The Best and Worst Destinations for Older Travelers

Encourage clients to consider the practical aspects of travel — especially if they’ve been sedentary.

By Bryce Sanders

As pandemic restrictions lift, many of us are getting the travel bug. We want to get on a plane and fly somewhere that requires a passport. But as we get older, parts of our body don’t work as well as they used to work.  Often our minds haven’t caught up with this reality or we have an idealized vision that we want to get out there and do everything because we’ve been locked down or restricted for so long. Let’s be practical.

Pragmatic Considerations

These points are valid regardless of one’s age. They become more important as we get older.

  • Buy excellent health insurance. Medicare coverage basically stops at the U.S. border.  Ditto conventional health plans. If something happens to you overseas, you do not want to be worrying about bills. That remote hospital might have the crazy idea they want you to pay in full before they discharge you! My wife and I buy travel health insurance from American Express.  It sets a dollar amount and basically covers you up to that threshold.
  • Have a good wireless plan. This means having a good phone too. You want the ability to keep in touch with family when you are abroad. If something happened to you, you don’t want to discover YOYO is jargon for “You are on your own.”  If you watched the TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” you remember the expression “Phone a friend.”
  • Know your limits. How much walking can you do, realistically?  How are you on hills?  This is a delicate subject, but do you feel more secure when there are toilet facilities nearby?
  • Bring extra prescription drugs. This became an issue in the early days of the pandemic when that cruise ship was stuck outside a port because they were not allowed to dock.  Suppose your trip was extended a week because of unforeseen circumstances (or a great opportunity)? Be prepared.

Ideal Vacation Ideas

Here are a few destinations that fall into the “good choice” category.

  1. Cruises. Different cruise lines target different audiences, but they all know wealthy older people have money to spend. There are no hills to climb. There are elevators everywhere.  Ships have specially designed cabins for passengers with limited mobility. There is a hospital onboard.  Good cruise lines rank shore excursions by degree of difficulty based on mobility.
  2. German Christmas markets. These are held in town centers all across Germany during the Advent season, those four weeks leading up to Christmas. They are crowded, but walking is on flat surfaces and everyone tends to be good natured. It’s like a huge block party taking place on weekends, sometimes nightly, depending on the town. Large cities have multiple Christmas markets.
  3. Barcelona. It’s a Spanish coastal city famous for Las Ramblas, the long pedestrian shopping street running though the city. You avoid traffic. It’s flat. There are sidewalk cafes and coffee shops everywhere.The street performers keep you entertained. You can see many of the sights that make the city famous using this as your starting point. Like almost every big city, you need to be aware of pickpockets, but there is usually a good police presence.
  4. Hawaii. This logic can apply to any beach resort you choose.You can sit in the sun or in the shade. You don’t have to walk long distances. Your resort might even have golf carts to help you get around if you are tired.  Beaches are flat. Waitstaff is nearby to bring you cool drinks. Just don’t get too much sun.
  5. Any city with hop on, hop off buses. These are usually double decker buses with open-air seating on the top level. If you want to see a city without lots of walking, these are a good tour option. If you see a site you like, you can get off the bus, do some exploring and reboard the next bus. You can simply sit and listen to the narration available in multiple languages. Large cities often have more than one route operated by the same company, so you can ride one for the circular trip, then switch to another. Different companies mean there should be price competition.

Additional Reading: Flying Coach is Fine — Once You Build Your Bubble

Problematic Vacation Ideas

You might want to think twice about these options.

  1. Venice. Close your eyes. Imagine a city without cars. Open your eyes. You are in Venice. Lots of little bridges means lots of up and down walking. Getting around faster is done by gondola, water taxis or vaporetto, their waterborne buses. If mobility is an issue, Venice is not your city.
  2. The Orient Express. This may have improved since we traveled from Venice to London 15 years ago. Although there are different trains around the world, the one made famous in “Murder on the Orient Express” uses railcars that were the height of technology and luxury … circa 1930. Put another way, it shakes like a blender at night when trains pass in the opposite direction. The compartments have a sink but the shared toilet is down the corridor.
  3. The Mayan Pyramids. We visited Chichen Itza, one of the Mayan ruins in Mexico that are on the tourist route. Chichen Itza involves lots of walking and steep climbing to fully appreciate the splendor. On one occasion, we ascended the pyramid via an internal stone staircase that went up … forever. It was an enclosed space. We came down the steps on the outside, which were tall and narrow. It can be hot and humid if you go at the wrong time of year.
  4. Walking holidays. The British love the concept of the hiking vacation. You follow a course, stopping at pubs or hotels overnight, then continuing on your journey. England has a footpath running along the coast of the entire country! The Southwest coast path itself is 630 miles and makes its way around Cornwall and beyond. You have likely read some English murder mysteries with a hiking holiday theme. If you tire when walking, this is not for you.
  5. Places where you are dependent on public transport. In the U.S., we have the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You do not fully appreciate what it provides until you visit a country that has not made the same provisions. We were in Paris on one occasion and needed to change trains. The different tracks were about three stories apart! No elevators or escalators, just lots of stairs. If you find yourself in this situation, you are better off having the hotel find you a taxi or arranging to hire a car and driver to take you around.

Vacations should be fun.  They should not be an event that requires another vacation for purposes of recovery.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.



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