Retirement can mean no more work and all the hours you want to dedicate sitting in front of the TV or pottering around in your garden. Or, with a little planning and a sense of what you’re looking for, retirement can be your big chance to finally get all that traveling done that you couldn’t fit in while working all those hours each week!
“My father once said to me that the happiest day in his life was the day the last kid left and the dog died,” quips Tom Bartel, who with his wife Kristin Henning is a full-time retiree and most-of-the-time traveler, writing for their website Travel Past 50. (He’s joking about the dog dying.) “If you’re willing to shed all the stuff that holds you back like a home and a car, and be willing to see your family less frequently, you can travel after retirement.”
Rarely have there been so many options for retirees, thanks in part to the aging Baby Boomer population. AARP reports that Boomers are anticipated to take between four to five trips each year, with over half traveling domestically – and many opting for multi-generational trips. To answer this need, more and more travel agencies cater to older travelers – which means that quite literally, the world is the retiree’s oyster!
But how to decide what sort of travel will suit you? That’s an individual call, best answered before any bookings are made. Do you want adventure? What is your health and mobility like? What about finances?
Bartel helped us sort through four different options (of which there are many more) to give retirees some ideas about how to start planning for those active, adventurous post-retirement years.
Hit the road
Whether renting or owning an RV, or just packing up the car and going driving, the U.S. offers years of potential spots to visit. Bartel says that while they haven’t done the RV lifestyle (“we prefer to stay in motels”), they have a 10-year-old Subaru Outback that’s put on about 15,000 miles driving around the American West. “We park at a campsite in the parking area, then go hiking for the day and come back to the motel,” he says. “Or it’s easy to throw up one of those pop-up tents and stay in a park.”
But wherever you go, best to go in the off-season as much as possible. Between October and March in Europe there are few lines and prices are less expensive.
Sail the rivers
River cruises, like the ones offered by Viking River Cruises, are hugely popular as unique ways to see Europe and other destinations. Sailing tends to take place overnight (and avoids the kind of choppy waters that can give some people seasickness), and the daytimes are dedicated to exploring city after city with optional planned tours.
“The combination of nice accommodations and the cultural aspects is fun,” says Bartel. “They do pretty much all the thinking for you – just follow the guides.”
However you get there, consider a company like Context Travel, which provides private and small group guides (no more than six people) for that provide “thematic, in-depth experiences” with learned docents who provide informed, deep knowledge of their locales and subject matter. The more leisurely appreciation of a city and its culture is often a welcome respite from the rush-rush of too-large group tours.
Hit the road, Part 2
If your health permits, long walking tours can be just the thing: Spend your day walking, stay overnight in pre-arranged bed and breakfasts. Bartel and his wife walked through the Guatemalan jungle and along the Camino de Santiago across Spain; the Hadrian’s Wall Walk across Britain is also an easy, well-marked route. Though you can do all the planning yourself, you can save time and effort using companies that arrange “self-guided” tours like Country Walkers, who can pre-arrange lodgings and luggage transfers. Then all you have to do is the walking.
In the end, says Bartel, “It all depends on what you’re comfortable with,” and he adds that travelers should be willing to go outside their comfort zones. “If it doesn’t put a little bit of fear into you, doing something that pushes your own boundaries, you’re cheating yourself out of wonderful experiences otherwise.”