Older travellers are now taking more holidays than their younger counterparts, according to a recent study. It is also worth noting that, with people generally living longer and staying more active and healthy, we're tending to keep our options open as we get older.
Traditional European sunspots continue to be popular, but activity holidays and more adventurous, exotic destinations are also drawing increasing numbers of holidaymakers aged 50 and over.
Many holidaymakers like to incorporate interests and hobbies within their trips. Whether this involves golf, sailing, skiing or more niche interests, there are packages designed to meet almost every taste.
Walking holidays are popular with all age groups but may hold particular appeal to members of the over 50s set. As well as being hugely rewarding and allowing the walker to reach sights and places on foot that might otherwise be inaccessible, a walking holiday can provide a stress-busting boost to health and levels of fitness.
There are many graded walking packages available to suit all needs and ambitions and they may be tailored towards groups, couples or solo travellers. They may be domestic, with Wales and Scotland in particular offering spectacular scenery and challenging trails, while many will head for the sunnier but still accessible climes of Spain or France. Destinations in central and eastern Europe, such as Hungary and Croatia are also increasingly popular.
The central European region is also renowned for its health spa holidays. Mineral-rich thermal spring water exists beneath much of Hungary, for example, and its beneficial properties have been enjoyed for generations.
The Romans first brought the concept of spa culture to the country and the remains of some of their bathhouses can still be found in destinations such as Óbuda. The Ottoman invasion revived the tradition centuries later and Buda (the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest) still boasts a number of original Turkish bathhouses that make use of the area's naturally heated thermal springs.
Art and culture
According to Tom Hall, UK travel editor of lonelyplanet.com, older travellers are more appreciative of the experiences they can take from a holiday. As such, they are more likely to head for 'iconic' destinations.
This could mean heading for the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis of Athens or the pyramids of the Giza Plateau. The Gulf of Naples offers the partially preserved Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum with beach resorts within easy reach. The island of Ischia is a short boat ride away from the more hectic city of Naples and has the added attraction of thermal spas.
Historic cities such as Rome, Moscow and Istanbul offer their own rich experiences, while other destinations may appeal to older travellers with more specific interests. Church tours are popular in many European destinations while Amsterdam may appeal to aficionados of Rembrandt or Van Gogh. Wine-tasting tours and food or gastro tourism may appeal to others and there are as many ideal destinations as there are individual tastes and interests.
The backpacking trail
Hitting the backpacking trail is no longer the preserve of the young and destinations that traditionally drew more gap-year students such as Thailand and India are now appealing to over 50s too.
Some may have already done something similar in their youth, while others are reversing the roles and following in their own children's footsteps. Heading for far-flung destinations doesn't have to mean roughing it though, with many older travellers opting to stay in well-appointed hotels rather than cheap and cheerful hostels. Depending on the destination, hotels can still be remarkably cheap, especially if booking directly or in advance.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook told the Mail Online: ‘Getting older no longer means relaxing and taking it easy as it seems the older generation is more adventurous than ever. ‘We’ve seen a rise in the number of over-50s booking trips to far-flung destinations once their children have left home and an increase in long-duration holidays, with some booking 21- and 42-night packages.'
Other long-haul destinations including Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada are also popular with over 50s. Each has its own unique attractions and many visitors feel more at home surrounded by native English speakers.
Head for the sun at any time
With any kids having usually grown up and fled the nest, over 50s tend to have a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to making their travel plans. Retirees can have even more flexibility and free time and this can be handy for both avoiding the crowds and finding cheap travel deals.
Being able to jump on a plane without having to book too far in advance can result in last-minute bargains. Air fares tend to be far cheaper outside the school holidays and many accommodation providers offer great off-season deals. France, Spain and Portugal are all perennial favourites, while Cyprus offers one of the best all-round climates in Europe and, further south, the Canary Islands can offer sunshine throughout most of the year.Back to top