“When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel.” – Gloria Steinem
Steinem’s support of travel’s benefits is backed by science. Geriatrician Dr. David Lipschitz claims that travel helps seniors live longer by keeping us occupied and engaged and encouraging us to exercise. Today, we seniors have more disposable income and can devote more time and money to travel than ever before. And, as you’ll find when you travel, the world is full of senior travelers. The average age of U.S. travelers is 45, and well over a third of travelers are over 55. Senior travel can be budget-friendly, too. One of the benefits of being a senior with a touch of wanderlust is that, unlike younger travelers tied to jobs and kids’ schedules, we can travel outside of peak vacation times – summer, Christmas, and spring break, meaning cheaper rates.
What should you look for when choosing a travel company? Many companies support senior travelers by organizing itineraries with a leisurely pace and offer flexible tour and travel options. Look for companies that have low- or no-charge single supplement fees for solo travelers. Here are a few of the best travel companies for seniors.
Roads Scholar: If you want to learn something new
This company, formerly called Elderhostel, is a not-for-profit travel company founded in 1975. They specialize in “Learning Adventures” for adults, and most of their customers are over 50. Each trip is rated, from “Easy Going” to “Challenging.” Roads Scholar understands that many seniors are traveling solo, so they provide options so you can avoid the extra costs that single travelers often pay. They offer to match you with a roommate for your trip or require only a small single supplement. Some programs offer single rooms at no extra charge. You can also share the adventure with a grandchild on one of their Grandparent learning adventures.
Overseas Adventure Travel: If you want to customize your trip or if you’re traveling solo
O.A.T. offers trips to over 90 countries and to every continent (yes, even Antarctica). They specialize in small group travel, from 8-16 people in each tour group, with an average tour size of 14. Most of their customers are over 50. Their travel options are very flexible and customizable; 85% of their travelers customize their trip. They offer pre- and post-trip add-ons and extensions, allow you to combine trips, and let you customize your air travel.
O.A.T. is also solo-traveler friendly, offering free single supplements on all land-based trips (you might have to pay a small supplement on their small-ship cruises). They also offer women-only small group and small ship tours.
Adventures Abroad: If you want an adventure
This travel company offers small-group tours – no more than 18 travelers in a tour, designed for adults. Their Senior Travel Tours are specially designed for adults aged 50 and up. These tours blend major sightseeing destinations with “off-the-beaten-path” destinations, and focus on cultural immersion. These trips also include built-in leisure time. They take travelers’ activity preferences into account when they rank their tours by physical activity level (1 being the least physical and 3 being the most strenuous).
Viking Cruises: If you want to soak in some culture
Cruises are a convenient, relaxed way to travel. Viking is one of the most popular cruise lines for seniors, operating many itineraries in Europe and Asia. Viking also runs ocean cruises, and all of its ships are adult only (18 years and up). Viking cruises focus on cultural and learning experiences, offering opportunities like on-ship cooking classes, planetariums, and TED talks.
Projects Abroad: If you want to volunteer
For seniors who want to share their knowledge and skills and make a difference in the world, ProjectsAbroad’s “Grown-up Specials” program designs volunteer trip packages specifically for adults over 50. The trips start at 2 weeks long, and the company organizes the itineraries and accommodations (often with a host family). The company offers volunteering trips all over the world, from environmental work in the Galapagos to childcare in Nepal.