15 Trips You Need to Take as Soon as You Retire
No more waiting for your annual vacation, then filling it end-to-end until you drag yourself back to work needing another week off. You are retired — and if you’re reading this, you probably love to travel. With the youngest baby boomers turning 55 this year, and the first group around age 73, most members of that influential cohort are likely retired or semi-retired. According to AARP’s 2019 Boomer Travel Trends survey, the majority of boomers (94 percent) anticipated at least one domestic getaway last year, with an average of four to five total trips planned. And over half (53 percent) expected to travel internationally.
The AARP survey also indicated that travel planning is occurring earlier as compared to previous years. Social media is an important influence during the planning stage, according to the 2019 Global Digital Traveler Research by Travelport. Plus, 42 percent of boomers seek to personalize their experience through add-ons like extra legroom, additional baggage allowance, or special meals, the survey’s data showed.
Your options are vast and varied. With your job in the rearview mirror, and the open highway ahead, how about a road trip? This might appeal if you’ve been longing for the freedom of getting behind the wheel and taking off. Or, perhaps you escaped employment with barely enough energy to pick up your last check and bid goodbye to envious coworkers. A resort destination will let you recover without lifting a finger. (Well, except waving one to summon your next poolside cocktail.) Or, are you looking for an exotic trip to the other side of the world? No problem.
Once you realize you have the time, energy, and travel budget, the next step is to get planning. Whether you want rest or excitement, solitude or crowds, low cost or luxury, here are some ideas for retirement travel.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Billed as “America’s Favorite Drive,” this spectacular 469-mile route joins Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Take as much or as little time as you want on this scenic ride, which averages between 3,000 and 4,000 feet in elevation. Delight in the extraordinary views from roadside pullover areas, or hike a few of the 80-plus trails. From campgrounds to upscale log homes, plenty of lodging is available, and you can enjoy traditional music, culture, biking, history, nature, and even golf along the way.
In Asheville, North Carolina, explore the majestic Biltmore Estate, created in 1895 by George Vanderbilt. Self-guided tours take guests through the 250-room house and garden, described as a “time travel experience.” You can spend the night at the Estate’s hotel, called The Inn, or in your own cottage. All the information you need to plan your excursion can be found on the Blue Ridge Parkway website, plus they offer a smartphone app that includes scenic and historic sites, lodging, and activities to guide you along the way.
Want to leave the driving to someone else? A luxurious journey through the Canadian Rockies aboard one of Rocky Mountaineer's comfortable, glass-domed railway cars might be your ticket. Choose from several options, like the Canadian Rockies Getaway Circle With Post-Tour Alaska Cruise. This 16-night trip includes four days aboard the Rocky Mountaineer and seven nights on a Glacier Bay Inside Passage cruise.
The journey begins in Vancouver with time to explore and rest. The next morning, you’ll board the Rocky Mountaineer and travel through forests and river canyons to the shores of Kamloops Lake. Up next: Wind your way through the Canadian Rockies to Jasper National Park, then enjoy the scenic Icefields Parkway, which will bring you to the Columbia Icefield. Here, you can ride an Ice Explorer to the middle of Athabasca Glacier. Upon arriving at Lake Louise, you’ll have time to explore before heading to Banff and back to Vancouver.
After a few days of relaxing and touring Vancouver, you’ll hop on the cruise ship and head to the Inner Passage to visit Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Several price options are available for each itinerary, and you can plan your trip on rockymountaineer.com.
Lovers of history, religion, and current events will enjoy touring this tiny country, which is about the size of New Jersey. Tourism is increasing, and with the influx of visitors, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has created Israel Pass, which provides discounts and easier access to national parks, nature reserves, and famous attractions.
Your first stop should be Tel Aviv, known for its beaches, clubs, and thriving arts community. Stay in The Norman, a conveniently located boutique hotel that’s housed in a luxuriously restored historic building. Be sure to visit the Carmel Market — Tel Aviv’s most popular — for unique textiles, spices, herbs, tea, and fresh foods.
Less than an hour’s drive north is Caesarea, a coastal town offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean along with Roman ruins dating back to its days as the area’s largest port. Jerusalem, a sacred city for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, must be on your itinerary. See the iconic Dome of the Rock shrine, Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark and an example of Islamic architecture. Visit the site of the crucifixion, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall.
The magnificent King David Hotel would be a treat, even if only for dinner or a cocktail and a glimpse of its stunning view of Old Jerusalem. A range of tour groups and prices make visiting Israel convenient as well as memorable. Pro tip: Consider concierge service to expedite your transfer from Ben Gurion Airport.
With a flight time between 16 and 21 hours from the U.S. and a huge area to see, a visit to Australia, Travel + Leisure’s 2020 Destination of the Year, doesn’t fit most vacation schedules – until you have no schedule, that is.
In metropolitan Sydney, tour the iconic Opera House and then see it from another perspective on a harbor cruise. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or climb to the apex of its steel arch if you have lots of energy and an extra $200. Get up close and personal with Australia’s unique wildlife on Kangaroo Island’s nature reserve and see koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, fur seals, penguins, and kookaburras.
For marine wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia is home to countless species of colorful fish, mollusks, starfish, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. Melbourne’s Great Ocean Road, at Australia’s southeastern tip, is the place to see rugged seashore, jagged cliffs, sandy beaches, and even the dense Otway rainforest. Don’t miss Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, set along its picturesque river and crossed by the Story Bridge.
Cruise the Yarra River in Melbourne for great views of the city’s landmarks and skyline. Seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, so most travelers to the southern part of Australia time their visit during their summer, from November through March.
Southeast Asia River Cruise
If this part of the world is new to you, a river cruise will offer adventure, luxury, and convenience, with all the arrangements made for you. Several companies, including AmaWaterways, offer Mekong River cruises that include Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), once known as “Paris of the Orient.” Visit Phnom Penh in Cambodia to experience the French colonial architecture, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and Killing Fields, a sad testament to the country’s tumultuous history. The seven-day cruise in southern Vietnam and Cambodia can be extended to include Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Angkor Wat in Siem Riep.
With an extension, you’ll spend a few days in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, and enjoy a blend of ancient temples and modern skyscrapers. From there, take a motor coach to Halong Bay, where you’ll board a ship to sail among the magnificent limestone rock formations and spend the night in modern comfort.
Next, you’ll take a short flight south to Siem Reap in Cambodia for a visit to Angkor Wat, a massive temple complex built in the early 12th century to honor the Hindu god, Vishnu. After exploring Angkor Wat, board your river ship for the seven-day Mekong River cruise.
So far away and such a huge expanse of land with several major cities, China had to wait until there was time to explore it properly. Now is that time.
Start your visit in Hong Kong, where you’ll find great shopping, delicious dining, and stunning views of the skyline and harbor from the top of Victoria Peak. Ride the Star Ferry to Kowloon to see more of the iconic harbor.
Then, fly to Beijing, China’s imperial capital, where you can view historic Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the world’s largest surviving ancient palace complex. Walk along the 4,000-mile-long Great Wall, enjoying the panoramic views and contemplating its role in China’s long history. Take a short flight to Xi'an to see the wondrous Terracotta Army, more than 7,000 life-sized clay sculptures of warriors and horses buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Your next stop is Shanghai, China’s largest city and financial center, where you can stroll along the Bund, its famed waterfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings. Be sure to sample the specialty xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at a few of the restaurants that claim theirs to be the best. You can be the judge.
If you’re fascinated by the ancient civilization of Egypt and have always wanted to see the pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and the Nile, this could be the time to make your plans. The Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open in 2020, with more than 100,000 artifacts and about 20,000 on display, including 5,400 objects retrieved from Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Even if you usually travel on your own, you may want to consider a well-planned group excursion that takes care of the transfers, entry tickets, meals, tours, and other arrangements. For example, Adventures by Disney offers adult-exclusive 10-day trips to Egypt that make planning simple.
The itinerary includes seeing Old Cairo with a local Egyptologist, a trip to the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx, and a private VIP tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum. A three-night cruise on the Nile, a visit to the Luxor Temple, a cooking class, and a trip to the Valley of the Kings, where Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, are included. A cruise aboard a felucca, a traditional wooden boat, and a private yacht to Ras Mohammed National Park with an opportunity to snorkel among coral reefs are also part of the experience.
If your goal is to be spoiled and rejuvenated in luxurious surroundings, Scottsdale has many options for you. The Andaz offers suites and bungalows, and for even more privacy, the retreat’s secluded cluster of bungalows has its own swimming pool. The Hotel Valley Ho, faithfully restored with contemporary comforts and mid-century modern style, greets guests with classic furnishings that will take you back to the 1950s.
Scottsdale is about 20 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, so you can start relaxing as soon as you land. When you’re sufficiently restored and ready to see the city, you’ll find walkable Old Town’s art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and craft breweries to be convenient and fun. Be on the lookout for One-Eyed Jack, a huge stylized jackrabbit — just one example of Scottsdale’s commitment to public art.
The Museum of the West features an extraordinary collection of paintings, sculpture, artefacts, ceramics, photography, and drawings. Meanwhile, the fascinating Museum of Contemporary Art offers a variety of installations, paintings, photography, and videos. Visitors to Scottsdale should be sure to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, his winter home and architecture school. Tours reveal not only the home, furnishings, and structures, but also much about Wright’s life and personality.
Iceland and the Northern Lights
What travel wish list doesn’t include seeing the aurora borealis? The challenge with getting a good look at the mysterious northern lights is that they don’t appear on schedule. Certain times of year (September through March) are better for viewing with the long winter nights. Travelers also need to avoid nights with a bright moon. Now that you have time to wait patiently for the spectacular show in the sky, why not plan a trip to Iceland?
While you’re there, don’t miss the Blue Lagoon. Book a day visit or stay in one of the hotels, like the Silica Hotel or the five-star luxury Retreat Hotel. The 102-degree milky blue water is said to be excellent for the skin, and its scenery and unique waters make it Iceland’s most-visited attraction. You might even be lucky enough to see the northern lights as you luxuriate in the warm water of the lagoon.
Hotel Ranga, a family-owned boutique that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019, is a popular place to stay while you wait for the northern lights to appear. Their on-site observatory, outdoor hot tubs, aurora alert service, cozy rooms, gourmet meals, and hospitality make the anticipation relaxing and enjoyable.
Looking for lush green scenery, inviting pubs, and friendly folks? Want to learn more about your ancestors or discover the towns they once called home? A trip to Ireland will fit the bill.
Start in Dublin, where you can visit Trinity College to admire the architecture and ancient manuscripts, prison-turned-museum Kilmainham Gaol to hear about Ireland’s history, and the Guinness Storehouse to pour a proper pint and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. Join a pub crawl and hear traditional Irish music while checking out the lively bar scene.
Some of the lovely cities worth exploring include Kinsale, Belfast, Dingle, Killarney, and Kilkenny. Drive the 110-mile Ring of Kerry along the Iveragh Peninsula for breathtaking views, historical sites, waterfalls, beaches, and monuments. Stay in a castle like Adare Manor, Dromoland Castle, or Carton House.
The seaport town of Cobh in County Cork was the departure point of the Titanic, and a tour of the White Star Line ticket office is a moving and memorable experience. If you plan to drive, remember that you’ll be on the left side of the road, and vehicles have right-hand drive — a bit confusing, especially with a standard shift car. Opt for an automatic vehicle or a driver for comfortable, safer touring.
This island just off Italy’s toe is another exciting locale for those seeking ancestral towns. Plus, you can explore it while sniffing out the perfect cannoli or pasta alla Norma. Many Italian-Americans trace their roots to Sicily as a result of migrations that occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Palermo, Sicily’s capital, is a lively city with colorful outdoor markets, spectacular cathedrals, and delectable street food, including fried rice balls called arancini. Enjoy them with Sicilian wines, many from vineyards near Mount Etna, Sicily’s active volcano.
Unique and inviting cities along the coastline and in Sicily’s interior offer something for everyone, including ancient ruins at Agrigento, Siracusa, Selinunte, and Taormina — testament to the history of this island, which has been occupied at various times by the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and others.
Miles of gorgeous coastline and beaches, impressive architecture, fresh seafood, and friendly people are just a few reasons to visit Sicily. Travel between cities can be managed by train, bus, car, or private driver. If you rent a car, note that main highways are generally in good condition and well-marked, unlike some local roads. Highway speeds are fast, and Sicilian drivers seem to love tailgating. Within the cities, streets are narrow, and parking is nearly nonexistent. You can usually find public parking on the edge of towns in a parcheggio.
Looking for pura vida? The motto, meaning “Enjoy life and be happy,” is a favorite saying in this Central American country for good reason. A variety of environments, including rainforests, jungles, Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, volcanoes, and hot springs make it a fascinating place to visit.
Lovers of wildlife can see monkeys, sloths, wildcats, whales, reptiles, and sea turtles in their natural habitats. And after a day of hiking, diving, surfing, playing golf, or exploring nature, you can look forward to relaxing on an unspoiled beach or in a lush rainforest.
Five-star hotels and luxurious resorts are located throughout the country, so you can choose your favorite surroundings to ensure you find what pura vida means to you. In Guanacaste, the W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal is surrounded by the sands of Playa Conchal. In the heart of Costa Rica’s rainforest, Playa Cativo Lodge is an upscale beachfront property accessible exclusively by boat. Nayara Gardens, on the edge of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park, boasts unobstructed views of the volcano.
Costa Rica has two international airports, Daniel Oduber Quiros in Liberia (LIR) and Juan Santamaria in San Jose (SJO). Be sure to check the most convenient airport and ground transportation when booking your hotel.
If you’ve wanted to visit Africa, whether for adventure, wildlife, or photography, now is the time. Are you thrilled by the idea of seeing the Great Migration, when millions of antelope, wildebeest, and zebras travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of grazing grounds?
You have many options for seeing Africa, from staying at a luxury lodge and exploring on day trips to joining an arranged safari and traveling through several destinations. There are even walking safaris by The Bushcamp Company, with camps in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park and Mfuwe Lodge, where you can see giraffes, hippos, elephants, and antelopes at the Lodge’s lagoon.
Choose a luxury lodge or elegant tented camp near Kruger National Park in South Africa with andBeyond in their Ngala Private Game Reserve. Here, you have an opportunity to see rare white lion cubs. Or, consider the all-inclusive Kenya Wildlife Safari, a 14-day itinerary with four-by-four vehicles, game reserves, and a hot-air balloon ride.
With multigenerational travel becoming more popular, you might want to have youngsters or other family members join you. Adventures by Disney’s 10-day South Africa trip begins in Cape Town and includes stops at Monkeyland, Knysna Elephant Park, Kapama Game Reserve, and more.
United States Coast-to-Coast Road Trip
“See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet!” You might have heard the song, and it’s still good advice for travelers with lots of time.
There are so many sights to see and so many ways to drive across America. Of course, you can take Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles. For nostalgia, small towns, kitschy landmarks, and a view of the Grand Canyon, this is the way to go. Start or end your journey on the Santa Monica Pier, the western end of the fabled road. Be sure to take a photo at the “Santa Monica 66 - End of the Trail” sign.
Or, try the southern route linking San Diego, California, and Savannah, Georgia. You’ll pass through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Cutting across the middle on Route 50, which links Maryland and northern California, you’ll see the Sierra Nevada, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains, deserts, plains, and farmland. Washington, D.C., the world’s tallest arch in St. Louis, and Lake Tahoe are other highlights on this route.
So, grab a map and a traveling companion, and plan your cross-country trip. Renting a vehicle one-way and flying back could be just the ticket.
Do you have time to be out of town for weeks or even months? What about a hefty travel budget? If your answer is yes, you might be in the market for an around-the-world cruise.
Seabourn offers its 2021 World Cruise: Extraordinary Oceans, a 140-day voyage with visits to 60 ports and destinations in 32 countries on six continents. Departing from Miami, the Seabourn Sojourn will sail east to west, visiting Central America, South America, the South Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, and Africa, before finally ending in Barcelona, Spain.
Crystal Cruises presents 2021 Ancient Dynasties and World Wonders, a 135-night journey from Miami to London, with stops in California, Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Dubai, and Egypt, to name a few. One or more of nine segments can be booked instead of the entire voyage, if desired.
Meanwhile, Viking’s 2021 World Discoveries covers 27 countries in 140 days. Silversea’s 2021 World Tour begins in Fort Lauderdale and spends 150 days aboard the Silver Whisper, with visits to 54 ports in 34 countries before completing its journey in New York.
These examples of 2021 world cruises might inspire you to think about your own voyage. Cruise fans love the idea of having all arrangements made for them, staying in luxurious staterooms, meeting other world travelers, and unpacking only once.