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Senior Travel and Vacations

A 2024 Guide to Senior Travel

Jeff Hoyt Jeff Hoyt Editor in Chief

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You've worked hard your whole life and dreamed of traveling to several exotic locations. Now that you've retired, it's time to hit the road (or runway). Perhaps you want to travel with your spouse, join a group of older adults, or join family or friends on their vacations. The options are limited only by your pocketbook and your imagination.

In this guide, we'll cover travel tips for seniors, ways to save, and group trips to explore.

Senior Travel Tips

Before you travel, be sure to purchase travel insurance to cover unexpected events such as trip cancellations, medical expenses, lost luggage, and other incidents associated with travel. Since medical issues are more likely to come up for older travelers, it makes sense to purchase travel insurance in case the trip must be canceled due to a medical problem.

Pro Tip:

Pro Tip: Looking for travel insurance but don't know where to start? View our list of the best travel insurance for seniors in 2024.

Check what your health insurance covers when you're out of the country. Many Medicare supplemental insurance plans do not provide coverage outside of the US. Travel insurance provides this much-needed coverage.

Although most people dream of traveling during retirement, according to a report, Journey to Healthy Aging: Planning for Travel in Retirement, only 18% of Americans have specifically saved for retirement travel. This means that most Americans will need to be creative to fulfill their wanderlust after retirement.

Some ways you can save on travel and vacation costs include:

  • Group trips: Because travel agencies purchase tickets in bulk, they can pass the savings on to you. Group travel is generally led by expert guides steering you towards the best things to do while at specific locales. If you're traveling solo, it's a great way to do so without feeling alone.
  • Off-season travel: Since you're retired and no longer tied to a time clock, you have the flexibility of traveling during off-peak travel times. This allows you to take advantage of lower rates. Flights on Monday through Wednesday, especially those during the late morning or afternoon, cost less. Off-season travel gives you further savings on accommodations and attractions. Three great places to find discount flights are The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, and HolidayPirates.
  • Honey travel: According to Travel+Leisure, Honey generally offers hotel discounts better than those you'll find on other booking sites.  Honey is a free service (a browser extension) that automatically searches for discounts and coupon codes.
  • Senior discounts: Many organizations and retailers offer senior discounts, so be sure to inquire about them as you make reservations and as you travel. Members of AARP, AAA, and veterans' groups can receive discounts at hotels, airlines, tour providers, and car rental agencies. The National Park Service sells an $80 (plus a $10 handling fee) for a lifetime senior pass to those 62 and older. Some airlines offer a limited number of senior fares. Many hotels offer senior discounts.
  • Stay at hostels: Hostels offer affordable places to stay when traveling. Hostels are popular with younger travelers, so be prepared to run into a lot of partiers during your stay. But as one senior shared, if there's too much activity in a hostel, they won't have lost much money should they decide to move on. Sites to help locate a hostel include Hostels.com, HostelWorld.com, Hosteling International, and Hostel Bookers.
  • Stay at an Airbnb: An Airbnb offers someone's home as a place to stay instead of a hotel. Accommodations may be an entire home or someone's spare room. You can find unique accommodations ranging from a castle to an igloo.
  • Additional resources: Kiplinger.com provides a list of sites for the best travel deals to help you save money. Cruise Sheet and Vacations To Go are great places to locate discounts on cruises, although they may not be senior-specific.  Intrepid, Kiwi Experience (New Zealand), Context Travel (walking tours), and BusAbout are great places to find discounts on tours and excursions, especially last minute. But again, they may not be senior-specific.

No matter what kind of organization or group you choose to travel with, it’s important to plan sufficiently for your trip. If you have special needs, touch base with the group to ensure they can accommodate your needs. The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality offers travel tips and access information for travel destinations. They also have a great listing of disability travel websites.

Senior Travel Groups and Clubs

  • Senior travel clubs and groups:  Senior travel clubs/groups organize trips for members, offering vacation packages at great rates. It also provides a wonderful way for solo vacationers to travel with a group of like-minded seniors.  ElderTreks, Row Adventures, and Walking the World specialize in adventure travel, something many older adults are searching for. Before joining a club, be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau and read their literature, especially the fine print, to ensure the group you have chosen is reputable.
  • Educational travel: Road Scholar is a not-for-profit organization and was once known as Elderhostel International.  It offers thousands of affordable learning adventures for adults, both nationally and internationally. Some scholarships are available for those who don't have the financial means to participate.
  • Voluntourism: A volunteer vacation allows you to give back in a multitude of ways and enjoy various cultures, depending upon the organization you volunteer and travel with. The trips aren't free, but they are rewarding and provide an economical way to visit a particular area. National and international opportunities are available. Some organizations to check out include REI Adventures, American Hiking Society, Discover Corps, Global Volunteers, and Earth Watch. Many others are available.

Benefits of Senior Travel

Travel during retirement is more than an enjoyable activity. It's good for you!

  • It keeps you active, and older adults who are more physically active have lower rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.
  • It stimulates and challenges your brain as you encounter new people, cultures and environments.
  • It reduces stress and improves your mood and outlook on life.
  • It strengthens and deepens friendships.

And, it's just plain fun! So, get out and enjoy a vacation. You've earned it!

Written By:
Jeff Hoyt
Editor in Chief
Read About Our Panel of Experts
As Editor-in-Chief of the personal finance site MoneyTips.com, Jeff produced hundreds of articles on the subject of retirement, including preventing identity theft, minimizing taxes, investing successfully, preparing for retirement medical costs, protecting your credit score, and making your money last… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt