While many single seniors have both time and freedom to travel, they frequently pay way more than the odds for the privilege. Luckily, numerous niche tour operators specifically cater to the baby boomer market, offering bucket-list adventures that are imaginative, stimulating and affordable.
Smithsonian Journeys, one of Condé Nast Traveler’s top travel specialist picks, organizes adventure tours across the globe with an educational flavor. Seniors can explore the Amazon, an African safari, Antarctica or wonders closer to home such as Yellowstone National Park, the Canadian Rockies and the Lewis and Clark trail, with each tour led by an expert guide. ElderTreks also specializes in travel for the 50-plus market, taking small groups to more than 100 countries on several continents, with adventures as disparate as Ethiopian monastery tours and hiking the jungles of Borneo. The Daily Telegraph recommends Explore for the sheer breadth of its 450 worldwide tours, from an Indian Rail Odyssey to a cruise of the Norwegian fjords. One of the longest-serving tour operators for seniors, Explore promotes room-share no-supplement rates for solo travelers.
Even though 80 percent of cruise ship passengers are married, solo seniors are well catered to by certain cruise lines. Cruise Critic recommends Norwegian Cruise Lines, voted best cruise line for solo travelers, for its single studio cabins, while Holland America has a wide range of activities for seniors, from enrichment programs to wine tastings. The cruise line even provides dancing partners for single ladies on the longer cruises. According to CNN Travel, Silversea’s luxury Silver Spirit cruise represents the best cruise for singles, with impeccable service and cruises through the Caribbean, South Pacific and Mediterranean. If mobility is an issue, an Alaskan cruise allows passengers to enjoy stunning scenery from the deck. Princess Cruises and Holland America are both veterans of the Alaskan market and have the all-important permits to enter Glacier Bay National Park, one of the most imposing landscapes in the region.
Travel expert Rick Steves recommends seniors and solo travelers tour Europe in the shoulder season from April to June and September to November to avoid the crowds and secure the lowest hotel rates and air fares. Look also for senior discounts on rail travel, admission to cultural sites and hostel accommodation. Apart from its roster of river cruises, Grand Circle tours specializes in “hub and spoke” tours where guests base themselves in a handful of hotels and use them as bases to explore outward, with highlights including Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Eastern Europe and the cultural capitals of Spain. The Daily Telegraph also picks Andante travel’s archaeological tours among its top solo holidays, with guided group expeditions that explore the legacy of Ancient Egypt and Classical Greece and Rome, among others.
The bane of the solo senior traveler is paying single room supplements. Travel Weekly recommends a variety of tactics to avoid them. For a start, booking through a tour operator can usually result in supplements being waived as part of a Solo Savings Program, such as that operated by Abercrombie & Kent. Alternatively, solo travelers can sign up for a room share, usually same-sex, on cruises and itineraries. Insurance is another issue — not just travel insurance, for which seniors typically pay more, but also evacuation insurance in case of emergency. Bear in mind, too, that Medicare is not valid outside the U.S. For this reason, the Toronto Star recommends a trip to Europe for seniors, not least because of the excellent health care in case of emergency, but also because of a progressive attitude toward senior travelers.
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