By Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure
These senior-friendly travel companies offer tours and travel experiences as diverse as their clients.
The benefits of travel, whether it's a refreshing weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a new destination, are undeniable. And for retirees or seniors who have time and a travel budget, the opportunities are nearly endless. The world and even their own city, state, or country are waiting to be explored.
It should be recognized that seniors are as diverse as any other generation, perhaps even more so as their years of experience, careers, ages, hometowns, and beliefs have taken them in many directions. Their interests, abilities, values, and habits may be different, but it can safely be said that for many, travel is in their plans.
Seniors travel to visit family, learn about the countries of their ancestors, or explore new destinations. Many seek immersive experiences, educational opportunities, or adventure. And travel companies are responding to their needs and wishes with tours, from independent to guided options, budget to luxury, and group to individual.
The 14 organizations listed here are either aimed specifically at mature clients or offer experiences that are flexible enough to accommodate a range of travelers.
Walking the World
Walking the World, based in Grand Junction, Colorado, offers walking and hiking tours mainly for travelers over the age of 50 who want to be immersed in the destinations they choose. Experienced hikers will enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, with treks of up to 10 miles on some days during the eight-day itinerary. Meanwhile, the Ireland trip covers 11 days of exploring fishing villages, rolling green hills, the stunning Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney National Park. Daily walks range from four to eight miles and are described as gentle to moderate.
Road Scholar, which began as Elderhostel in 1975, was rebranded in 2010, recognizing the values and interests of lifelong learners who have participated in their lectures, tours, field trips, and pleasure-filled educational experiences over the years. Participants are typically over age 50, ready to learn from travel, or focus on a specific interest. Grandparent travel, cruises, city exploration, national parks, historical trips, and more are described based on duration, activity level, price, and additional details that help clients select the ideal destination and experience.
Adventures Abroad offers trips on every continent and describes their clients as "curious, active, and often very well-traveled." The company largely caters to travelers 50 or older, but tours are open to adults of all ages. For their "soft adventure" trips, which concentrate on the culture and history of a destination, there are no strenuous activities, though a reasonable degree of fitness and ability to walk are required. Trips are rated from one to four based on physical activity, with the first level requiring only leisurely walks. Level four trips might include walks or hikes on uneven ground for three to seven hours. Specific trips are suggested for each activity level for easy planning.
Eldertreks is an adventure travel company designed for people ages 50 and over. Their small-group adventures cover more than 100 countries and include wildlife safaris, hiking trips, cultural journeys, and unique expeditions. The tours are rated on an activity level ranging from one (easy) to five (challenging), recognizing differences in capabilities and interests. At level one, travelers should be able to walk one mile and hike for one to two hours; at level five, folks should be able to walk five miles and hike for five or more hours.
Senior Cycling, based in Asheville, North Carolina, specializes in bicycle tours for active adults ages 50 and up. The groups are small, limited to a maximum of 13 participants, and are always accompanied by the "sag wagon," in case someone needs a break from riding. Tours are rated at three levels, from easy (for the occasional rider who prefers bike paths and flat terrain) to advanced (for those who are at ease with about 50 miles per day, traffic, and hills). Custom tours can be arranged for families or groups of friends.
Firebird Tours, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with international offices in Australia, Switzerland, and Malta, focuses on clients ages 50 and over. Their small group tours, which take guests to destinations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, Morocco, and North America, aim for value, comfort, and quality. Themes for tours include gastronomy, history, architecture, northern lights, and theater and opera. Private family tours are also available, with destinations and activities suitable for a wider age range depending on the group.
Backroads, based in Berkeley, California, specializes in active vacations. While their tours are open to all ages, most of their clients are over 50. (Family group trips naturally have a wider range of ages.) Bike tours to a variety of destinations are categorized by age group, including "older teens and 20s," "20s and beyond," and "teens and kids." Walking and hiking tours are similarly grouped. The new Dolce Tempo tours offer a "relaxed pace, stylish comfort, authentic experiences, and unique access." A few examples include the Easygoing E-bike Tour in California wine country and the Easygoing Multi-adventure Tour in Norway.
Overseas Adventure Travel
Overseas Adventure Travel, based in Boston, Massachusetts, specializes in small group travel and offers a variety of trips to destinations on every continent. Mature travelers are attracted to the flexibility of their trips and the ability to personalize activities. Recognizing that many of their clients travel alone, the company creates getaways for solo travelers, both first-timers and experienced adventurers. In addition, some trips are exclusively for female travelers.
EF Go Ahead Tours
EF Go Ahead Tours, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers small group tours with 14 to 38 guests. The trips focus on destinations or interests such as food and wine, adventure, safari and wildlife, and special events. The company also provides tours with private rooms and personalized experiences for solo travelers. Clients can put together their own group and take advantage of the services of their professional group coordinators.
Kensington Tours specializes in creating privately guided trips based on clients' preferences. Their expertise in more than 100 destinations worldwide makes planning easy, whether the goal is a culturally immersive experience, enjoying wine and food, discovering a location's history, or relaxation. While these arrangements are ideal for mature travelers who appreciate ease and luxury, Kensington also provides experiences for multigenerational travel in places like Italy, Japan, Iceland, or Costa Rica. These trips come with private vehicles, local guides, and family-friendly dining options.
Intrepid Travel, a leading adventure tour operator, offers tailor-made trips ideal for senior groups. They provide fully custom or ready-made itineraries that can be adapted to suit the group's comfort level. Travelers also get access to destination specialists whose local knowledge contributes to choosing appropriate accommodations, transportation, activities, and tours. In addition, Intrepid's Accessible Tours make travel available to all individuals by guiding them to the most suitable itineraries for their needs or developing a tailor-made trip. Intrepid's Walking & Trekking trips, suitable for a range of fitness levels, are popular with seniors.
YMT Vacations offers a variety of affordable, fully guided land and cruise tour vacations. Their programs are curated by specialists "to reflect the interests of modern, mature travelers." Focusing on convenient, all-inclusive trips, their packages include hotels, sightseeing, baggage handling, tour directors, and driver guides. In business since 1967, YMT's destinations include Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as travel for events like the Rose Parade and Oberammergau Passion Play.
Grand European Travel
Grand European Travel, arranging travel to a wide variety of destinations for more than 40 years, is an AARP-preferred travel provider. The company promotes itself as a "one-stop shop" for helping clients plan their chosen travel experiences. They represent a collection of 30 travel brands spanning seven continents, and their offerings range from budget to luxury getaways, including cruises and land trips. In addition, their family vacations are ideal for multigenerational travel — a style that's growing in popularity.
Country Walkers, born and based in Vermont since 1979, offers walking tours in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. Its goal is to introduce travelers to new landscapes and cultures around the world — on foot. Their tour types include self-guided, fully guided, and guided-flex, providing for independent exploration. Travelers can select from five levels, starting from "easy walking," which includes a daily distance of two to four miles. "Moderate walking," the mid-range option, suggests four to 10 miles and up to six hours of walking in a day. Tours at the "challenging walking" level might go up to seven hours a day on foot, covering six to 14 miles. Guests of all ages can find a destination and appropriate tour for their interests and fitness level.