5/26/2023 | By Annie Tobey

Senior years can usher in a new era of travel, bringing new interests, freedoms, and challenges. These 10 senior-friendly travel ideas take advantage of the distinctive traits of older adult life.

Travel offers benefits to people of all stages of life and income levels, including seniors – whether on a fixed budget or harvesting a healthy retirement plan.

“Vacationing may be good for your health,” stated a report in “Psychosomatic Medicine.” Middle-aged men who were at high risk for coronary heart disease and took more frequent annual vacations were less likely to die during a nine-year follow-up period. Although direct correlation is unclear, the report proposed that “vacations may reduce stress by removing ongoing stressors” and by offering chances for restorative activities such as time with family and friends and physical activity.

Even the anticipation of a trip can provide a dose of joy!

Senior-friendly travel ideas

Use these 10 senior-friendly travel ideas in planning your next vacation.

1. Save money, escape crowds, and avoid summer heat by traveling during the shoulder season.

Families with kids are often bound by school schedules and extracurricular activities, but older adults often enjoy more flexibility. During fall and spring in beach towns and at resorts, the weather is still good but prices are lower, crowds are diminished, and the weather may be more comfortable.

In North Carolina’s Outer Banks, for example, a shoulder season trip can mean getting the house you want, at a lower rate. Regulations are more relaxed (for example, dogs are allowed on more beaches), and restaurants are less crowded. Plus the OBX offers plenty of spring and fall festivals – after all, the locals like to play, too!

2. Explore your better nature.

U.S. national parks and state parks are often reasonably priced, abundantly beautiful, and great for soothing the soul with outdoor therapy. They’re also great for exercise, from easy to challenging, and are often ADA accessible. Better yet, there’s bound to be one nearby or far away, whichever you prefer.

3. Navigate wheelchair-friendly destinations.

If mobility has become a concern, wheelchair-friendly destinations can minimize your worries.

Washington, D.C., was rated as one of the Top 5 Most Wheelchair Accessible Cities in the U.S. Plus, the nation’s capital offers plenty of dining and entertainment options, from five-star restaurants to an array of ethnic cuisine, from the expansive and free Smithsonian museums to sports stadiums.

Farther south, Folly Beach near Charleston, South Carolina provides ADA-accessible public beach access, including wheelchair accessible mats leading to the beach.

4. Stimulate your mind with a learning tour.

Road Scholar Pocomoke River State Park birding
Road Scholar Pocomoke River State Park birding

While many tour companies include education as part of their trips, Road Scholar embraces learning as an essential part of each journey, with a wide array of programs and destinations. Plus, Road Scholar participants are all age 50 and above.

“One of the most popular topics to learn about with Road Scholar is birding. Road Scholar’s birding programs allow participants to get outside and be active without necessarily pushing physical limits,” says a Road Scholar representative. “Our birding programs take participants all over the world, from Monterey Bay to Cape May, and Costa Rica to Zimbabwe. Participants can witness the warbler migration in Minnesota or search for the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica.”

Groups are led by expert birders who instruct participants about the finer points of birding and the local bird species.

Living history museums for stimulating travel

5. Travel without changing lodging and driving foreign roads.

I had never been interested in taking a cruise – until I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was thrilled with how much I enjoyed it! The Mediterranean cruise took me to multiple dreamy locations, from Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii, to Dubrovnik, Corfu, and Venice. But the best part was that I didn’t have to pack up to move from hotel to hotel, just sleep, play, and eat while the ship navigated its course.

Long-time travel Naomi Beth Marcus wrote about her recent return to travel as a retiree. Despite the new physical challenges that she and her husband faced, “It is totally worth it,” she exclaimed. After traveling to Guatemala, she wrote,

“I resolved:

  • I will not be tyrannized by any app that counts my steps.
  • I will not change places every few days.
  • I make an adjustment – we go to ONE PLACE, one destination, and remain there, and ‘be there now’ to quote a famous line.”

A cruise enables the convenience of one place while still offering multiple destinations.

One Boomer’s experience on a Blue Danube cruise

6. Fill your social prescription.

While loneliness plagues many Americans these days, retirees who have lost the daily connections of work can feel especially isolated. Traveling with a group can fill that social need in an energizing way.

Road Scholar says of their hobby and interest themed trips, “These programs attract others who share the same passions, which creates an immediate bond and special camaraderie among the participants.”

While many tour groups welcome seniors, traveling solo while surrounded by couples can feel more lonely than traveling alone. This makes trips that cater to solo travelers especially valuable, like the ones offered by Overseas Adventure Travel.

Solo travel tips for seniors

7. Be active – at your own pace.

Road Scholar trip to Southwest Virginia

Some tour companies offer active adventures while accommodating a diversity of paces. Road Scholar, for example, offers Choose Your Pace walking and hiking programs across the U.S. and around the world, from the Adirondacks to the Appalachian Trail, from England’s National parks to the Hill Towns of Umbria.

“Our ‘Choose Your Pace’ programs have become incredibly popular,” says a Road Scholar representative. “The programs allow participants to choose each day from different options of various lengths, challenge, and pace. Folks can decide what option they’d like based on their endurance and desires of the day. Some days they may choose to take their time and stop for more photos, while other days they may be looking for a more of a challenge. These programs are also great for friends or couples who have different ability levels or activity interests.”

With Road Scholar programs, all paces are joined by a group leader who will share information about the flora, fauna, natural history, and more.

8. Be adventurous!

Perhaps your first decades of life were splashed with adventure. Perhaps you kept your adventurous streak quiet during years of career and family. Either way, now is the time you can treat yourself to exciting activities in exotic locales. By touring with an adventure travel group, you can feel safer knowing you’re with experienced guides to lead the way in trip planning, safety precautions, and gear maintenance. Many such groups also offer an array of adventure levels, from cautious to extreme.

With Backroads Travel, for example, you can choose a “Dolce Tempo” tour, easygoing, from adagio to uptempo.

Exodus Travels excursions include Walking the Inca Trail, peddling through Vietnam’s rice paddies, and wildlife-watching from your canoe on the Zambezi River in Africa.

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old,” said George Burns. Travel can help you live up to the centenarian’s words.

Annie Tobey