When you ask people what they want to do when they retire, most of them say “travel”. And no wonder: people love to travel, no matter what age they are. But there’s a second reason travel is a favourite for people in their retirement and pre-retirement years: call it the Baby Boomer advantage.
Sure, people in their 20s have the world on a string, free to go exploring with nothing but a little money and a backpack. But those on the other end of the age scale may have an even better ticket to ride, for a number of reasons. Here are five advantages we Baby Boomers have when the travel bug bites:
Flexible schedule: If you’re over 50, you likely don’t have young kids in school, so you can travel pretty much any time of year — not just during school holidays, when prices are at their peak. For example, you can travel after Aug. 25, when airlines typically drop their rates by 10 to 30 per cent. And you can take advantage of the good rates during the “dead zones” in the first two weeks of November and December.
As well, if you’re retired, you can travel on the spur of the moment and get those last-minute deals travel agencies and cruise lines offer when they have unsold seats and empty cabins.
More time: Being retired means you can travel as long as you want. You can take extended trips to see several countries, or stay in one place for weeks — or the whole winter, if you’re sick of the cold and fancy being a snowbird. Even if you’re still working, you likely have substantially more holiday time than when you were a junior employee, and the seniority to take it in a big chunk instead of a week at a time.
Special discounts: Just about everywhere you go, there are discounts for people over 60. You can get travel discounts by joining AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) or CARP (formerly the Canadian Association for Retired Persons). Members generally get discounts of 10 to 20 per cent on hotels and car rentals. As well, transit systems, museums, art galleries and most kinds of tourist attractions around the world offer discounts to people over 60 or 65 — don’t forget to ask.
One note: while travel agencies and cruise lines often offer special “seniors” prices, some travel experts have noted that they aren’t always the best deal. In some cases there are better prices out there that are available to everyone. So shop around: better yet, find a great deal and then ask for a senior discount.
More freedom: Now that you’re not travelling with a carload of children, you have more leeway to do the things you really want to do. You can take a wine tour in France, spend time exploring great museums and art galleries, even go around the world — things that don’t work so well when you have five-year-olds (or 15-year-olds) along. As well, plane or train tickets for one or two cost a lot less than tickets for a whole family.
You’re more experienced: If you’ve lived this long, you’ve probably seen a lot of the world already, and you know where you like to travel, and how. That allows you to concentrate on trips to places you’ve long wanted to see, and start checking off those places on your travel bucket list.
You’ve also got a great opportunity to dig a little deeper, exploring lesser-known places rather than just seeing major tourist attractions. You might want to revisit some people or places from the past, take a photo safari, try some voluntourism — the possibilities are endless.
Do it now Your later years are a great opportunity to travel. But it’s not all peaches and cream: senior travel has its drawbacks and limitations, which can increase as the years go by. Some people do continue travelling happily into their 80s, but they’re the exception: typically, retirees do most of their travelling in the first 10 years of retirement.
The major limitation is health. You may feel fine on the day you retire, but health problems tend to crop up as you age, and existing problems become more debilitating. A wonky knee can make it hard to get around, and a serious ailment can make it risky to stray too far from specialized medical help.
Not only that, getting older means travel medical insurance gets more expensive. By the time you reach 80, the bill for an extended trip can be breathtaking.
So, if you’re over 50, enjoy the Baby Boomer advantage and travel, free of the restraints you’ve had for the past 30 or 40 years. But do it now: time’s a-wasting.