Many retirees look forward to finally scratching that itch for travel without pesky limitations such as work or school schedules or limited vacation days. But retirees may have special travel requirements, especially if they’re not as mobile as they once were or are seeing the world on a fixed income.
Pauline Frommer, editorial director of travel site Frommer’s, is not herself retired, but she knows what older people look for when traveling. Her father, the legendary Arthur Frommer, wrote his first travel guide while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Korean War and is perhaps still most famous for his book “Europe on 5 Dollars a Day.”
Arthur Frommer is nearly 93 now, and Europe costs a lot more than $5 a day. But Pauline Frommer shares with Money Talks News her destination ideas for the retired traveler, from domestic to international options. And she has a little advice too.
“Be careful with traditional senior discounts,” Frommer warns. Advertised senior deals aren’t always the best, so check out AAA discounts, sales or other options before jumping on a senior deal.
Frommer also encourages retired travelers to take advantage of that non-working time and plan in advance, as pricing has gone up and many destinations, including national parks, are now requiring reservations.
Here are Pauline Frommer’s top picks for retiree travel.
Vietnam “may be for the more adventurous (traveler),” Frommer notes, but she praises its fascinating landmarks, delicious food and fairly affordable prices. She also says that more U.S. airlines are now offering direct flights there. And for retirees, who may have complicated memories of the Vietnam War, historic sites may be of special interest.
“Being of the generation who knows that history, (retired travelers) can see how far (Vietnam) has come,” she says.
It’s not uncommon for travelers to meet a Vietnamese veteran and have a thoughtful discussion with them about days past, Frommer says.
2. European river cruises
Does a Love Boat-style cruise sound too wild and crazy? European river cruises aren’t like that, Frommer says, pointing out that her father enjoyed one when he was 83.
“The food is gourmet; wine and beer are included; there’s no party atmosphere,” Frommer raves. And you can begin your cruise at one of numerous points in Europe — Frommer specifically likes cruises on the Danube River — and once on board, you’ll see many sights without having to unpack multiple times.
The French, Frommer says, “don’t seem to think life ends when you’re older.” She believes older travelers there aren’t treated like second-class citizens, as they may be in other countries.
She also praises the country’s “wonderful” trains and other public transport options, which can be a plus for older travelers. And the euro is almost on a par with the American dollar at the moment, so Frommer says, “there’s never been a better time to go to Europe.”
For retirees who didn’t retire from their love of the outdoors, Frommer recommends Iceland. Its natural wonders are easily accessible, she says.
“You can just drive and see a spectacular waterfall or geyser,” she notes. “(These trips) do not require long hikes.”
5. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca citadel in southern Peru, is “a bucket-list destination” for many people, according to Frommer. It’s an adventurous trip but worth it, she says.
And retirees shouldn’t rule it out. “You can reach (Machu Picchu) by train if you’re not up to hiking the Inca Trail,” she says. Peru as a whole is fairly affordable, and the food is delicious, she notes.
6. Canadian Rockies
Americans don’t need to cross the ocean to get to the beautiful Canadian Rockies (unless you live in Hawaii). Frommer suggests traveling there by train if you can. Travel on the Rocky Mountaineer with upgraded Gold Leaf service, and you can marvel at the scenery from a two-story glass-domed car.
“(The train) gets you to hard-to-get-to glacial lakes so turquoise you’d swear they were Photoshopped,” she says. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”
7. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Want to stay in the U.S.? Frommer recommends scenic Santa Fe, New Mexico, raving about its walkable downtown, art galleries, shopping opportunities and creative food scene.
And being retired doesn’t mean you need to stop learning. Frommer says her father enjoyed taking a summer class at St. John’s, a Santa Fe liberal arts college. “There are no tests,” she adds. “You learn with an actual professor … and have your afternoons off to explore.”
8. America’s national parks
How many of America’s national parks have you seen? Retirement is the time to catch up on the ones you’ve only read about, Frommer suggests. And for just $80, Americans aged 62 and older can purchase a lifetime national parks pass. Since admission to just one park can cost $30 without a pass, visiting only three parks makes the $80 price worthwhile.
“Go in the off-season if you can,” Frommer says. “It’s very affordable.” She notes that many seniors rent an RV for a national park trip and suggests travelers look into peer-to-peer RV rental services, such as Outdoorsy.
9. St. Augustine, Florida
Retirees and Florida go together like cookies and milk. Frommer recommends historic St. Augustine, which is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in what is now the contiguous United States.
History buffs can hop on and hop off the sightseeing trolleys, marveling at such 17th-century buildings as the Castillo de San Marcos. And sure, while you’re there, take a look for the legendary Fountain of Youth, a mythical spring that’s part of Floridian legend.
10. Northern Michigan
Northern Michigan might not seem as glamorous a travel destination as some others, but Frommer promises retirees will find much to love. She praises the winery scene and strong arts community. Take in a concert at the Interlochen Center for the Arts or a movie at the Traverse City Film Festival (co-founded by filmmaker Michael Moore).
And don’t miss Mackinac Island, the popular resort area where almost all motor vehicles are banned.
“It’s really like a trip into the past,” Frommer says.