You’ve worked hard. At this age, you may be an empty-nester, planning to retire soon, and you may have always dreamed of traveling. Well, now is the time to make those travel dreams a reality. With the list of new and affordable international destinations continuing to grow, the entire world is your oyster. So pack your bags and hit the road … or the rails, the seas and skies.

While you may have a dream destination already in mind, if you’re up for an adventure or are looking for someplace new to try, consider some of this year’s hot travel spots, from Iceland and South America (Argentina, Peru, Ecuador) to the Caribbean (Dominica, Puerto Rico), Nordic and Balkan countries like Finland,Lithuania, Slovenia and Croatia, Asia (Philippines, Mongolia, Malaysia) and South Africa.

Or take advantage of growing travel trends that allow you to explore your destination in different or more intimate ways than you may have experienced in the past.

Small ship river cruises

Unlike ocean cruise ships, which carry up to 5,000 passengers, small river cruises accommodate about 150 guests and leisurely cruise along some of Europe’s most famous rivers, like the Danube, the Rhine, the Moselle and the Seine. You will enjoy spectacular scenery from a unique vantage point, and the cruises include shore excursions in cities along the way, where you can indulge in cultural experiences and take walking or biking tours of historic landmarks. On the ship, there’s plenty to do, with spas, pools, fitness tracks, classes, luxury viewing lounges and exquisite dining.    

Rail travel

Traveling by train is back. More than 31 million people traveled on trains this year in the United States, and the railways offer a great way to enjoy the vast expanses of the United States and Canada. Try a scenic and relaxing coast-to-coast journey from New York to California in the United States, or cross several Canadian provinces as you travel east from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ontario and the bustling city of Toronto. Shorter city-to-city trips or even city-to-national parks (like Amtrak’s Grand Canyon vacation tours) are other ways to ride the rails. Traveling by rail can be affordable and flexible (no reservations required for short trips), and it often allows for more luggage, less waiting in line and roomier seating. Many longer journeys include overnight service with sleeper cars and full-service meals.

Small group tours

Instead of a large group tour with 50 or more people on a motor coach, try a small group tour that’s limited to 10 – 20 people to maximize an authentic and highly personal travel experience. Many of these smaller tours offer a wide range of options based on your travel interests, including active adventure tours (kayaking, cycling, trekking), eco-friendly journeys, educational/cultural excursions (Road Scholar is an educational travel tour geared primarily for older adults) and trips of a lifetime round-the-world tours.

Solo travel

You don’t need a partner or friend to travel the world these days. Tour operators have recognized the demand for solo travel and offer low-cost single rates and guaranteed share programs that allow you to save money and meet new friends. On these shared programs, you are matched with a roommate with similar preferences and requirements, and women wishing to travel solo can choose from several women-specific solo tours today.

The great thing about being 50 years and older is there are significant hidden travel discounts — ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent and more — and services of which you can take advantage with airlines, cruises, railways, car rentals, hotels, group tours, restaurants, museums and national parks. Ask to see if you qualify. Check out AARP and AAA memberships for discounts, services and resources.  

For more savings, consider becoming a group travel leader and travel for free. Group tour companies want fully booked tours, so they provide incentives to people who can get a group (10 or more) to travel to their destinations. If you have a network of friends, family and work associates that loves to travel, organize your group, pick the destination and date, let the group tour know and they take care of all the details. You can travel for free, have fun with your friends and enjoy the tour. Check out Collette Travel and Vantage Travel to learn about their group travel leader programs.

Finally, remember these travel tips to save money and time while avoiding travel hassles and creating memories.

  • Travel in “shoulder season” (April to mid-June and September to October) to save money, experience fewer crowds and still enjoy good weather.Book as much of your travel arrangements as possible online.
  • Apply for the passport mobile app to save time at airport customs.
  • Pack light to avoid luggage fees and hassles. Wear a backpack and buy what you need locally.
  • Join an online travel forum to learn about destinations, deals and advice.
  • Try an Airbnb rental home or apartment or Home Swap instead of staying in a  hotel. It can save lots of money, and you get to have a fun local experience.
  •     Bring all of your medications and personal necessities in your carry-on bags.
  • Use a taxi when you are carrying your luggage, but take the local metro or buses when sightseeing.
  • Create a travel journal to remember your trip. Include photos, maps and ticket stubs, and try to write a paragraph each day about your activities.  
  • Plan your next trip, and book the date as soon as you return.

(Travel resources to check out: www.Smartertravel.com, www.Tripsavvy.com, www.frommers.com, www.tripadvisor.com, travelandleisure.com, www.lonelyplanet.com, www.roughguides.com, www.intrepidtravel.com, local visitors and convention bureaus, travel information offices )

(Travel sources in article: www.women-traveling.com, www.solotravelerworld.com, www.aarp.com. www.aaa.com, www.gocollette.com, www.vantagetravel.com, www.mobilepassport.us, www.forbes.com, www.ricksteves.com, www.airbnb.com, www.roadscholar.org, www.lovehomeswap.com)

As a Tour Operator and Owner of GA Farm & Garden Tours, Inc., Charmaine Jackson creates unique and captivating tour experiences for your group. Connect with her at Charmaine@gafarmtours.com

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