5 active travel ideas for 50-somethings
The internet offers a bewildering array of tourist itineraries for seniors and ideas for older travellers. Many of us have the time and resources to travel seriously and are aware of the health benefits of physical activity. But we’re also a diverse group, so not every senior adventure that appears on the web or in brochures will be relevant to all of us.
For one thing, the age range of seniors (50+) is wider than that of any other group. We bring a variety of life experiences and physical abilities to the table. A friend of my age (74) spent the last summer holidays doing her “usual activities”: biking, canoeing and hiking. I prefer to take long walks to get to know a destination. Other seniors take advantage of their vacations to visit top ranches or luxury glamping resorts or simply take advantage of AARP travel discounts at nice hotels.
DISNEY MAGIC: How to Plan a Multi-Generational Disney World Vacation That Will Satisfy Everyone
Some active seniors may not want to go full speed each day of a trip. Some may have health or mobility issues, or travel with someone who does. We may want to travel with people who have very different interests and physical abilities – a generationless holiday with our grandchildren, for example. And while some seniors have very specific bucket lists, many just want to go somewhere, do something, and stay healthy.
Here are five different types of trips for active seniors that accommodate a variety of travel styles and interests.
TRY OUR TRAVEL NEWSLETTER: Get the latest headlines delivered to your inbox daily
FIND THE RIGHT FONT: How Much Travel Insurance Do You Really Need?
1. National Parks and State Parks
In recent years, many older travelers have opted to “roam close to home,” choosing senior adventures that offer active activities but don’t require long air travel. All 63 US National Parks are great travel destinations for seniors who want to enjoy biking, bird watching, water sports, rock climbing, diving, fishing, hiking and nature hiking, horseback riding, water sports and winter sports. Breathtaking landscapes can also be found in Canada’s national parks.
LODGE LIFE: 12 Best National Park Lodges in the United States
State parks are generally less crowded and can be just as rewarding for seniors’ adventures. Several national parks could fit inside the 6 million acres of Adirondacks State Park in New York. The beautiful Letchworth State Park and Franconia Notch attract visitors from around the world. Hikers, bikers, and horseback riders can enjoy hoodoo rock formations at Palo Duro Canyon in Texas and seasonal wildflowers in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert.
DID YOU TAKE AN OUTDOOR PURSUIT DURING COVID? Take it to the next level with an active holiday
2. Walking, walking and biking tours for active seniors
Many tour operators offer walking and biking adventures that allow active seniors to combine outdoor and urban experiences. European tours are uniquely designed to take hikers and cyclists through beautiful cities and countryside in a single trip. Country Walkers and VBT Bicycling Vacations offer US and International tours with guided and self-guided options and they provide all the support you will need.
TRAVELING TOGETHER:7 Best Family Resorts for Multi-Gen Vacations
Most tour operators specify the activity level of a trip and many will tell you approximately how many miles you will walk or cycle each day. Backroads, an active travel specialist, also categorizes its tours by type of traveler. although it does not list a ’50+’ group, active seniors who like to travel with family or in various age groups may be listed as ‘family’ or ’20+’. And a new division of Backroads, Dolce Tempo, offers several levels of “easy” excursions.
Tours marketed specifically as senior adventures are no less exciting than the others. Eldertreks includes destinations as varied as the Silk Road, Southern Africa and Madagascar in its offerings. Its five levels of activity are aimed at seniors. Senior cycling focuses on the eastern United States and Canada. And Road Scholar has an impressive list of hikes and hikes and a few bike tours that include kayak and houseboat trips.
LIFE ON THE ROAD: 10 Best RV Vacations for Families
3. River cruises for seniors
River cruises combine the ability to see different locations with the ability to easily disembark at ports that offer walking, biking, and other sightseeing options. Travelers are assigned cabins for the duration of the trip and can choose not to disembark at a given stop. This makes river travel ideal for active seniors with a less active travel partner(s).
In Europe, river boats of many companies sail on the Rhine, the Danube, the Douro, the Seine and the Volga. Walking tours and simple rides are available at almost all stops and many companies now provide free bikes for independent tours. Some offer guided excursions to ports where cycling is particularly pleasant.
TO RUN AWAY: 7 Best Cruise Lines for Couples (and Their Most Romantic Trips)
Viking River Cruises offers a bike tour of the Kinderdijk Windmills as part of a trip from Amsterdam to Antwerp. Avalon Waterways passengers can choose an excursion to Austria’s Wachau Valley and its active Discovery river cruises sail the Ganges, Mekong, Nile and Peruvian Amazon as well as European rivers. Uniworld has a trip from Budapest to Passau where cyclists can ride one-way on several stretches. AmaWaterways offers a wellness program on each of its ships and offers bike tours of many ports, as well as hiking options.
4. Extended stays
Like river cruises, extended stays in the same destination allow seniors with different activity levels to enjoy vacations together. Resorts allow some guests to stay on the beach or by the pool while others take the bus into town or arrange tours and other activities. Seniors who enjoy all aspects of planning can use vacation rental booking sites like Vrbo or Airbnb to investigate and plan their own outings.
WHERE TO GO: 20 Best Family Vacation Spots in the USA
Educational travel company Smithsonian Journeys takes a different approach with its cultural tours. Week-long tours to places like Barcelona, Krakow and Italy’s Lake District come with itineraries that allow seniors to be as active as they want to explore the neighborhood and region. Three-week “Living-in” stays in Andalusia, Florence and Aix-en-Provence place travelers in aparthotels and offer themed threads that include cooking, language teaching and hiking.
5. Holidays without generation
Generationless travel is an emerging trend where grandparents and grandchildren vacation together while skipping the middle generation. Children help seniors stay active, although it can be difficult to find activities that both generations can enjoy sharing.
MAGNIFICENT GETAWAYS: 7 Stunning Overwater Bungalows Worth Seeing
Road Scholar, a pioneer in the field, offers some 150 multi-generational and skip-gen “learning adventures” around the world. Tauck offers “kid-tested touring adventures” like ziplining in Costa Rica and jet boating in Alaska with its Tauck Bridges program. Small-group tour company Intrepid Travel designates certain tours for families only. Like Backroads, Intrepid offers plenty of active travel choices but isn’t specifically aimed at seniors; some trips may require particularly fit grandparents.
More from FamilyVacationist: