We are a curious people. That is evident from our need to explore every corner and depth of our planet and to send satellites to the farthest reach of our galaxy. Here on the home planet, we like to see what's on the other side of the mountain — or in the case of us flatlanders in Florida, what's down the road and around the corner.
Travel is almost synonymous with vacation, and, when possible, with retirement. One of the core ingredients of travel is to try the unknown, whether it's a new flavor of ice cream or a kayak trip through unknown waters.
Travel is immensely flexible. We can walk or ride, sail or soar, fly or drive. We can eat in or eat out. We can sample the mini bar as a guilty pleasure or spend the inheritance on a single meal.
LifeTimes offers you some choices here — depending on your budget, your inclinations, your travel fantasies or your comfort zone.
Just don't forget the key to travel: Have fun.
. On a budget
Don't assume a destination is out of reach. Check often for deals.
1 Bozeman, Mont. The minute you step off the plane, the cold, pine-scented air will remind you you're not in Florida anymore. m
2 Miami Beach. There are often great packages available from resorts along the Atlantic Ocean, particularly in trendy South Beach.
3 New Orleans. Hurricanes come and hurricanes go, but this durable tourist destination prevails.
4 Oahu, Hawaii. Airfare deals are often available from Florida sunshine to Hawaii sunshine. .
5 Orlando. If you're traveling with your children or grandchildren, or just the child inside you, one of the ideal Florida destinations is the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, which offers an on-site water park and a bunch of megaparks nearby.
. As a 'roads' scholar
Many colleges offer noncredit lectures and seminars, mixed with tourist activities. Some of the most popular:
1 Costa Rica. Hands-on conservation and nature studies, including visits to nesting turtles, an active volcano, hot springs and the rain forest.
2 Galapagos Islands. Hike grottos looking for fur seals, explore volcanic formations. .
3 France. It's 10 nights, exploring the
Louvre in Paris to the Camembert of Normandy to the corsairs of Brittany. A rare
closeup of France and its people.
4 Italy. It's 12 nights in Rome, Florence and Venice, including a tour of Roman ruins, an afternoon in the Uffizi Gallery and hands-on glassblowing in Venice.
5 Spain. Cruise the Guadalquivir River, learn to flamenco dance, visit a bullfighting ring and tour a traditional gypsy quarter. n
. Without a car
Whether you have mobility issues or just have a hard time with maps, these cities have tried to make it easier for you to get around:
1 Boston. Considered one of the most walkable U.S. cities, it has complete rail, bus and trolley systems and water taxis.
2 Chicago. With 140 bus routes and eight rapid-transit lines, visitors get moving as soon as they touch down. Beware, however, all rapid transit lines are oriented toward the downtown loop.
3 Houston. Its park-and-ride transit system encourages public bus and train options. Beware, however, many routes stop at 10 p.m.
4 New York City. Nearly 3 billion people a year — many of them tourists — ride the subways and buses every year. Many run 24 hours a day.
5 Washington, D.C. The nation's capital is easy to get oriented to, and if the Metro can't take you where you want to go, there are more cabs per capita here than anywhere in the country. n
. With unlimited funds
It's quite natural to have our travel fantasies. What we'll do when we win the Florida lottery. Or hit the jackpot at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. If budget is no object, then it's first-class airfare or private jets all the way. And if we want to travel in style and sample the ultimate in destinations and fine food, here are some options:
1 Ocean cruise. For about $200,000, you can take a luxe trip around the world (even if the cruise doesn't actually circumvent the globe) on more than a half-dozen cruise lines. Double occupancy, of course.
2 Eat well. New York City has some of the most expensive restaurants in the world, including the 26-seat Mesa in the Time Warner Center, where dinner can range from $480 to $680 per person. Plus tax.
3 Hotel. The Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva comes with its own heliport, 12 rooms, bullet-proof windows and doors, a Steinway grand piano and a billiards room. Cost: $65,000 per night.
4 Rail. Many luxury train trips are offered by the Venice Simplon-
Orient-Express, where passengers dine in 1830s art deco carriages and share travel tales with each other in the Bar Car. A 24-hour London-Paris-Venice trip costs $3,200.
5 River cruise. Cruising the Danube, Rhine or other rivers, like the Moskva River in Moscow, stopping for local land tours, is growing in popularity. The vessels offer typical cruise liner amenities and vary greatly in price, starting at several thousand dollars. m