Senior Travel: Your 5-Question Answer Guide That Can Save You Thousands
You’ve retired, and the squares on your calendar are finally empty. No more meetings. No more commuting. Your time finally belongs to you.
Before, your life was filled with work schedules and shopping lists, demands and deadlines. You barely had time to enjoy living.
But now, you’re ready to experience a different way of life.
Imagine your new calendar showing entries for exotic ports of call, thrilling adventures, gourmet foods, and rich historical experiences. Imagine living your life exactly the way you want.
Instead of letting a hectic schedule rule you, now you get to decide where you’ll go and what you’ll do when you arrive.
- You can plan your own adventures.
- You can go solo, or with a group.
- You can cruise the ocean or tour a city.
- You can nibble your way across a country or slip into a quiet hammock to read in some faraway land.
The possibilities? Endless. The world? Yours to explore.
Are you ready to launch into your golden years? It’s time to dive into the best ways to enjoy the freedom of senior travel.
Before you head out, you want to make certain your adventures are safe, your health needs are met, and you have all your necessities while you’re far from home.
And you’re smart, so you’re looking for the best value for your travel funds.
This guide will highlight the basics of senior travel, add in some suggestions, and toss in a few savings tips to help you make the most of your future getaways.
But first, check out some of the amazing reasons to start your travel adventures today.
The Numerous Benefits of Senior Travel
- You’ll stay active. Travel gets you out and about, moving and staying busy. An active body benefits your overall health.
- You’ll stay sharp. Not only your body, but your mind is active when you’re traveling and experiencing new things. New sights, new tastes, and new languages will stimulate your brain and stave off mental fog..
- You’ll relax. You can roam stress-free and without schedules if you like. Travel can lift your mood, settle your nerves, and rejuvenate your spirit in many different ways.
- You’ll make new memories. Nothing says fun like hundreds of vacation photos. But even if you decide to live in the moment without snapping a selfie, you’ll still gather hundreds of new memories to take home.
- You’ll make new friends. You’ll meet new people along the way, whether you travel alone or with a group.. You may even stay in touch with them long after your trip.
- You’ll strengthen old ties. Traveling with family or friends can revitalize your relationships. And if instead, they’re waiting for you when you get home, they’ll be glad to see you again.
Now that you have all these benefits to experience, check out our senior travel guide to help you plan your next adventure.
Planning Guide to Answer Your 5 Questions (With Senior Savings Tips)
To narrow down the choices for your trip, you’ll need to ask yourself some questions, including who, what, when, where, and how. (You already have your why…you’re ready to explore!)
Who?: Do you want to travel solo or with other people?
Going With Your Family (or Friends): Senior Travel With Those You Love
Ready to try multigenerational travel?
Traveling with a family or friends can be enjoyable. And exploring the world with folks you already know is a great way to bond with your tribe.
A few things to consider:
- Make sure you share contact information all around in case something goes amiss or someone gets separated.
- Consider having a family photo shoot in an exotic location to use as next year’s holiday card.
- Plan a vacation around a special celebration. Everyone will remember that birthday in Maui or that anniversary in Paris.
- Just because you love them doesn’t mean you have to be together the entire time. Carve out a few hours for yourself so no one gets overwhelmed.
Savings tip: Take advantage of family and friends rates for transportation, lodging, and excursions.
Going With the Crowd: How To Score The Perfect Senior Travel Group
Check out senior travel clubs for a group vacation. Once you locate a group that fits your personality, you can choose from several planned destinations throughout the year.
With a travel group, someone else makes the plans and reservations,Then you’ll have plenty of time to gather interesting facts about the area you’re visiting.
How can you locate senior travel tour groups in your area?
A few things to consider:
- Seek out reputable sites such as Road Scholar and pick your perfect adventure. Or connect with local groups in your area that take regular trips. Get reviews from friends before you make your reservations.
- Research the group to be sure they’ll be doing things you enjoy. If they’re night owls and you’re better suited to greet the dawn, you may want to look elsewhere.
- If you’re all for forging new friendships, you’ll discover like-minded folk in a senior travel group. You’ll have common stories to share through the years.
Savings tip: Enjoy the discounts offered by senior travel groups. The larger the group, the more likely the tour leader will be able to score some substantial savings for the members.
Going as a Pair: Meeting a Great Senior Traveling Companion
Maybe a group vacation isn’t your cup of tea, but you don’t want to charge off into the unknown all by yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
You can pair up with an ideal travel companion for a trip that has all the benefits of company without being overwhelming.
Where can you find a great senior travel companion?
A few things to consider:
- Your local senior center should have a roster of seniors who are willing to companion travel. Ask around to meet the person best matched to your personality and travel style.
- Sharing expenses makes your travel money go further. But be sure to keep accurate expense records so no one feels fleeced at the end of the trip.
- Before you head out on that two-week tour of Italy, try a weekend visit to a nearby city first, just to test the companion waters and make sure you’re the right fit for each other.
Savings tip: Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals and split the cost.
Going Solo: Making the Most of Single Senior Travel
Should seniors travel alone?
If you’ve had enough of hanging out with other people, you have the option of traveling solo. You can drift through your itinerary at your own pace. You can read a book without worrying about anyone feeling neglected. Today, seniors traveling alone have many options available.
A few things to consider:
- Safety is paramount. If you’re a senior traveling alone, be aware of your surroundings at all times, know some basic self-defense actions, and don’t take unnecessary risks. Check out these moves from Vive Health.
- Cruises are an ideal solo experience, even with a ship full of people. You can socialize as you wish, and then retire to your quarters for some alone time to rejuvenate.
- You can try voluntourism. Choose a project dear to your heart, then spend your vacation time helping out. Many charitable organizations sponsor these trips.
- Take a road trip or a train excursion. Make your own route or enjoy the whistle stops on the way. You’ll see places off the beaten path and get to enjoy them at your own pace. See what kinds of discounts are available from Amtrak Travel.
Savings tip: Take advantage of your solo status by booking last minute flights and hotels for substantial savings.
Where and When? Do you have a destination in mind? What season fits your travel plans?
Going Where The Wind Takes You: Choosing the Perfect Senior Travel Destination at the Perfect Time
Let your imagination run wild when picking a location for your senior travel destination. Where should you go? And when?
- Up in the mountains in a cabin during the holidays?
- Camping in a national park on summer break?
- On a river cruise in the spring?
- Downtown in a large metropolitan city during a festival?
- On the open sea on a relocation cruise?
The choices are practically limitless.
A few things to consider:
- Destinations steeped in history can make for stimulating vacations.Choose a favorite historical location and era to explore in depth.
- If you’re feeling intellectual, opt for an educational journey. Learn a new language or pursue a new skill like cooking from a local chef or basket weaving from a local artisan.
- Check the seasonal weather where you’re headed. You wouldn’t want to be sweltering in Sydney or shivering in Saskatoon because you went at the wrong time.
- Research festivals in the area. If you’re up for Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, mark your calendars and off you go. But if you prefer a quieter, more laid back journey, steer clear of major celebrations.
- Are any special celestial occurrences coming up? You can plan a trip around an eclipse, a meteor shower, or even the Aurora Borealis.
- Schedule your trip at off-times to avoid crowds at the airport, or even on cruises.
Savings tip: If the timing works, book a red-eye flight for extra savings.
What? Do you have any hobbies or interests you want to include in your activities?
Going With the Flow: Making the Most of Your Senior Travel Time
Your trip can be as busy or as relaxed as you like. Your Where will determine your What. Get the most out of your destination by researching the activities available there.
A few things to consider:
- Let your normal activity level guide your days. Know your limitations and don’t overdo even the most mundane activities, like walking.
- Timing is everything. Make sure you leave plenty of room in your itinerary for layovers, wait times, inclement weather, and unexpected delays, and chance-of-a-lifetime experiences you didn’t anticipate.
- Call before a group outing to verify seating or occupancy limits where you want to go.
- Give yourself some breathing room. Don’t schedule every minute. Take some time to enjoy your surroundings. You may even have a chance to do something you hadn’t considered.
- Seek out destinations that include your hobbies, fascinations, or passions. From classical music to knitting to exotic food, you can discover themed vacations around the world.
Savings tip: Ask locals for special dining locations that offer great food at reasonable prices.
How? Do you plan to fly, cruise, drive, or take the train, or maybe a combination?
Going Along for the Ride: Choosing the Best Mode of Transportation for Your Senior Travel Plans
You have to get to your destination before you can launch your senior travel experience. Will you fly to the cruise port? Are you interested in a train vacation? Does your group need a chartered bus?
Your other choices of Who, Where, and When will largely determine How you’ll reach your destination. Sometimes, the mode of transportation is the vacation itself.
A few things to consider:
- Going on a cruise? Plan to arrange a ride both ways if you don’t want to leave your car at the port while you’re gone.
- If you’ll be driving around your destination city, research the road rules and reserve a vehicle before you depart. Be sure you have appropriate automobile insurance coverage.
- Check out tours for seniors traveling alone. You can see the sights with a group and make new friends along the way, then head off on your own when you’re ready.
- Reserve special transportation such as wheelchair accessible vans well ahead of time so you’re set to go when you arrive at your destination.
Savings tip: Use public transportation whenever feasible.
Bonus Destination Section: Have Fun at Home Enjoying a Senior Staycation
Bonus question: Do you really have to go anywhere?
If your idea of the perfect vacation is staying put, then a staycation may be a way to fit your Who, Where, What, and How right into your own city.
- Invite friends or family to stay with you. The festive atmosphere will boost the experience, and they will take home their own new memories.
- You can take a walking tour of your local area. Pick up brochures. Step into shops you’ve never visited. And maybe even meet new friends who live right down the road.
- Act like a tourist and book a city tour. Someone else will drive the bus, and you get to enjoy the sights you missed while you were commuting.
- Plan meals at different restaurants each night to incorporate that away-from-home feel.
- Just for fun, try sleeping in your guest room if you have one.
Bonus Savings Section: Affording Senior Travel Without Breaking into the Retirement Fund
Are you excited about the plans you’ve made so far? Before you begin booking reservations, check out these ways to spend less and still have an amazing trip.
Travel Expense App
To keep up with everything you spend before and during your journey, install a travel expense tracker app on your phone. Set limits before you leave and enter expenses as you incur them. Check out Trabee Pocket or Tripcoin to see if they’ll work for you.
Ask for your senior discount when booking flights, rental cars, cruises, or accommodations. Unadvertised discounts may be available when mentioned. AARP has a large list of senior travel discounts. And be sure to request discounts when shopping or scheduling events. You won’t know until you ask.
We’ve mentioned off-peak travel to avoid crowds, but you can also save on airfare or cruise expenses by booking your trip during slower travel times, or well in advance.
Discount Websites and Browser Notifications
Use travel savings websites and browser plug-ins to alert you to special deals and flash sales you may have missed otherwise. Check senior travel blogs for the latest savings ideas.
No-Foreign-Fee Credit Cards
If you’re traveling internationally, investigate credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees. Those little charges can add up quickly if you’re using a regular card. US News has an updated list for you to peruse.
Group travel can be a big budget-saver, since travel coordinators can usually get major discounts when booking for a large number of visitors.
You may want to add travel insurance to cover any unforeseen situations that could cause you to cancel your trip and lose all of your prepaid expenses.
For less expensive lodging try home sharing. Swap time in your home with another set of travelers and spend your vacation at their place. As an alternative, use services such as Couchsurfing or Airbnb to crash in someone’s spare room for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. You can even be a part of someone else’s staycation.
Ready? Set? Take Care Of These Things Before You Go
Traveling when you’re older should not present any problems or limitations as long as you’re in good health.In the weeks before your departure, spend some time tending to these important items.
- Visit your doctor. Let your physician and any specialists know you’ll be traveling. Get cleared for air travel or other activities.
- Visit your dentist. Especially if you have a hint of a toothache. You don’t want to be sidelined with a root canal while your tour leaves you behind.
- Get refills of your prescriptions. That way you’ll have enough medicines to last the entire trip.
- Check your health insurance coverage. You want to know ahead of time what your insurance will cover in case of out-of-town emergencies.
- Research medical accessibility. If you use a wheelchair or other medical equipment such as oxygen tanks, check to make sure all of the places you intend to visit are accessible and prepared.
- Add in some pre-vacation activity. Boost your endurance for walking tours by taking a daily stroll at home for a few weeks before you leave. Do a bit of yoga for strength and balance while you’re in unfamiliar territory.
- Stay well while away. Take extra precautions on your trip to avoid illness or injury. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer, and hold on to handrails when provided.
Simplify your senior travel. Invest in the best carry-on luggage you can afford, and pack light. Don’t drag around dozens of bags when you can trim your contents and lighten your load with a little planning.
Take clothes than can be layered, hand washed, and worn again so you don’t have mounds of laundry lurking in your bag. Include a sturdy pair of ultra-comfortable walking shoes and a light jacket in case the weather turns cool or that restaurant has the AC set to arctic.
Toiletries and medicine advice
Since shampoo, conditioner and lotion are not only regulated but can make a terrible mess if they spill, opt for these items in bar form. And don’t forget to protect your medicines from any accidental spills by securing them inside waterproof bags with sturdy closures or even rubber bands.
Packing travel goodies is part of the adventure. Try to choose healthy snacks like protein bars and trail mix. Add in some hard candy, especially if you’re prone to bouts of low blood sugar.
Of course you want your travel experience to be amazing. However, life happens, and the world is not always a safe place. Take these tips into consideration before you head out:
- Know the area. Research where you’re going and note any travel advisories.
- Know the group. Travel with a respected group that has been reviewed and vetted by people you trust.
- Don’t be scammed. Fraud remains an unfortunate risk of interacting with the world, so be on guard. Make sure your online travel arrangements are through a reputable website. Follow up with your credit card bill to check for fraudulent charges.
- Be money smart. Keep your credit card in an RFID wallet and your passport secure. Store your cash in a hidden belt or sock. Only register for excursions that are a part of your tour group, or through a trusted establishment.
- Important foreign language travel phrases to learn:
- I need a doctor
- I’m allergic to…(a food, a medicine)
- I can’t/don’t eat…(meat, gluten)
Learn the words for those items you’re allergic to or can’t eat so you can avoid medical emergencies and tummy upsets.
Bon Voyage, Senior Traveler!
Are you imagining all the possibilities? Can you see yourself enjoying all the wonders of senior travel? You’ve worked hard for this moment, and now you can reap the rewards of a job well done and a life of retired leisure.
Are you excited and ready to go? Just follow these steps to begin your amazing adventures:
- Take some time to review these tips and suggestions. Answer the 5 questions of Who, Where, When, What, and How.
- Make notes of research you should do online or items you must purchase before the big day.
- Seek out discounts and score savings wherever you can.
- Make some calls to friends and family to see if they’re up for an adventure. Brainstorm destinations and activities with them.
- Or plan to slip away on your own for some rest and relaxation. Just be sure to tell someone your itinerary before you go!
Planning ahead and asking questions can help you enjoy the travel experiences you’ve been looking forward to for years. Now that you have time on your hands, it’s time to see the world…or even stay right at home.