Retirees have a huge advantage in planning vacations: they can travel in the off-season or “shoulder” seasons. It’s a great way to avoid crowds and save money on airfare and accommodations. Seniors often save even more with senior-only airfare and hotel discounts. Use these senior travel tips to find the perfect activity and destination.
Relaxation, Romance, or Recreation?
Before you begin researching particular destinations or tours, think carefully about what you want out of the trip. No matter what your interest, there’s probably a tour that covers it.
Someone wanting a restful vacation with no worries or obligations might enjoy an all-inclusive resort, long cruise, or stay at a spa. But if you’re looking more for excitement or education, consider these options:
- Educational tours often focus on the history and culture of a particular country or region. They combine sightseeing with learning opportunities, and some of the most interesting are offered through special interest groups or magazines. For instance, many public television stations offered “Downton Abbey” tour packages after the TV show became popular in the US. Scientific American magazine offers cruises that include lectures with noted scientists.
- Special interest vacations run the gamut from rock and roll fantasy camp, where adults release their inner rock star, to international soccer tours to culinary tours covering every conceivable cuisine.
- Volunteer vacations give you the opportunity to give back, and they’re often surprisingly inexpensive. You may even be able to deduct part of the trip as a charitable contribution. The Volunteer Alliance database contains projects sorted by region, cause (medical, educational, etc.), and estimated weekly cost.
Travel experts recommend that first-time international travelers opt for a guided tour – at least during the first part of the trip. That helps you get comfortable with the local area, cultural norms, and make new friends. Many tours allow travelers to delay their return, so you aren’t obligated to head home with the rest of the group. Strike out on your own for a few days (or weeks) with no extra airfare charge.
Get as much information from the tour operator as possible about the composition of the group you’ll be traveling with. There are so many options, you’re sure to find one that fits your requirements: seniors-only, women-only, senior women only, couples, singles, family tours, etc.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy
The main disadvantages that seniors encounter are medical and safety concerns, but don’t let either keep you at home!
Buy travel insurance for costly, non-refundable travel. It’s more expensive for seniors, but $200 to protect yourself from a $5,000 (or more) loss just makes sense. A warning: study the policy carefully before you buy to make sure you’ll have adequate coverage. Many policies cover trip interruption as well as cancellation, so if you’re delayed for a week after a volcanic eruption shuts down air travel, the policy would cover expenses, sometimes even extra clothes. Read the exclusions and fill out the forms carefully: some policies appear to exclude anything that’s likely to cause cancellation.
Consider a GPS medical alert button. We’ll call for help if you can’t. Our GPS medical alert can be worn on a lanyard or clipped to your belt loop. Easily call for help if you slip in your hotel room shower, fall on a deserted street, or find yourself in a situation that seems unsafe.
Pack medications in carry-on luggage and have a copy of your prescriptions just in case you lose it or run out.
Don’t carry a lot of cash or valuables on the trip. Unfortunately, criminals see older people as easy prey for mugging or theft. That’s one reason to travel in a group, particularly in an unfamiliar place. Always carry a charged cell phone and have maps downloaded along with a taxi or ride-hailing app. You need to know where you are and have a way to quickly leave a sketchy area or situation.
Protect your home while you’re away as well. Social media is the burglar’s best friend, so don’t brag about your trip before you leave, and save the photo posts for when you return home. Do share your trip details with a trusted friend or family member though. Check in with them daily – particularly if you’re traveling solo.
Never think you’re too old for new experiences and use these senior travel tips to make new memories. Travel has lasting health and cognitive benefits, but most important, it’s just plain fun.
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