Many seniors claim that the second half of their lives offers the best years to travel because there are no worries about vacation time, kids at home, or crowds during school vacations. The travel industry knows this and continues to add trips to senior-friendly locations.
The following are a few enticing suggestions to get your travel juices flowing. Take your time to explore the options: Decide where you’d like to go, the length of time you’re comfortable being away from home, and, of course, your budget. Since many of these trips are all-inclusive, they may be more affordable than you think.
Many seniors continue to enjoy the excitement of large cruise ships, but if you’d like something with a more sedate pace and intimacy, try a river cruise. You’ll still enjoy fine dining, daily sightseeing excursions, and tons of pampering — just fewer people.
An evening’s entertainment might be a group of folkloric dancers brought on board for just that one performance or an afternoon onboard cooking class where you learn to make crêpe suzettes.
Think of any large river in Europe or Asia — Yangtze, Nile, Rhine, Danube, Volga — and you’ll find a cruise to enjoy along its waterways. Tulips and windmills in Holland? Normandy and Paris in France? Churches and opulent palaces in Russia? And don’t forget about Scandinavia with its fjords and midnight sun or rainforests along the Amazon in Peru and Brazil. These are just a taste of what you’ll find once you start searching.
Three options are Uniworld (www.uniworld.com), AMA Waterways (amawaterways.com), and Viking River Cruises (vikingrivercruises.com). For a genuine, all-American experience, try the American Steamboat Company, (www.Americansteamboatcompany.com). It offers trips along the waterways of the United States and Canada but is best known for its steamboats with the huge paddle wheels that travel up and down the Mississippi. It takes only a few hours on board to feel like you’re living in the “Gone with the Wind” era. The rooms are lovely, the food is Southern, and the music is Dixieland.
Back to school
With a choice of 150 countries to visit and all of our states, you’ll have a difficult time choosing which Road Scholar trip (www.roadscholar.com) to take first. The organization was formerly known as Elder Hostel, and these trips are geared for seniors. An expert faculty and local guides give the trips a depth of perspective not found on standard travel excursions, sometimes including access to insider sites. Think about joining an archaeologist to study a 1,000-year-old rock panel in Mesa Verde or walking the streets of Dublin with a James Joyce scholar.
The outfit’s costs cover almost everything — comfortable lodging, maybe in three- and four-star hotels, or maybe aboard a river or ocean vessel, most meals, all tours and entrance fees, gratuities, an insurance plan, and if it’s international, airfare.
Road Scholars gears 200 multigenerational trips to destinations that grandparents, parents, and children can enjoy together, such as Costa Rica’s natural wonders and Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida.
The royal treatment
Some seniors prefer traditional land tours where a tour director meets you at the airport and stays with you until it’s time to say goodbye, taking care of all your tourist-related needs in between. You’ll stay in fabulous hotels and have your luggage taken to and from your room, eat at outstanding local restaurants, be handed tickets to concerts, museums, and local events, and enjoy comfortable transportation throughout the trip.
For the best experience, book with a reputable company. Tauck Tours (www.tauck.com), for instance, a company with years of experience and expertise on journeys throughout the world, makes it easy to see the sights about which you’ve always dreamed.
Bob Cutler, a Stratford resident who took a 13-day Tauck Tour bus trip along the California coast two years ago at the age of 77, particularly enjoyed the first-class hotel accommodations [the group stayed at a different hotel almost every night] and fine dining, as well as the destinations, including San Francisco, Yosemite, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Los Angeles. “There were a lot of seniors on the trip, both single and in couples, and everyone mingled and bonded,” Bob explains. “It didn’t matter if you weren’t part of a couple. People on the tour came from all over the world … from Bermuda, Germany, Ireland … it was a great way to meet and get to know a lot of wonderful people.”