve waited a long time to enjoy this time in your life. Let’s look at things you can do to make traveling the best experience possible.
- Travel Insurance: Be sure to purchase travel insurance to cover the unexpected such as trip cancellations, medical expenses, lost luggage and other incidents associated with travel. Since medical issues are more likely to come up for the senior traveler, it makes sense to purchase travel insurance just in case the trip must be canceled due to a medical problem. Check what your health insurance covers when you’re out of the country. Many Medicare supplemental insurance plans do not provide coverage outside of the US. Travel insurance would provide this much-needed coverage.
Although most people dream of traveling during retirement, according to a report, Journey to Healthy Aging: Planning for Travel in Retirement, only 18% of Americans have specifically saved for retirement travel. This means that most Americans will need to be creative to fulfill their wanderlust after retirement.
Some ways you can save on travel and vacation costs include:
- Group trips: Because travel agencies purchase tickets in bulk, they can pass the savings on to you. Group travel is generally lead by expert guides steering you towards the best things to do when at specific locales. If you’re traveling solo, it’s a great way to do so without feeling “alone.”
- Off-Season Travel: Since you’re retired and no longer tied to a time clock, you have the flexibility of traveling during off-peak travel times, allowing you to take advantage of lower rates. Flights on Monday through Wednesday, especially those during the late morning or afternoon, will save on airfare. Off-season travel will give you further savings on accommodations and attractions. Three great places to find discount flights are The Flight Deal, Secret Flying and Holiday Pirates.
- Honey Travel: According to Travel+Leisure, Honey generally offers hotel discounts better than those you’ll find on other booking sites. Honey is a free service (a browser extension) that automatically searches for discounts and coupon codes.
- Senior Discounts: Many organizations and retailers offer senior discounts, so be sure to inquire about them as you make reservations and as you travel. Members of AAA, AARP and veterans’ groups can receive discounts at hotels, airlines, tour providers and car rental agencies. The National Park Service sells an $80 (plus $10 handling fee) for a lifetime senior pass to those 62 and older. Some airlines offer a limited number of senior fares. Many hotels offer senior discounts.
- Stay at Hostels: Hostels offer affordable places to stay when traveling. Hostels are popular with younger travelers, so be prepared to run into a lot of partiers during a stay. But as one senior shared, if there’s too much activity in a hostel, they haven’t lost a lot of money should they decide to move on. Sites to help locate a hostel include Hostels.com, HostelWorld.com, Hosteling International and Hostel Bookers.
- Stay at an Airbnb: An Airbnb offers you someone’s home as a place to stay instead of a hotel. Accommodations may be an entire home or someone’s spare room. You can find unique accommodations ranging from a castle to an igloo.
- Additional Resources: Kiplinger.com provides a list of sites for the best travel deals to help you save money. Cruise Sheet and Vacations To Go are great places to locate discounts on cruises, although they may not be senior specific. Intrepid, Kiwi Experience (New Zealand), Context Travel (walking tours) and BusAbout are great places to find discounts on tours and excursions, especially last minute, but again, they may not be senior specific.
- Senior Travel Groups and Clubs: These groups allow you to save on senior travel. They are discussed in the following section.
No matter what kind of organization or group you choose to travel with, it’s important to plan sufficiently for your trip. If you have special needs, touch base with the group to ensure they can accommodate your needs. The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality offers travel tips and access information for travel destinations. They also have a great listing of disability travel websites.
Senior Travel Groups and Clubs
- Senior Travel Clubs/Groups: Senior travel clubs/groups organize trips for its members, offering vacation packages at great rates and provide a wonderful way for solo vacationers to travel with a group of like-minded seniors. Elder Treks, Row Adventures and Walking the World specialize in adventure travel, something many boomers are searching for. Before joining a club, be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau and read their literature, especially the fine print, to ensure the group you have chosen is reputable.
- Educational Travel: Road Scholar is a not-for-profit organization and was once known as Elderhostel International. It offers thousands of affordable learning adventures for adults, both nationally and internationally. Some scholarships are available for those who don’t have the financial means to participate.
- Voluntourism: A volunteer vacation allows you to give back in a multitude of ways and enjoy various cultures, depending upon the organization through which you volunteer and travel. The trips aren’t free but can be rewarding and provide an economical way to visit a particular area. National and international opportunities are available. Some organizations to check out include REI Adventures, American Hiking Society, Discover Corps, Global Volunteers and Earth Watch. Many others are available.
Benefits of Senior Travel
Travel during retirement is more than an enjoyable activity. It’s good for you!
- It keeps you active, and older adults who are more physically active have lower rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.
- It stimulates and challenges your brain as you encounter new people, cultures and environments.
- It reduces stress and improves your mood and outlook on life.
- It strengthens and deepens friendships.
And, it’s just plain fun! So, get out and enjoy a vacation. You’ve earned it!