Retirement is the time for unhindered fulfillment. For many, that means adventuring to their heart’s content, without the looming prospect of a return to work hanging over them. The possibilities for one-of-a-kind experiences in this new stage of life are endless.
If your dream is to travel, you should do it right. We looked into the most senior-friendly vacation spots across the globe to bring you our top 11 choices, with ideas on how to get the most out of the experience. Whether you are looking for stress-free relaxation or budget-conscious fun and excitement, these destinations are sure to please.
Top Vacation Destinations in Retirement
Safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya
One of the most fascinating adventures lies deep in the heart of Africa. The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is known for its year-round dirth of exotic wildlife and inspiring landscapes.
This is far from a standard Jeep tour where you hope to catch a fleeting glimpse of nature at work. The Masai Mara features over 450 bird species, rare black rhinos and awe-inspiring natural events, including the great wildebeest migration through the treacherous, crocodile-infested Mara River. More exclusive opportunities can be found in the private conservancies, including the famous Mara North Conservancy, which feature exceptional game viewing events and high-end resorts.
The Masai Mara offers the premier safari experience, and it’s going to be expensive no matter how you enjoy it. The cheapest packages start around $200/day per person but luxury packages can run over $500/day per person. But for the opportunity to experience the Big 5 (lions, rhinos, leopards, elephants and Cape buffaloes) up close or take in the endless natural splendor in a hot air balloon tour, this trip is well worth the expense.
Japan (during cherry blossom season)
Japan is rich in unique culture, with time-honored tradition existing harmoniously against future-driven industry. Between the authentic sushi, the gorgeous ocean vistas and bright, energetic cityscapes, Japan is an all-around sensory delight. There is perhaps no better example of this than Sakura, the Japanese cherry blossom season.
Cherry blossoms are a centerpiece of Japanese culture. Residents and visitors from around the world enthusiastically participate in hanami (“flower watching”) across cities and national parks. Enjoying a picnic as the petals softly shower down make for fun family photos.
Staying in Japan for cherry blossom season is relatively inexpensive and its incredibly efficient transit system makes cross-country travel quick and easy. If you plan to take in the full hanami experience, be sure to pack your picnic gear and confirm your spot. The season only lasts a few weeks in spring and parks fill up fast.
Florence and Tuscany’s Wine Regions
Rome and Venice may be the most popular tourist magnets but retirees have the time to explore some of the more relaxing, authentic Italian regions. Florence is Italy’s artistic epicenter, the home of essential Renaissance art and architecture attractions in the Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Duomo. The sight-seeing opportunities in the many piazzas, cafes, cathedrals and galleries make Florence a budget-friendly, self-paced cultural adventure.
Tuscany’s rolling, breezy countryside is famed for its historic wineries. Casual and romantic, Tuscany is a dream for retired couples. Skipping the fancy hotel for an agriculturismo — an Italian villa or winery — and enjoying the many quaint towns on foot make your stay more authentic and much less expensive.
Utah’s National Parks and the Grand Canyon
Packing up the RV and hitting the road is the ultimate escape for many entering retirement. There is no better pitstop for seniors than the national parks in Utah and northern Arizona, including the stunning panorama of the Grand Canyon. Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion) feature a bevy of remote hiking stretches, impressive landforms and memorable sunsets.
Accessibility is an advantage for seniors in the major parks, particularly in Zion and the Grand Canyon. Trams make touring the areas more convenient and the four primary viewpoints at the Grand Canyon are easily accessible. For the more adventurous, you have year-round opportunities for horseback riding through weather-worn arches, summiting precipitous perches and late-night stargazing.
The parks are so condensed that you can plan a complete trip over a 7-day period. For an RV, staying in a park only costs between $10 – 100 per night, making Utah’s national parks a high value getaway. As a perk for seniors, a lifetime senior pass from the National Park Service only costs $80.
India’s Golden Triangle by Train
India might seem like an overwhelming departure from your comfort zone but the Golden Triangle circuit offers a stress-free and immersive dive into the country’s rich culture. The tourist route runs nearly 450 miles between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Along the way, visitors are able to explore historic landmarks such as Humayun’s Tomb, the Jama Mosque and the iconic Taj Mahal.
Tours are best booked with a private tour operator to ensure your comfort, safety and ease of access to the various monuments and events along the way. Expect to be on the road anywhere from 5-14 days, with most companies charging around $100/day per person.
Hawaii is the dream destination for many, offering the thrill of volcano tours and the splendor of endless beaches. Oahu is an excellent base camp, with Honolulu boasting a number of luxury hotels and sun-soaked beaches. Break up your hours of relaxation with trips to Pearl Harbor or scenic cruises up the Oahu coastline.
A more natural scene can be found on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The gargantuan volcanoes Maunaloa and Maunakea create extraordinary landscapes across a variety of climates, all within a single island.
Hawaii deserves a calmer pace, so having time to spare in retirement makes it the best time to take it all in. It can get pricey, with a two-week stay costing around $3800 or more for one person. Take your time to enjoy it though. The daily cost should actually go down the slower you travel.
The allure of ancient history and hidden treasures make Israel a magical vacation destination for retirees. Explore the distinct flavors of traditional Israeli cuisine in Tel Aviv. Immerse yourself in religious antiquity in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Bask in the serenity of the Sea of Galilee and float in the Dead Sea. Situated a world away, travels in Israel provide a wealth of stories to share.
The sights and sounds of Israel can be expensive to take in. Seniors can get some benefit in discounts from going in the offseason but the most ideal time to visit is during April-June or September-October.
Southeast Asia River Cruise
Cruises along the mighty Mekong, Yangtze and Irrawaddy Rivers offer a rare juxtaposition of lavish cruise line comfort against mysterious jungle landscapes. Full of rich history and welcoming locals, stops dotting the shores offer invigorating cultural experiences. From Angkor to the delta, local entertainers showcase unique art forms while the many spectacular temples and pagodas preserve a passionate heritage.
Southeast Asia cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia let travelers experience adventure in a relaxed, low-stress fashion. Summer is the monsoon season, so most rivers have more desirable conditions from October-April.
Cruises can last up to 20 days, depending on how extended you make the itinerary up your river of choice. Longer hauls like those are expensive, running upwards of $6,000. However, fun flights up the Mekong are a relatively budget-friendly option.
Like Hawaii, porcelain white sands under pristine skies make the Caribbean a quintessential destination for lounging pleasure. Caribbean getaways are the perfect excuse to slow down and relax. Booking an ocean cruise that anchors at private islands is a smart way to get some space out on the beach.
There is really no wrong direction when it comes to finding an amazing Caribbean beach. The Grand Caymans are popular for its famous beaches, though that also means a steady crowd. The same can be said for youth-oriented excursions like Jamaica and Cancun. For a reserved atmosphere, the Virgin Islands offers more privacy between beachgoers.
Traveling the Caribbean can be expensive but there are ways for couples to put together a week at an all-inclusive resort for under $2,000. Many resorts cater to seniors with exclusive discounts and staying in more low-key resorts around Jamaica, Grenada or the Dominican Republic can lower costs substantially.
For retirees searching for special exploits around the country, Santa Fe, New Mexico offers the richness of both Spanish culture and Native American traditions. Guided tours are not required, so you can enjoy Santa Fe at your own speed.
Spend time taking in the endless array of Mexican and Southwestern eateries. Visit native pueblos and explore Native American art museums. Popular sites worth visiting include the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Santa Fe Opera House and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, America’s oldest church dating back to 1626.
If you are looking for a physical challenge, the surrounding mountains provide ample hiking and skiing opportunities. Thrill-seekers can book a white water rafting expedition down the Rio Grande and close out the day relaxing at any of the local wineries.
Planning a Santa Fe trip is best kept to the fall months between September and November. The climate is ideal and the lineup of annual festivals make it a prime time to stay active during your time there. Trips of any kind are affordable, and it’s easy to book a week full of attraction for under $1,000 per person.
Alaska is wilderness exploration that can be experienced by land, sea or air. From the luxurious Alaskan cruises to the remarkable “flightseeing” tours, there are numerous ways to take in all the marvels Alaska has to offer. For seniors, the Aurora Winter Train provides seats at discounted rates during the fall-spring months, just in time for the spectacle of the Northern Lights.
Cruises through glacier country allow for convenient excursions to watch the wildlife and interact with the local cultures. Retirees can enjoy cheap fare on private yachts that give a deeper dive into Alaska’s fjords. Tour costs have a high ceiling but there are plenty of discounts available for those over 65.
Retiree Travel FAQs
Do seniors get discounts on cruises?
By most cruise standards, anyone above 55 qualifies for special senior citizen rates. Many discounts are time-dependent, however, so planning your trip with an agent can help you pinpoint the right times to travel. One additional perk of most plans is that if a senior has a traveling partner under 55, they will also get the discount.
If you plan to take advantage of discounts, make sure that you carry your valid, government-issued ID. Cruise lines that advertise their senior packages include Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Costa Cruises. Discounts can vary depending on the itinerary that you choose.
What is the best cruise line for seniors?
Featuring smaller boats and more convenient proximities to cities, river sailing is an increasingly popular travel option for seniors. Crystal River Cruises offers one of the highest rated European river cruises. Their all-inclusive pricing makes lounging and partaking in activities hassle-free. In the States, American Cruise Lines sails major rivers and waterways from Florida to Alaska.
Ocean cruise lines have larger ships with a comprehensive catalog of on board activities and amenities. The added space also makes accommodations for the disabled more abundant, so those with limited mobility or medical concerns can still take full advantage of their offerings. Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line offer cruises around the world, while making sure to provide special assistive features for older or disabled passengers.
Why use a travel agent instead of booking online?
To get the most bang for your buck, work with a travel agent to book your vacation. Agents streamline and optimize the booking process, saving you significant time, effort and money. The special discounts, travel insurance and expert insight ensure that you will get a great deal on a getaway you are sure to enjoy. Your travel agent is a valuable partner and resource, one that offers personalized care and ongoing support to rectify any issues on your behalf.
With a trusted agent helping you on the way, there is no limit to your vacation possibilities. As a retiree, the ultimate opportunity for relaxation and once-in-a-lifetime experiences is well-deserved.