Exploring new frontiers through adventure travel in retirement

For some people, retirement is all about adventure — trying new hobbies, starting a business or visiting places you’ve never been before. If you crave a different experience and a chance to venture off the beaten path, you’re not alone. Increasingly, many retirees and baby boomers are looking at adventure travel.

According to an August 2010 Adventure Tourism Market Report by George Washington University, the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Xola Consulting1, baby boomers are one of the main categories of adventure travellers today. Xola Consulting notes that 19% of adventure travellers are aged 50 to 74.2

Ben Weiher, global operations manager for Gap Adventures, says interest in adventure travel from this particular demographic has been growing considerably.

“People are generally living healthier, [and] longer over the last several decades, and these individuals are wanting to travel,” he says. “And they’re looking for other options instead of your cruise and all-inclusive type packages,” he adds.

Here’s a look at the top adventure trips often chosen by retirees:

•  Polar expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic: Differing from what you can expect on a standard cruise ship, travellers board an expedition ship to experience the mountains, icebergs, glaciers and wildlife in a dynamic environment where wind, weather, scenery and wildlife can differ day to day. “It’s a bit of an adventure to get to these regions and then while there, you’re able to get off the ship into Zodiacs,” says Weiher, “to cruise around the channels to get an up-close look at wildlife and scenery.” (Fodor’s also named Antarctica as one of its top 7 Adventure Travel Without the Adrenaline trips for 2010.)3

•  Galapagos/Ecuador: With the opportunity to check out wildlife, natural history, geology, scenery and even swim or snorkel, Weiher says this is a top destination for retirees. This type of trip also provides interpretive lectures, organized walks through the island and a chance to see the wildlife up close.

•  Peru: Sites such as Machu Picchu, the Andes Mountains, the jungle and Lake Titicaca are of incredible interest to archaeology and history buffs, says Weiher. While hiking the famous Inca Trail has been a big hit, so have other travel options involving trains, sightseeing along the way and a guided tour of Machu Picchu, for example.

Egypt: Egypt is a classic tourist destination, with retirees heading to the country to visit the pyramids, the archaeology, the temples, the White Desert and even the beach for some relaxation incorporated into part of the trip.

•  Other top destinations include Southeast Asia (the culture, food and temples of Vietnam and Thailand ), Costa Rica (the rainforest, jungle and beaches) and Tanzania/East Africa (one of Fodor’s picks, safari excursions are top of the list for photography and wildlife enthusiasts).

Before you opt for this kind of trip, however, Weiher suggests several factors to consider:

•  Duration of travel: You’ll probably want to balance the time you have available with how much time you want to spend living out of your suitcases, so 10- to 14-day trips are probably a good place to start, he says. When to travel is also a consideration. Be aware of weather and seasonality at your destination, as well as peak seasons if you’re looking to be around fewer tourists.

•  Inclusions: When examining your options, look at what’s included in a tour package. Do you want meals included or do you want some freedom and flexibility? What about airport transfers?

•  Visas and immunizations: If you’re going to an area you’re not familiar with, consult a travel doctor before you go, to ensure that you’re healthy and prepared in terms of immunizations. Some countries also require different nationalities to prepare in advance with visas – this is something you need to look into before travelling.

•  Tour company’s reputation: The reputation of the company you’re travelling with is another thing to inquire about, including asking whether the travel/tour company is experienced in working with retirees.

•  Travel companions and activity level: “You want to make sure you’re getting on the right type of trip,” says Weiher. While a number of trips are more appropriate and interesting for the retiree demographic, others cater to a younger market. Also, different trips can require different physical abilities, so it’s important to ask about this when looking at a particular tour, he says.

Article courtesy of Sun Life Financial. Check out My Retirement Café. On it you will find up-to-date information, including managing your money during retirement, tax planning and quality of retirement life topics. Be sure to check out our News & views section for other articles on better ways to manage and help you get the most throughout your retirement.

2 http://www.xolaconsulting.com/industry-research.php
3 http://www.fodors.com/news/story_3814.html
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Amy Harris