When Mary Krewsun, 65, retired as a physician assistant, she set a goal of traveling because now she has the time. During five days, she walked for 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) along the ancient pilgrim route known as the Camino de Santiago, which culminates in northwest Spain.
“I had heard about the Camino from a cousin who did it, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do that; that’s going on my bucket list,’” said Krewsun.
She and two friends skipped the hostel route and booked stays in boutique properties, with someone bringing their bags from place to place. “I didn’t want to sleep in a dorm with 15 men snoring,” Krewsun said.
It was the trip of a lifetime, even if her feet sometimes hurt. “I figured, ‘You better do this now while you still can,’ and I am glad I did,” she shared.
Krewsun is not alone in her retirement goal of seeing more of the world. During the pandemic, retirees, like everyone else, delayed travel. Whether it’s a close-to-home road trip or a once-in-a-lifetime international extravaganza, retirees are playing a huge role in the travel surge that’s expected to continue through summer 2023.
A majority of adults (62%) age 50 and over will take at least one vacation in 2023, and most will take between three and four trips, according to a recent survey by AARP.
You have time, and you have money saved, but where to go? Here are some retirement trip ideas to get you started.
Cruises of two months or more are selling swiftly, so much so that there are cruise lines offering world cruises for the first time. The flashiest is Royal Caribbean, with a record-breaking nine-month itinerary that covers 65 countries on seven continents. The inaugural ship departs in December 2023.
The idea for such cruises is seeing the world in one fell swoop, though often the term “world” is used loosely. Most don’t visit every continent but combine several iconic places. You might, for instance, cruise from Southampton in the United Kingdom to Dubai, Singapore, Melbourne and Cape Town on Cunard, which offers 100-plus day world cruises each year on ships that include Queen Mary 2. In 2024, Queen Mary 2 will visit Europe, Africa and Australasia on a 108-night World Voyage.
Upscale Oceania Cruises has Around the World in 180 Days itineraries, while ultra-luxury line Silversea introduced the concept of a soft-adventure, expedition world cruise from pole to pole. If you’re considering a world cruise, be ready. Start studying the possible itineraries. Then, learn when bookings will open for sale. They tend to sell out fast, sometimes even in a day.
For retirees determined to get to know the grandkids better, family reunion trips afford bonding opportunities and can become the stuff of family lore — as in, “Remember when grandpa thought he caught a big fish and it was just a clump of seaweed?”
Depending on how you, the kids and grandkids like to travel, you might take the family to a Disney resort, book a condo at a ski destination, stay at a dude ranch, or charter a yacht in the Caribbean.
You might choose a stay at an old-fashioned resort such as the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, or the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, which includes an excuse to dress up for dinner — and an opportunity to distract the grandkids from their iPads with old-school activities like lawn games.
A good plan is to throw out a few destination ideas and see where your family lands.
Retirement is a time when you might want to pursue your specific interests, and some of those interests may prove great themes for travel. If your goal is improving your golf game, plan that dream trip to St. Andrews Old Course, Royal Dornoch and others which are among the best courses in Scotland.
Improve your sipping skills on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or on a wine-themed river cruise through Bordeaux. Or splurge on a luxury driving trip, such as a six-day Porsche Travel Experience driving a Porsche 911 on mountain passes across the French Alps — a package that includes a stay in a luxury Alpine “igloo” and a helicopter flight over Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain.
You might, like retiree Krewsun, want to look at a shortened “Camino in Style” hike along the famous 500-mile Camino Frances pilgrim trail, which she booked through Macs Adventures. If you’re super fit, do the whole thing over some 35 days.
There are other amazing hikes to consider in destinations around the world. They include the moderately strenuous Kungsleden (The King’s Trail), about 273 miles through northern Sweden, or the highly strenuous 26-mile Inca Trail, gaining 13,838 feet in elevation, over four days, to the mystical Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Companies such as Wildlife Trekking and Country Walkers have an array of organized group treks.
Appropriate for active retirees, bike tours run the gamut from leisurely to extreme. You’ll want to carefully choose your level and route. On the easy end, companies such as Backroads and VBT now have the option on select tours in the U.S. and Europe of using e-bikes.
You may pedal or e-bike through Switzerland, Germany and France, for instance, on VBT’s Black Forest and the Alsace Wine Route itinerary. If you’re looking for a challenge, a Backroads trip through the Canadian Rockies, from Banff to Jasper National Park, allows experienced cyclists to opt on select days for Level 4 or 5.
While the Level 2 members of your group might do 22 miles near scenic Lake Louise, Level 5 that day is an 86-mile ride with a 5,800-foot elevation gain. Both companies also have well-planned self-guide bike tours you can do at your own pace.
Since you’ve got time, consider planting yourself in one place for several weeks, rather than doing a fly-by of various destinations. Staying in an apartment or house, cooking some of your own meals, shopping at markets, mingling with locals and immersing yourself in the local scene is a rewarding experience — never mind that you might hear references to “the Americans” as you walk down the main drag of a small town in Italy.
Before Airbnb and Vrbo, it was harder to find a decent place to stay in, say, bohemian Le Marais or along the glitzy Amalfi Coast. That’s not the case anymore. Plug-in your dates and how many rooms you need, requesting high-speed internet, a washer/dryer, or whatever you want. Carefully read the ratings and reviews of previous travelers to compare options and you’re good to go.
Perhaps you’ve put off that longer “bucket list” adventure trip to see penguins in South Georgia and Antarctica, or to go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, or maybe see the Big Five on a safari in Africa — all because you haven’t been able to get the time off from work to do it. What’s stopping you now?
Closer to home, Alaska is a destination that you’ll want to take the time to explore on land and sea, for a minimum of two weeks but probably more, unless you expect to return again at a later date.
A big road trip is something else you’ve put off because of time constraints. Consider such extraordinary drives as a national parks route through Arizona and Utah, a plan to see California from San Francisco to San Diego, or a 600-mile journey on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Another drive is on Route 66, perhaps a two-week, 2,400-mile trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, lingering at state and national parks, trading posts and such iconic sights as the Milk Bottle Grocery in Oklahoma City and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.
Another must-do multi-day drive is the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway – the roadway through Virginia and North Carolina that the National Park Service refers to as “America’s Favorite Drive.” Farther afield is the 825-mile Ring Road that circles Iceland.
You’re retired. Now is the time to go for it.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.