The great Irish author George Bernard Shaw penned the adage “Youth is wasted on the young.” That phrase has rung true from the time he wrote it until this very day. As a matter of fact, it’s been true since the dawn of man. The deep wisdom contained in that phrase becomes more evident with every passing year for most people. When it comes to travel, however, things have improved significantly since old George passed. People living in their Golden Years today have distinct travel advantages over 20th Century predecessors because of better healthcare, improved travel logistics, and access to information on the internet.
As a general rule, older people are inherently wiser and more informed due to their extensive life experiences. That means we can fully appreciate the wonders of a trip since we can place events, art, food, and scenery into historical perspective. That is wisdom personified.
And wisdom overcomes many advantages otherwise afforded to the young. Making wise choices about health, fitness, finances, and appropriate destinations also means there are no obstacles to stop seasoned seniors from hitting the road.
Plan Your Grand Vacation
Since most of us have limitations on time and financial resources, we must prioritize our trips. Good planning is the key to having good travel experiences. Think about trip objectives, how long you want to stay, and your budget. Remember, there are many expenses and logistical aspects that must be considered when planning a vacation.
Plan, plan, and plan some more. You will be amazed to learn that the planning phase of a trip is part of the fun. Planning will save you lots of time, money, and misery. As military planners say, “Proper planning prevents poor performance.”
Don’t rush the planning process. Give yourself enough time to nail down the important details before jumping on a plane. There’s always next month or other destinations.
Suggestion: Sit down with a few blank pages and start outlining the trip. If you’re computer savvy, use an Excel spreadsheet since it can be easily modified. Your plan is an “Iterative Living Document”, which is a fancy way of saying various details of your plan will change before its finalized. You will re-visit (reiterate) the plan often as new information such as flights, hotel confirmations, and costs emerge.
Consider these key elements
- Understanding how much you can spend is one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects you should nail down early. Should you increase credit card debt? Should you get a bank loan or tap the savings account?
- There is no point to going on vacation if you’re uptight and miserable about money all the time. Lack of proper financial planning makes for a miserable trip. Trust me on this point. If a jaunt to Paris would strain the wallet, go to Miami or Dublin instead.
- Makes sure you understand the currency exchange rate(s) and how they can affect your budget.
- Decide where you want to go and why you want to go there. Will it be your first time in that country/destination or do you simply want to see things missed the first time? Contact that country’s Consulate to determine what type of travel documents, visa’s, etc. you’ll need beyond the standard Passport.
- Of course, taking a luxurious sea cruise is always a prominent consideration.
- What is the best time to visit that country? Europe has its “High Season” (April – August) when things are more expensive. Asia has the Monsoon Season (June – July) when things are wet while the United States experiences heavy air travel during the Holiday Season (November – January)
Hotels and Itinerary
- In what hotels or accommodations would you like to stay? Do you want to take a locally guided tour or play it by ear? What shows, museums, restaurants, parks, etc. do you want to experience?
- How will you get to your destination (Trains, planes, or automobiles)? What local transportation will you need (Bus, trolley, Uber, taxi)? What are the local driver’s license requirements should you want to rent a car?
- Booking flights are much easier than booking hotels or Airbnb rooms within the selected time window since there are many airline/flight choices. Confirm accommodations BEFORE booking flights since changing flights cab be a nightmare.
- Check with your wireless carrier to ensure your cell phone works in the destination country. Some smartphones can be configured/enabled to operate in many parts of Europe and Asia. If not, plan to rent a cell phone since it’s a must-have device no matter where you travel.
- Unless it’s an absolute necessity, leave your laptop at home since most hotels have computer centers. Most European and Asian countries also have lots of Internet/Digital Cafes. Leaving your PC at home is one less item you’ll have to lug through customs and security checkpoints.
Complete Your Travel Plan
Once you’ve outlined the key elements of your vacation, it’s time to flesh out the details. There are a number of resources at your disposal in this digital age. But there’s one eternal question that vexes most travelers today: Should I manage my own plan online or use a travel agent?
The simple and easy answer is to use a travel agent. No matter how much you’ve traveled over the years, travel agents have a wealth of experience booking vacations, finding the cheapest flights, finding the best hotel rooms, and knowing what to avoid. Agents have direct access to hotel reservation managers, know how to get the most out of those complex flight booking systems, and learn about great deals long before you could ever know.
Of course, they can also work wonders with that plan you created. Hire an agent and let them do all the work. It’s worth every penny since your agent provides a level of personal service no website can match.
Many web savvy road warriors, however, will still insist on doing all the legwork by using travel websites. After all, they created the plan so why not take the next steps. It can also be fun doing all that research and sitting at you PC for hours. Sounds exciting, right?
Some of the important travel websites are listed below. They can list all flights, prices, indicate stopovers, show multiple stops, and display travel times. These websites also compare and contrast prices for various airlines for any given search criteria. In addition, some of these sites offer package deals for flight-hotel-rental cars. Hotel websites offer great pictures of the hotel and rooms and outline lists of amenities. In fact, some of these sites present so much information, it’s like taking a sip from a fire hose.
Be warned, however, changing flights or hotel reservations once booked is a complete and total nightmare because of the complex interplay between carriers, hotels, and websites. Doing a root canal without anesthesia is more fun than trying to change/cancel reservations booked on travel sites.
Remember, nothing prevents you from booking cheap flights or hotels directly on the airline’s or hotel’s website. Making changes is a bit easier when booked directly.
Some Great Destinations for Seniors
ThriveAfter50.com conveys a wonderful concept: don’t retire, rewire. That means using your well-earned experiences to live a better life. Traveling well is one excellent way to fulfill that concept. To that end, you should consider these wonderful destinations listed in no particular order. You will not be disappointed.
- The United States
- New York City: the Greatest collection of museums outside of Spain. Great food, excellent restaurants.
- Washington DC: Wonderful historical museums, exhibitions, monuments, and the Capitol.
- San Diego: Perfect weather, beautiful beaches, excellent parks, and one of the world’s best zoos.
- San Francisco: Has Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Napa Valley nearby.
- London, England: Has tons of history, pomp, and circumstance.
- Edinburgh, Scotland: Wonderful castles, historic sites, and friendly pubs.
- Paris, France: The most visited city in the world.
- Vienna, Austria: Beautiful architecture and classical music venues.
- Barcelona, Spain: Amazing art museums and La Rambla; the best party town in Europe.
- Hong Kong: The best shopping in the world, great food, and amazing hotels.
- Macau: A short jaunt from Hong Kong; has more big-time casinos than Las Vegas.
- Singapore: a Wonderful fusion of East-West cultures; great food and shopping.
Last Tip: Travel light and don’t overpack. You will get exhausted dragging heavy luggage around airports and hotel lobbies.
Michael Hervey is a freelance writer who lives in Los Gatos, California.
He graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. in Political Science and worked in a Wall Street bank before setting off on a life of discovery and adventure. He joined the United States Marines, attained the rank of Captain, was a fixed-wing/helicopter pilot, and a Squadron Legal Officer. He also held senior sales positions in the semiconductor, software, and wireless industries
Harold has written six (6) eBooks on travel, food, and business plus numerous articles and blogs about lifestyles, current events, and politics.