Thursday, December 14, 2017
Travel

Boomers enjoy getting out there for travel and adventure

We are on the move now more than ever. Whether it's an overnight weekend visit to the beach or a week with the relatives, roughly 99 percent of the 51- to 70-year-olds who responded to an annual online survey by AARP said they planned to travel for leisure at least once this year.

Nearly half (45 percent) said they are planning both domestic and international trips. And boomers tend to plan ahead. At least 12 percent said in the September survey that they already had booked their first trip of 2016. The survey also indicated that boomers aren't overly concerned about budgets.

"Their desire to travel is astounding," said Stephanie Miles, AARP vice president for member values. "Last year, for almost half, cost was a barrier. That seems to have changed.

"That says they are finding less expensive ways to travel, or they've had personal financial shifts. They're finding deals. They're finding ways to save."

And this generation certainly enjoys travel. They say they smile more and laugh more, are more likely to learn something new and are able to spend more time with loved ones. While 5 percent always take their pets with them, a majority bring just medications, a pair of comfortable shoes, a camera and sunglasses.

Baby boomers do tend to travel with a good book and emergency phone numbers, unlike their younger counterparts. They also differ from younger travelers in that two-thirds said they do not plan to post on social media while on the road.

Leisure destinations reflect the general travel trends. Europe, the Caribbean and surrounding areas are the most popular choices for international travel, while Florida, Las Vegas, Hawaii, New York and California remain domestic favorites.

"Baby boomers are active," said Vacation Agent Magazine editor and TravelPulse.com founder Mark Murphy in a phone interview from Mexico. "They're looking for adventure travel in all forms, from kayaking to hang gliding.

"As crazy as that may sound, it's a generation that likes to push the limits. They're looking for unique experiences and unique adventures so they can come back and tell everybody, 'I did that.' "

And they are no longer content to simply travel to Europe or other far-flung spots for traditional sightseeing or a few photo ops.

"They want to be more active into their 80s," Murphy said. "They want to get out there and experience the destinations."

It's also not all one-sided. "This generation is looking to give back to the environment," Murphy said. "They want to lower their footprint when they travel."

For those who want to learn while they travel, a program like Road Scholar offers an abundance of choices — an estimated 55,000 courses in 150 countries.

Many courses are chosen for their locale — warm destinations in the winter, cooler locales in the summer, according to JoAnn Bell, vice president of programming. "When we create courses, we keep seasonality in mind.

"The destination is very important to them; further down is the list of (course) topics. People think, 'I want to go to France.' Then they search the website for course options."

While climate and countries may be determining factors in choosing a Road Scholar course, ultimately, Bell noted, "Boomers go where they want to go."

Bell said she has seen some emerging trends in senior travel. More and more, people are asking about the size of a tour group or course. Consequently, Road Scholar has cut the number of participants in motorcade tours almost in half.

Another increasingly important factor for these travelers is the food. Many ask for gluten-free menus or vegetarian meals. They want two appetizers with their meal. They want the option to eat local cuisine.

One financial challenge faced by most single seniors when they travel, alone or in a group, is the single supplement charge for a separate room. More boomers are willing to pay a single supplement rate to room alone, however. That is a change, Bell said.

For travelers who don't want to go solo, there are groups like Boomers Travel Together, a grass roots club created through the Meetup social media site. Brenda Pitisci of Tampa started Boomers Travel Together in 2011. She and her husband had traveled often. When he died, she wanted to keep traveling — but not alone.

She put a notice on Meetup, looking for like-minded widowed, divorced or single travelers. "I got 150 signed up the first week," she said. "I knew there was a need for a group like this, for people who don't travel because they have no one to travel with." Today there are 1,800 members.

The group meets once a month to discuss destinations, from Scotland to Cuba. A trip is planned, and a package price is negotiated through a local travel agency.

Each trip draws 15 to 20 members who pair up based on friendships created through the monthly planning Meetup gatherings. And an unexpected benefit, said Pitisci, 72, is the friendships that have grown through this group.

"I've met so many new people," she said. "I had no idea I would have so many friends from this group."

Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at [email protected]

   
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