Senior Travel — The Boomer’s Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Dream Vacation (Frugal Tips Included)

Dawn M. Bauman
20 min readJul 17, 2019


The kids are grown and out of the house. Work is winding down. You have “free time” and are looking to fill it.

You’ve always wanted to travel, to see the world. But now that you have the time, you’re not sure where to go, what to see or do.

And you’re not sure you can afford to travel like you’ve always dreamed. You hear stories about friends of friends finding incredible vacation deals. But how do you find them? Are they really great deals or are they scams? You’ve read that senior travel fraud is on the rise.

You’ve always thought you’d travel with your spouse. But he ignores your well-placed travel brochures and subtle hints. Or she’s not adventurous like you. She prefers to stay home and tend her garden. Does that mean you have to be content with only dreaming about FaceBook ads taking you away from it all?

If not your spouse, who would you go with? Should you travel alone? Or find a senior travel companion? Or maybe check out a tour for seniors traveling alone?

Google “senior travel” and you’ll find over 2 billion web pages ready to answer your questions.

With over 2 billion results, how do you sort through all this information?

Senior Travel — The Boomer’s Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Dream Vacation (Frugal Tips Included) does it for you. In one comprehensive guide, it gives you the who, what, when, where, why and how to confidently plan your senior travel adventure — without breaking the bank.

What’s In It For You? — The Benefits of Senior Travel

But first, why should you travel?

Walking through airports, managing luggage and bags, meandering through towns, climbing stairs and hills, even swimming and hanging out poolside, gets you moving. Regular physical activity decreases blood pressure as well as stress which lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Meeting new people, exploring new places, and trying new activities. These all challenge and stimulate the brain, keeping your mind sharp and creating new neural pathways which may help prevent or slow cognitive decline and dementia.

And last but not least, traveling encourages social interaction, something seniors often miss when they stop their daily work routine. 86% of respondents in a 2013 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey said travel improved their general mood and outlook on life.

Be the Captain of Your Trip — Independent Senior Travel Tips

Some senior travelers like to make their own arrangements. They enjoy researching new places, reading reviews, planning itineraries, and traveling at their own pace. If that’s you, the fun is just beginning.

Step 1: Decide when and where you want to go.

Senior travelers are lucky, no two ways about it. Since you’re not tied to work schedules, you can take advantage of off-season and “shoulder season” discounts. Traveling during “shoulder season” (April to mid-June & September through October) offers you the best weather, the cheapest prices, and the smallest crowds.

You’ll often find travel deals during the first two weeks in December — when there’s a lull in holiday travel. And January is one of the cheapest months to travel since working folk are back in the office after the holidays.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday flights are usually the cheapest, especially if you travel late morning or early afternoon when business travelers are less likely to be on-board.

Rumor has it, airlines discount seats late on Monday night, making Tuesday the best day to buy. Skyscanner confirmed that frugal travel tip.

And, as long as you’re reasonably fit and in good health, age doesn’t have to limit your travel destination or activities. Pick your destination and go for it.

Step 2: Research flights and accommodations.

Check out flights and decide where you want to lay your head. Taima of Poor in a Private Plane shares her process for finding great air fares. One of her best tips: Research in Private or Stealth Mode — she shows exactly how to do this and explains why you should.

Where to Rest Your Weary Head: Options Galore for Senior Travelers

Ironically, sleep will be one of the biggest expenses in your travel budget. Luckily, from ritzy hotels to free couchsurfing, there are options galore to satisfy every traveler’s wallet — and sense of adventure.

Hotels & Motels

Sometimes, hotel loyalty programs give you the best bang for your buck. If you belong to one, keep it in mind when you’re deciding where to sleep.

According to Frommer’s, and Agoda are currently the best hotel booking websites. They offer the most choices for the best prices.

Alternative Accommodations

Alternative accommodations such as hostels, hosted accommodations, home exchange, and housesitting can stretch your dollars. Not just for Millenials, these places are great choices for senior travelers too.


You may have known them as youth hostels back in the day, but hostels are for anybody adventurous enough to stay in one. They’re a community-oriented, low-cost alternative to hotels for senior travelers. Staying in a hostel is a great way to meet new people in a unique environment. Accommodations range from downtown buildings to remote country cottages, from beach houses to historic castles.

Warning: Most hostels maintain a strict curfew. If you’re late, you could find yourself locked out.

Hosted Accommodations

Hosted accommodations combine the advantages of traveling solo with the opportunity to share your stories and adventures with your hosts while learning great local tips.

Airbnb is one of the most well-known hosted accommodation websites. Originally intended for lodging, it now offers local experiences and tourist activities too. Membership is free. Some hosts stipulate a minimum number of days per stay. Hosts and guests review each other separately after a reservation is complete so opinions are candid and unbiased.

Read how these senior travelers became Airbnb experts by staying over 1000 nights in Airbnb accommodations.

Evergreen Homestay Travel Club is a membership ($75/year) bed and breakfast club for senior travelers (50+). By offering their seldom-used guest rooms, the club has developed a network of lodgings, mainly across the USA and Canada. For $10 to $15 a night you can stay in a comfortable private home with friendly hosts willing to share first-hand information about local attractions. Breakfast included!

Affordable Travel Club is another private bed and breakfast membership club for mature travelers (40+).

Couchsurfing is an international network of people who offer a sofa — or sometimes a spare room — free to travelers. Couchsurfing has no membership fee and no minimum or maximum stay. But remember to be considerate of your hosts; you’re relying on their good nature.

Home Exchange

If you’d like to stay put for a few weeks to really explore your destination and live like a local, home exchange or house swapping might be for you.

Short Term Residence

If you’re traveling with a group — friends or family — and need more than two rooms, a vacation or house rental may be the perfect way to go. It’s cheaper than multiple hotel rooms, you can eat in if you prefer (saving on restaurant costs), and, let’s face it, sharing common space offers spontaneous moments for laughter.

Step 3: Decide Your Activities and How to Get Around

You’ve booked your flight and reserved your rooms. Now make a list of what you want to see, do, and eat. Then figure out how you’re going to get there.

TripAdvisor is an excellent resource for finding the best things to see and do, as well as the best places to eat.

Airbnb Experiences has good information. Even if you don’t book with them, you’ll get some great ideas.

Senior Travel Tips: Transportation

  • Subways involve a lot of walking and stairs.
  • City buses or taxis are good alternatives.
  • Railpasses often give senior discounts.
  • Uber is available in 58 countries & 300 cities worldwide.
  • Lyft is available in most US states.
  • Some car rental companies have an upper age limit so be sure to reserve ahead and mention your age. If you don’t meet their car rental criteria, leasing might be an option; age restrictions are less stringent.

Senior Travel Tips: Exploring the City

  • Take a city bus tour (usually 1–2 hours long) for an overview of the city’s highlights.
  • Take a boat tour — of the harbor, river, lake.
  • Hire a cabbie to show you the city or region. (Ask for an air-conditioned taxi if it’s hot outside).
  • Book day tours with reliable companies. Look for ones offering front-of-the-line access such as City Wonders or Context Travel Tours.
  • Book an activity (such as a city walking or biking tour) led by a local host on Airbnb Experiences or Sandemans New Europe Tours.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff — Senior Travel Tours

For those who like to have others manage the details, travel tours are a great option. A travel tour company puts together packages and itineraries and participants travel together.

The tour company usually books your flights, reserves accommodations, arranges sightseeing destinations and activities, and even covers some of your meals. You don’t have to worry about finding transportation, getting lost, missing an important historic site, or not speaking the language. You just sit back, relax, and enjoy your time.

Travel tours come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. Some travel companies arrange tours specifically for senior travelers while others have itineraries appropriate for several age groups (which are good for multi-generational vacations).

Senior Travel Tip: Think about your own physical abilities. If you’re out of shape, walking the Inca Trail might not be the best idea for you. But taking a bus ride to the top of the mountain to see Machu Picchu might be a good fit.

Senior Travel Tip: Be sure to talk to the trip organizers and leaders if you have any special needs (dietary or medication requirements, physical challenges). Most will try to make arrangements and accommodate you, if possible.

The following tours are either designed specifically for senior travelers or they have tours suitable for senior travelers. Stride Travel provides reviews of tour and adventure packages.

Senior Travel Tours for 50+

Cultural & Educational Travel Tours

Active & Adventure Travel Tours

Special Interest, Niche, and Themed Tours

Are you a theater lover? A history buff? A foodie? There are “niche” or themed travel tours for almost any hobby. Special interest tours are generally small (often between 10 to 24 people) and full of people who share your passion.

Whether you’re a craft beer enthusiast, a literary lover, or a motorcycle fanatic, find your special interest tour by typing:

[your hobby or interest] + [tours]

into your search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) and surf the possibilities. (If you add “senior” or “boomer” to your search criteria, you’ll find tours specifically for seniors.)

Watch Margaret Manning of Sixty & Me explain how a themed tour can be an exciting travel adventure for you.


Cruises are extremely popular. From large cruise ships to small river cruises, senior travelers have taken to the water. The CruiseCritic gives their take on the nine best cruises for seniors.

If you’re looking for a special interest or niche cruise, type

[your hobby or interest] + [cruise]

into your search engine. Niche cruises often take place on smaller passenger or expedition ships, or they can be a sub-group on a larger ship.

Cruising doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are links to discount cruise sites, several highlighting discounts specifically for senior travelers.


From building hiking trails to rocking babies, from building schools and community wells to releasing sea turtles, from assisting field research to teaching English, there are many national and international voluntourism options available. This type of travel immerses you into another culture while allowing you to give back to a community in a tangible way.

Be aware, voluntourism is controversial. Some believe that non-government organizations (NGOs) are money-making businesses and outside volunteer activities do more harm than good to the local community. Be sure to do your research and check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) before signing with any company.

Volunteer International is a non-profit accrediting body that promotes awareness of quality volunteer-abroad programs. Go Overseas provides reviews and ratings of volunteer opportunities. Transitions Abroad provides a list of volunteer groups suitable for senior travelers. And American Hiking Society provides opportunities to build and maintain hiking trails in diverse locations across the USA.

Other voluntourism opportunities for senior travelers:

Calling All Grandkids

Boomers are taking their grandkids on adventures like never before, with and without their parents’ supervision. Road Scholar offers educational trips designed for grandparents to share with their grandchildren. Many hotels and resorts recognize the unique bond between generations and offer discounts or special programs for seniors with grandkids. Be sure to ask when you make your reservations.

A Rose By Any Other Name … What’s With Senior Travel Clubs & Senior Travel Groups?

In 2013, travel clubs were investigated by the Dallas Better Business Bureau after complaints about fraudulent business practices. They concluded: Travel clubs, in general, are defined as paid-membership organizations that offer its members discount travel services. However, the business models that function within the industry can vary greatly. Some are legitimate while others are deceptive in nature.” You can read their report here.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to differentiate between a “travel group” and a “travel club;” the terms are essentially synonymous. It basically boils down to how the founders named their organization.

Whatever you call them, travel groups and clubs are all about people who love to travel.

Local Travel Groups

Local travel groups generally meet in a private home or a local gathering place such as a library or community center. Members share travel pictures and stories, host speakers and give travel presentations.

Local travel groups sometimes sponsor trips or give travel recommendations. If you’re a single senior traveler, a local group can be a good place to meet like-minded senior travel companions. International Travel News provides a list of local travel clubs within the USA.

To find a local senior travel group in your area, check with

  • Local churches or religious organizations
  • Local senior or active adult recreational centers
  • The Internet
  • Facebook groups
  • Google search: Type into the search bar:

[senior travel club] + [your city or state].

Themed/Niche Senior Travel Groups

Just like special interest tours and cruises, you can find some niche travel clubs. Google [your interest] + [travel group] and see what pops up.

Luxury Train Club and 20th Century Railroad Club cater to train and railroad enthusiasts, Sisters On The Fly brings together women who love to camp (and fish), Black Travel Club caters to people of color and Out Adventures and Brand g Vacations pamper the LGBT crowd.

Discount Travel Membership Services

Some travel clubs are actually corporate in-house travel agencies that receive large group travel discounts by buying in bulk. Members pay annual dues in order to take advantage of whatever travel services and discounts are offered. Several discount travel membership services are:

Senior Travel Tip: Whether it’s a travel tour or called a travel group or club, be sure to research the company before booking or joining. Read the literature (including the fine print) and check with the BBB to make sure the company is on the up and up.

One is NOT the Loneliest Number — Single Senior Travel

Single, divorced, widowed, or married to a homebody — seniors are traveling solo. Which doesn’t necessarily mean traveling alone. Most travel tours accommodate solo travelers, making groups and tours for singles traveling alone a great option.

The disadvantage of solo travel is the extra cost of a single room. Since group discounts are based on double occupancy, tours generally charge a “single supplement” ranging from 10% to 50% of the cost of the double-occupancy room.

But solo travel is a competitive business. Some tour companies offer special features to capture the single traveler market.

Classic Journeys, for example, states that a third of their guests are solo travelers. They claim to have the lowest single supplement fee. Discover Corps waives the single supplement on some of their trips. Voyages to Antiquity markets low single supplement fees and dedicated single cabins.

Solo Traveler is an online site where people passionate about solo traveling exchange travel tips and encouragement. They discuss the how and why of solo travel, feature weekly articles on travel destinations, and post photos submitted by their readers. Transitions Abroad is another popular website for single and senior traveler information.

Survey says: Women are Traveling Solo

Single female travel has become a niche market unto itself. According to a 2014 Solo Travel Report “72% of American women have embraced solo travel and are taking advantage of unique destinations for inspiration and self-discovery.”

Solo female travelers report they enjoy the freedom to do what they want when they want where they want — without having to wait around for others.

Travel groups specifically designed for single female travelers have popped up, creating tight-knit groups that foster friendship and a sense of security while exploring the world. With the single female travel market being so robust, many travel tours cater to their needs.

Thelma & Louise, Women Traveling Together, and Women Travel the World are all female-only travel groups. She Cruises offers great cruise tips and information, geared toward women. And while The Traveling Professor is not a female-only tour group, they boast that many of their small group tours are approximately 80% female.

Senior Travel Companions: 1+1= More Fun

Let’s face it. Some seniors love to travel but don’t like traveling solo. Some seniors are tired of paying single supplements. Some seniors have special needs and need a little extra help while traveling.

A senior travel companion might be the answer.

The best way to find a travel companion is to ask around. Let your friends and family know that you’re looking for somebody to travel with. Check out your local senior center, groups, and local travel groups. If you don’t find a travel companion using these methods, you might try the Internet.

  • Senior Travel Buddy is a membership site (requires a monthly subscription) which matches LOCAL SAME SEX SENIOR TRAVELERS who want a travel companion to share trips such as cruises and tours but don’t want to pay the single supplement for a cruise cabin or solo accommodation on a tour.
  • SilverSurfers is a social network (dating) website for seniors looking for friendship, travel, and/or romance.

Senior Travel Tip: Before booking those tickets, make sure your travel styles are compatible. Get together either in person or by video teleconferencing (Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom) to talk about:

Tethered to Oxygen? No Worries! — The Senior Traveler with Special Health Needs

Nowadays, senior travelers with special health needs (such as supplemental oxygen, CPAP, mobility problems) can still travel comfortably. It just takes a little extra planning to help make your trip a success.

If you’re going on a tour or with a group, check with the tour organizer or trip leader to make sure they can accommodate your needs.

Cruises are often a good choice for senior travelers with health problems. Some cruise ships even provide dialysis services for passengers with chronic kidney failure.

For more information:

  • The US Department of Transportation provides travel tips and information for senior travelers with medical challenges.
  • This advice from TSA for senior travelers with disabilities includes information and contact numbers for their helpline and resource specialists.
  • This TSA webpage answers questions about screening procedures for people with special medical circumstances, ranging from Alzheimer or dementia to travelers with internal devices such as pacemakers and internal defibrillators.
  • This TSA webpage clarifies the screening policy for senior travelers over the age of 75.

Senior Travel Insurance … A Good Buy or A Waste of Cash?

At some point during your planning, travel insurance will come up. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends senior travelers consider buying “3 types of insurance: travel insurance, travel health insurance, and medical evacuation insurance.” So what are they?

Senior Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance covers the cost of your trip in case of a cancellation. Most policies provide lost luggage and/or trip delay protection as well as limited emergency medical coverage.

Senior Travel Health Insurance

Travel Health (Medical) Insurance covers medical expenses when traveling overseas for less than a year. It’s more comprehensive than travel insurance, adding more medical coverage. Trip cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage and travel delay protection can all be added to this type of policy.

There are 2 main types of travel health insurance:

Senior Travel Tip: Before purchasing travel health insurance, check how your own health insurance works. Medicare and some supplemental insurances won’t cover medical care when traveling outside the USA. But some insurance plans do.

Senior Travel Medical Evacuation Insurance

Medical Evacuation Insurance provides coverage for transporting you or a loved one to a hospital or safe zone in case of an emergency. It fills the transportation gap that many travel medical insurance plans don’t cover.

Senior Travel Tip: If you plan to roam the world for more than a year, consider an International Health Plan. These are long-term health insurance policies for expatriates and global nomads living abroad.

Is Travel Insurance Really Necessary? And How Much Will It Cost Me?

According to Consumer Report (CR), buying travel insurance is not always necessary. Megan Leonardt in this CNBC article explains when you should definitely purchase travel insurance and when you might skip it.

If you do decide to buy, expect senior travel insurance to add 5–8% to the cost of your trip (which may be a fantastic deal if you need to use it.) CR recommends buying travel insurance through an online broker such as InsureMyTrip or Squaremouth. This CR article shares tips on keeping costs down when buying travel insurance.

Senior Travel Tip: Read the policy carefully. Many policies require you to purchase your coverage at least 10 to 14 days before you travel. A “free look” period (usually 10–15 days) allowing you to review the policy is common. If the plan isn’t what you need or want, you can make changes or even cancel the policy during that time (generally with a small administration fee).

Don’t Get Taken for an Unwanted Ride — Senior Travel Fraud

Senior travel fraud is big business. Airline tickets, special events, timeshares and vacation clubs are all high-risk for fraudulent schemes. When planning your travel, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

But … there are some fantastic legitimate travel deals to be had. The travel market is competitive and reputable websites scour the internet looking for deals to pass along.

Senior Travel Tip: To avoid being scammed while on the road traveling, follow these tips from Nomadic Matt.

Knowledge is a Wonderful Thing: More Senior Travel Tips

From money to safety to special travel needs, here are a few more senior travel tips to help you enjoy your next adventure.



  • Use travel cubes to keep everything organized.
  • Use quart and gallon size ziploc baggies to collect papers or store wet items.
  • Bring a magnifying glass for detailed maps and small-print schedules,
  • Bring a keychain flashlight for candlelit restaurants and dark hotel hallways.
  • Bring a small notebook to jot down facts and reminders.


  • Book tours that collect and drop off from hotels.
  • Ask the hotel staff to arrange transportation when you go out. Take a business card from the hotel so you have their address handy.
  • Keep a photocopy of your passport separate from your passport. Email yourself a copy as a double back-up.
  • Bring a rubber door wedge for doors that might not have a good lock.
  • Don’t post your plans or location on social media until after you’ve returned.
  • Consider enrolling in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service which allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Benefits include: receiving important information about safety conditions in your destination country, the U.S. Embassy being able to contact you in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency), and family and friends being able to get in touch with you in case of an emergency.

Limited Mobility/Special Medical Needs

  • Give advance notice (at least 24–48 hours) to the airline of any special needs.
  • A gate pass is obtainable for anybody accompanying a person with special needs.
  • The limit of 1 carry-on and 1 personal item doesn’t apply to medical supplies, equipment, mobility aids, and assistive devices.
  • If you have a pacemaker, check to see if it’s safe to go through the metal detector or hand-wand; if not, make arrangements for alternate screening.
  • Keep all medical supplies with you, along with personal identification.
  • Take advantage of special transportation services offered by airlines, cruise lines, and train stations such as wheelchairs and golf cart services.
  • Ask for rooms designed for people with limited mobility or special needs when making your hotel reservations. Ask for a room close to the elevators or on the ground floor.
  • If you wear hearing aids, bring spare batteries; other countries may not have the correct size.


  • Pack medications in their own clearly identified carry-on bag.
  • Keep medications in the original bottles. The information on the labels makes it easier to refill while away from home and it avoids problems if questioned at the airport.
  • Bring an extra week’s supply of medication “just in case” of any travel delays.
  • Bring a copy of your prescriptions in case of stolen or lost medications.
  • Check if any medications are restricted in your destination country.
  • Bring a note from your doctor if needles or other paraphernalia are needed.

Shopping & Customs

  • Check U.S. Customs rules to know what and how much you’re allowed to bring back duty-free from other countries.
  • Check U.S. Customs rules before bringing food into the USA. Dogs check for food that’s unlawful to import (even if it’s packed in checked luggage).
  • Avoid long customs lines. Consider downloading and using the Mobile Passport App and Mobile Passport Control express lane.

Pack Your Bags — Join the Senior Travel Movement!

With more free time and less family responsibilities, retirement — the golden age of adult life — is the perfect opportunity to get out and see the world. Senior travel doesn’t have to break the bank and you don’t have to go it alone — if you don’t want to.

Whether you dream of sitting poolside drinking Mai-tais, crashing through white water on a rubber raft, or soaking up history at ancient Roman ruins, a little planning is all it takes to turn your dream into reality.

So pull out your bucket list, choose your destination … and start planning.

Soon you’ll be sharing real stories from your dream vacation … and friends of friends will be asking you how they can do it too.



Dawn M. Bauman

Dawn Bauman is a certified content marketing & SEO specialist, writing for the health & wellness industry. You can find her at