10/23/2023 | By Donna Brody

More than 40 years after their first vacation together, Donna Brody and her husband still have travel lessons to learn. She shares some of them from their latest adventure.

Forty-three years ago, my husband and I took our first vacation together to see the fall colors in New England. Married just short of a year, I was pregnant but game to take the train (we had employee passes for a free ride) and take our chances arranging a rental car and motels for our week-long trip. This was before the introduction of debit cards, credit cards (at that time I had one store credit card with a $200 limit), and the convenience of the internet, so we purchased traveler’s checks and estimated how much cash we would need. Even with careful planning, we ran short on funds. Our last night in Boston left us with only enough money to order one plate of spaghetti at a diner. My husband insisted he did not need to share it since I was the one pregnant, so he drank a glass of water and watched me eat.

This year, we decided to recreate that trip. Our plan was to once again tour Boston and then spend a few days on Cape Cod. Next, we would head to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and possibly Rhode Island. Preliminary research revealed we could join a tour group with various New England stops that would handle the details for us.

Ship in a New England harbor with pink flowers in the foreground

Several companies cater to group travel for seniors, including Road Scholar. “When you enroll in a group travel adventure, everything from hotels to excursions is taken care of,” the website says. “Road Scholar draws on local knowledge to craft itineraries that include the best of the destination, and group leaders will get you from one place to the next without you having to make plans or decisions on your own.” The organization emphasizes the added safety and camaraderie of traveling with like-minded older adults. Their New England tours I considered ranged in price from about $1,500 to $2.500 for seven days.

In the end, no itinerary matched the places we wanted to visit, so instead, we planned our trip using popular travel sights on the internet. For the most part, it was a success. We achieved our dream of “leaf peeping” and enjoyed the extravaganza of incredible fall colors in New England. Still, though, there were some not-so-pleasant surprises along the way that, if not disastrous, did cause some bumps on our journey.

Four travel lessons

Rental cars

We reserved a car through my credit card company from a popular provider and chose an airport location, even though we arrived by train. Pick up was scheduled for 11 p.m. After waiting in a long line, we learned the only vehicles available were electric. Yes, electric cars are good for the environment, but neither my husband nor I have ever driven one. We knew nothing about charging, charging locations, or what to do if the battery died. We did not think our vacation was the time to learn. The credit card company refunded my money the next morning, but we had to take a ride share to our hotel and rent another car for a much higher price.

Travel lesson: Make sure your contract with the rental car company specifies the type of vehicle ordered, and call to confirm a few hours before arrival if possible.

Taxis vs ride shares

One taxi driver drove us around in circles looking for our hotel and charged us $40 (not sure if it was intentional). Using a ride-share app means knowing the price to your location before booking the ride. Also, no actual cash or tip is given to the driver since all of that is handled on-line using your previously downloaded credit or debit card.

New England lighthouse on the cliffs. By Donna Brody, for article on travel lessons learned

Travel lesson: Have a working ride-share app on your phone as well as a good navigation system.


I checked many booking sights before selecting our hotels. I read customer reviews looking for red flags like bed bugs, unsafe properties, and noise complaints. One thing I didn’t check for, though, was elevators. We had four pieces of heavy luggage. Three of our motels booked us on the second floor, so we had to wrestle our luggage up flights of stairs. Staying in a new place every night made this extra challenging.

Travel lesson: Older travelers, make sure to check before booking and request a first-floor room if there is no elevator.

Related: Eight energizing senior-friendly travel ideas

Food and amenities

An on-site restaurant is a must for us. After a night in a charming Vermont Inn with excellent dining, our next stop was in a remote location high up in the mountains. Not at all as described on its website, it had no restaurant. Parts of the property were uninhabitable because of a fire. There were no cars in the parking lot. We were concerned for our safety, so we cancelled and moved on. intervened and we were not charged for the night, and we booked another place.

Travel lesson: Check websites carefully. Pictures can be deceiving.

As Scottish poet Robert Burns once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Plan your trip as thoroughly as you can, but always expect the unexpected!

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

Donna Brody headshot