For many, it is one of the most difficult questions to answer: where do I go for my vacation post-retirement? After years of making your mark in the business world, the time has finally come to find a new focus.
The unique opportunity arrives where you can design your own schedule, engage in new cultures, taste different cuisines, admire world wonders and discover another lifestyle that was far removed from your daily routine. Retirement is the perfect time to see the world.
Whether it is the first vacation you take after retiring or one you take decades after leaving a post, it is invariably a difficult decision to make. Prior to booking, the amount of questions and concerns that can arise can cause a great deal of stress, so much so that all enjoyment and anticipation in the planning process for your vacation can be ruined.
While some travellers prefer to go it alone, booking their own hotels, transportation and activities after hours of destination research and guidebooks, others see the value in relying on travel experts.
Do you try out a small group travel tour for seniors or even go with some friends and family? With a professional preparing an itinerary that matches your interests, pairing you up with like-minded individuals who are keen to discover new cultures and explore foreign lands can be highly beneficial in getting a personalized and cultural experience.
With so many options, variables and questions that can arise along the way, we decided to compile a quick guide to outline how you can start planning and preparing for the perfect retirement vacation:
1. Where to go?
The deciding factor on where to go is centred mainly on personal preferences relating to interests and comfort levels. Do you like warm climates and cultural tours with a focus on historic sites?
Perhaps exploring the Peloponnese, an area of Southern Greece brimming with fascinating ancient sites, ruins and relics of a bygone age. Or, perhaps you are more inclined to bask in breathtaking vistas and get active while on vacation? In which case, a tour of Patagonia with short hikes along some of South America’s most iconic trails is more likely to pique your interest.
To keep the planning as simple as possible, why not make a list of your passions/interests and think about how you can incorporate them into a vacation of a lifetime? To name a few points of consideration: historical vs modern, art vs nature, museum visits vs first-hand observations, cities vs nature, wildlife vs culture.
Next, be realistic about how much exercise you want to do and, indeed, how much you will be able to do in your new environment. Remember that many European cities have cobblestone alleys that can only be explored by foot and sometimes the most remote nature reserves in the world can be explored by bus.
The terrain you’ll be contending with is a big factor when it comes to choosing a destination, as is the weather – be mindful that hotter climes will take their toll on stamina and endurance. Be sure to consider your destination’s environment when making the final decision on where to go and consider how that might impact your mobility level.
Lastly, decide on a time of year that works with your schedule and what type of climate you’d like to find yourself escaping to. You may consider travelling somewhere warm like Central America and the Caribbean during the colder seasons of your country of residence, while getaways in Central and Eastern Europe offer some wonderful sightseeing opportunities while escaping the summer heat.
If there’s a specific activity or experience you’d like to enjoy, options might include bird watching in Brazil, photography in Asia, or an in-depth cultural tour that incorporates visits to tribal villages in Africa.
Make a list which will at least narrow down the options. If you are travelling independently, you can use the list you compile as keywords to finding a destination that suits you. If you opt for a group tour, you will benefit from your representative’s expert knowledge relating to destinations, their sights, their accessibility, and, ultimately, their suitability for you.
2. Where to stay?
The multitude of options when it comes to accommodation can be daunting:
- Do you like to be in the centre of it all or farther afield, more remote and quiet?
- Do you want five-star luxury, or would well-appointed three- and four-star hotels suffice?
- Is it just somewhere to rest your head or part of the experience?
- Where you stay is based heavily on where you go.
If you are booking independently, finding a place to stay will require a lot of research based on all your requirements and the information you can find online or elsewhere. Elements such as optional breakfast inclusion, wifi, location options, past traveller experience, and so on.
If booking a tour, however, accommodation is handled by professionals who have been to the area, who choose accommodation best suited for the type of traveller, and who base their decisions on feedback and recommendations from past clients.
3. Do I need travel insurance?
While purchasing travel insurance is entirely a matter of personal choice, we recommend it 100% of the time. Start by finding out what you are already insured for. Some credit cards, medical plans and homeowners insurance have coverage that extends to travel - but it’s crucial to read the fine print to ensure you are covered.
Having medical insurance abroad is always a good idea. Thinking of accidents, illnesses and more extreme situations is certainly not the fun part of planning vacation, but invariably it is better to be insured and not need it than face extortionate medical bills if the unforeseen were to happen.
Optional insurance coverage would include things like baggage, trip interruption, cancellation, identity theft and political evacuation. You can buy insurance that covers just the basics with a few options, or a comprehensive insurance for every situation imaginable.
Do your homework on what you are already covered for, and what you’d like to be covered for just in case. If in doubt, ask a professional who sells insurance and consult your country’s travel advisories.
4. Will my medical conditions be an issue?
If you haven’t travelled before, it is difficult to know how your body will react abroad and we’d suggest a tip of 21 days or less as your first vacation. Every day people travel around the globe with medical issues ranging from osteoarthritis, neurological ailments like mild Parkinson’s, to high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, sleep apnea, and post-cancer treatments.
If you have concerns, ask your doctor before you plan your trip whether it is safe for you to travel, and if you get the go-ahead, ensure you bring all your medications with you. Always pack your medications or medical equipment in your carry on, with a few extra doses as availability to prescriptions varies in foreign countries.
5. What else do I need to know?
Be warned that the perfect retirement vacation often leads to further wanderlust! The more you discover, the longer your list of places to discover becomes. Small-group-travel tours often attract lifelong learners who have led successful careers and are keen to learn about the world around them.
This is often true because the smaller groups offer a more personalized and richer cultural experience that you simply won’t find anywhere else. While planning your perfect vacation destination, don’t be surprised if you happen across several more spots that will undoubtedly number among your inevitable next journeys abroad.