These days, Baby Boomer travel trends may include some of the iconic destinations that they may not have experienced but they are more and more likely to seek out unique bucket list ideas and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
According to AARP, most Boomers (99%) will take at least one leisure trip in 2017, with an average of five or more trips expected throughout the year.
A study by the George Washington University School of Business and the Adventure Travel Trade Association revealed that Boomers have generous budgets and are seeking trips that offer authentic cultural experiences.
The Boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1964, is broken down into Leading-Edge Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and Late Boomers (born between 1956 and 1964).
Imagine a country where medieval castles are juxtaposed against mountaintop villages with red-tiled roofs. A Riviera-style coast with turquoise white-sand beaches where fresh seafood is served in water view bistros. Rows of vineyards that produce perfect wines – in fact, it is historically alleged that Europe’s viniculture began here.
Natural beauty included rugged mountains, stunning lakes, ancient ruins, and even unique phenomenon.
Now add a rich culture and the coolest flag in Europe!
If you’re looking for unique bucket list ideas, you don’t have to imagine such a place….it exists and it’s Albania. I’ve traveled throughout six continents, and it remains one of my favorite destinations. Off-the-beaten-path and budget-friendly, Albania is best explored as a road trip. It’s simply unforgettable.
The Palau island archipelago is remote for Western visitors but an easy flight from Asian airports. Most of the visitors have been from the East and swarm the waters during the popular winter months. That is until recently. Palau officially supports Taiwan for tourism and for much-needed products. That didn’t sit well with China who has recently forbidden its citizens to visit just as Palau has been ramping up infrastructure to accommodate them. China’s injunction is, however, a boon for other visitors.
As a scuba diver, I enjoyed small groups and some of the best dives in a decade. Diving among teeming corals flush with colorful fish and turtles, sharks and mantas without a crowd is magical. The Rock Islands are one of the most beautiful water destinations in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our dive captain would veer into the close inner passageways on our return to the dive shop. The intricate seascape is dotted with natural arches and small beaches perfect for lunch intervals between dives. Sadly, the celebrated experience of Jellyfish Lake has been closed. It’s hard to say if global warming or the crowds of snorkelers with their sunscreen interfering with the wildlife has killed off the jellies.
Palau recently instituted a pledge that is stamped into each passport. The pledge lists eco-conscious and respectful practices to help preserve the islands’ treasures and each guest must sign. It’s a promise we need to keep.
Elaine Masters of Trip Wellness
Namibia: a stunning, stark, visceral, hauntingly beautiful country that you must visit to validate it really is on Earth. It is a quiet, remote and rural and largely an unknown destination for those who seek to get away from it all but who still look for those travel surprises not easily foreseen.
So why go?
First, it’s easy to get around: the country is open, vast, safe and English is spoken widely. Second, Namibian’s are engaging, friendly and helpful. Third, it’s teeming with wildlife and physical beauty. You’ll see African big game right alongside the road.
What to do?
Fly into Windhoek, rent a 4WD SUV, and drive, sightsee, hike, and camp the desert scape. Or drive in from South Africa. Visit the Fish River Canyon, the German town of Luderitz, and the diamond miners ghost town Kolmanskop or just hike, camp, poke and prod your way around. You’ll love it.
Tom Talleur of RoverTreks
4. Tepoztlan, Mexico
Little known off the beaten tourist route is Tepoztlan in Mexico. Tepoztlan is located one hour south of Mexico City. During the week it is a sleepy hollow where you can wander around at ease enjoying the local food in the green market or indulge in local artisan ice cream.
Come the weekend and it comes alive. Side streets are closed and market stalls are set up. You must join the queue at the Taco Food Truck for the best fish tacos we have had in Mexico. We loved the buzz of the weekend markets.
You can enjoy wandering the cobblestoned streets, dining in local restaurants or if you want a challenge you can hike to the mystical Tepozteco Pyramid. Tepoztlan is fast becoming a retiree’s haven in Mexico because of it’s laid back way of life and its climate. We immediately fell in love with Tepoztlan, its people and its simple way of life.
Jane and Duncan of To Travel Too
5. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation long for the days when we weren’t tied to technology. If truly getting away from it all sounds appealing, consider St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the southern Caribbean.
I’ve visited two all-inclusive private island resorts near the end of the Grenadines chain of 32 islands and cays, stretching from St. Vincent in the north to Grenada in the south. I highly recommend both.
Petit St. Vincent’s 22 cottages are spread throughout the 115-acre island, some near the beach and others tucked into a hillside with sea views. Near Petit St. Vincent is Palm Island, a 135-acre private island resort offering 41 ocean view or oceanfront guest rooms and two villas.
Digital detox is encouraged at both since there are no TVs, phones or Wi-Fi in the rooms. WiFi is available in the reception areas.
Debbra Dunning Brouillette of Tropical Travel Girl
6. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is Ecuador’s 3rd largest city, nestled in a high valley of four rivers at 8,400 feet in the Andes Mountains. It is located some 300 miles south of Quito, the Ecuadoran capital.
Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Like so many old South American cities, it has a lovely preserved Spanish colonial center, but the influence of the indigenous population is also evident. What is more surprising is that it is an increasingly popular place for retired Americans and Canadians.
Ecuador conveniently uses the US dollar as its official currency, but the US dollar goes considerably further. Expats can rent a 2 bedroom modern apartment for $500/month. The local population is largely welcoming and good health care options are available.
The best way to figure out if Cuenca is somewhere you might consider living is to go for an extended visit. However, even if you are not considering relocating, Cuenca has much to offer for a visit of several days. You can enjoy a walking tour, visit the ethnographic museum, and take a day trip for some hiking in nearby Cajas National Park and to visit nearby smaller towns.
Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque
7. The Champagne Region of France
The Champagne region of France is an idyllic destination for Boomer Travellers, especially seen from the decks of a luxury hotel barge accommodating no more than 12 guests.
Your own private Skipper navigates the barge along sylvan waterways and through picturesque locks, as you sit back, enjoy the scenery and quaff champagne.
Mooring at pretty towns and villages, and diving deep into the culture of the region while enjoying gastronomic meals cooked by a private chef, is a relaxed and lovely way to travel.
You’ll also be introduced to a tantalizing selection of local wines and cheeses and learn not only about the food, but also the history of Champagne from knowledgeable guides.
You’ll visit places such as Epernay, famous its formidable champagne houses; Reims, famous for its cathedral; stunning chateaux to visit; memorable World War battle spots to discover, towpaths to bicycle, and acres of vineyards to gaze upon.
The Champagne region, on a luxury European Waterways hotel barge is a must-do-trip when you reach a certain age.
Johanna Castro of Lifestyle Fifty
When we made our first trip to Slovenia, we weren’t sure what to expect. After the fall of Communist rule in the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia declared its independence in 1991 and the country has seen more prosperous times, especially with tourism. Slovenia is a country you wonder why it took so long for you to experience, followed by a desire to keep the secret all to yourself. It’s a small country with just 2 million people, but mighty with the wealth of natural resources. There are stunning alpine landscapes and turquoise waterfalls and charming Medieval cities to explore making it a great off-the-beaten-path destination. The country is also committed to remaining one of the most eco-friendly and green destinations in the world, and it shows. Hiking opportunities for all levels abound to fit every active Boomer’s lifestyle, and glamping is super popular. For foodies, Slovenian food is delicious too – just imagine fresh and largely organic produce, meats and cheeses influenced with an Italian/Austrian/Hungarian twist!
Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad
9. Newport Beach, California
While offering the best of surf and sand, Newport Beach will tempt you with its delicious dining, tempting luxury shopping, retro arcade fun, and many ways to enjoy the water from land or boat.
Rent an exotic sports car to cruise the coast. Shop at Fashion Island, a sophisticated and relaxed shopping center with a view of the Pacific, or nearby South Coast Plaza, with over 270 stores.
The Balboa Fun Zone will take you back to the days of summer fairs with its Ferris Wheel and an arcade that has both modern and retro games, like air hockey and Skee-Ball. Walk to the end of Balboa Pier to be transported to a 1940’s style American diner called Ruby’s, with the best milkshakes and burgers around.
Want to get on the water? You can go whale watching or deep-sea fishing. Take a ferry to Balboa Island for chic coastal shops and a Balboa Bar ice cream or an iconic frozen banana. Rent a Duffy boat in Newport Harbor, cruise by celebrity homes, and dock on Lido Isle for waterside drinks and dinner.
By Allison Fraser of Tour and Table
10. Gustavus, Alaska
Why should Gustavus be on your bucket list?
Looking for natural beauty, the outdoors, history and wildlife? Gustavus, Alaska is a great place to relax, off the beaten track. A quiet, extremely small town that is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus is only 8 miles from the Park and feels like a small beach community.
This sleepy town with lots of history can be easily explored by bicycle. With a population of under 500 people, Gustavus residents are artists, writers, researchers, fisherman, people who work for the park, and small business owners. Everybody waves.
We spent 3 days exploring tiny Gustavus. Roads are flat and a bicycle is a perfect way to explore. Be ready to slow down, relax and enjoy nature. Wake up to beautiful river, meadow, or beach views. Listen to the birds with morning coffee. Pick berries. Hike the flat trails dotted with beautiful flowers. Beach comb; watch the bald eagles and seals from the beach. Go on a chartered fishing boat for halibut or king salmon, or a whale watching tour. Or simply fritter away time in the corner café over a specialty coffee, eating crepes, reading, conversing with other patrons, or browsing the attached gallery and books by locals – we never slow down like this and enjoyed it.
Glacier Bay National Park, a World Heritage Site of 3.3 million acres consisting of enormous glaciers, picturesque mountains, temperate rainforest, glacial fjords, and diverse sea life, is a must-see while in Gustavus. Whether or not you take the boat trip, visit the park and Visitor Center for interesting history and science about the area.
Gustavus is an unusual place to experience in our busy, technological times, and gives a great appreciation of what life was like long ago, coupled with the simple beauty in our world.
Wendy of AdventurousRetirement
11. Grasse, France
When I envisioned the French Riviera I pictured beaches, yachts, and seaside cafes. The more time I spent in the South of France, however, the more chance I had to venture inland and the places I discovered were some of the destinations that most captured my soul – and my nose. Grasse, France, 20 kilometers northwest of Cannes, is known as the perfume capital of the world, with a perfume industry that is centuries old. If you’re a fragrance lover, this walkable city of 50,000 will captivate your senses as you tour perfume factories, sample a cornucopia of floral, spicy and musky scents, and perhaps take a workshop to create your own perfume.
One of the highlights of a trip to Grasse is touring a perfume factory. The Fragonard Perfume Factory at 20 Boulevard Fragonard is the most popular stop but other choices include Molinard or Galimard, the oldest parfumerie in town. If your nose can take any additional stimulation, you can add in a stop at the sweet-smelling International Perfume Museum at 2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon. To get there, you can take a bus or train from Nice or Cannes.
Carol Perehudoff of WanderingCarol
12. Winnipeg, Manitoba
This big city with a small-town feel will welcome you the moment you arrive. Whether you are looking for friendly people, great food, historical sites or relaxing nature moments they have it all.
Visit The Forks to get a feel of the delicious food Winnipeg has to offer. Whether you dine inside or out this relaxed space will have you taking a deep breath and enjoying yourself. Grab a local brew and wander the artisan shops and eateries. You’ll discover everything from pizza and burgers to sushi and gourmet Italian.
Jump on the Winnipeg Trolley Tour to get the lay of the land. Visit the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. This interactive museum is beautifully designed and is the first and only museum in the world focused on human rights.
Nature lovers can take a bison safari at FortWhyte Alive or venture to Oak Hammock Marsh where over 300 species of birds call this peaceful spot home.
Ideally located for a perfect weekend getaway Winnipeg is a city you’ll be happy to explore.
Sue Reddel of Food Travelist
13. The Orient Express
Fall asleep to the gentle rocking as the train rolls through the European countryside. Dress in your best tux and gown as you enjoy Michelin star quality meals served in restored vintage railcars. Enjoy attentive concierge service at your beck and call. These are all the hallmarks of a once-in-a-lifetime trip on the Belmond Orient Express train from Venice to London. For two days and one night, you can go back in time and experience train travel as it was in its heyday. Time seems to slow down in the small world of a luxury train compartment where the activities in themselves promote serene relaxation – watching the bucolic scenery go by or reading a book or drinking the complimentary glass of bubbly. With this experience, it truly is all about the journey.
Rose Palmer of Quilttripping
When I visited Ukraine with JayWay Travel, I wanted to see for myself why travelers are so often seduced by the charms of Eastern Europe. It did not take long for me to fall under the spell of one of the largest countries in Europe. Ukraine has the trifecta of historic sites, experiential restaurants and deep cultural traditions that well-traveled baby boomers are looking for.
Filled with a majestic and ancient cultural heritage and a local cuisine working hard to reinterpret traditional recipes with a modern flair, Ukraine is an undiscovered gem I hope many travelers will add to their passport. There’s no telling when and how the pendulum will swing in this country working hard to establish its own identity. A better understanding of their complicated history helps us all become better global citizens.
Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy
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(Top photo: Kruje, Albania)
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home JournalShe has traveled six continents looking for places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.