Written by: Heather Mikesell
Although seniors were disproportionately impacted by the health consequences of the COVID-19 virus, that isn’t stopping many from planning future trips to reunite with loved ones and cross off some bucket-list destinations. Now that the vaccine is widely available to those over the age of 65, senior travel is on the rise. That’s no surprise when you consider the isolation many have felt over the past year. Now, they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, spend quality time with grandkids, explore multigenerational travel opportunities, and experience the world they’ve been missing. After a year of postponed birthday and holiday celebrations, many are looking forward to making up for lost time.
The first thing Margie Goldsmith did after getting vaccinated was book a trip. An intrepid traveler before the pandemic, the 70-something travel writer has been biding her time with long walks in New York City’s Central Park until the vaccine became available. “Now that I am fully vaccinated, unless the CDC releases a ‘do not go’ to a particular city, I will travel there,” says Goldsmith. “I already have two trips planned. I want to start with non-stop flights and no distance longer than three hours.”
Viewed by some as a passport to travel, the vaccine is providing hope to many that life goes on. “I think seniors realize how truly precious life is and will want to travel much more once it is safe,” says Goldsmith. Many want to maximize the benefits that come with traveling, such as the sense of community it provides, the continuing education, and the positive feelings it inspires. Sandy Staples, president of Artistico Travel Consultants, notes that in the past two weeks she has had several clients in the senior category reach out about booking travel to just “go somewhere.”
Planning for Future Travel
In fact, the planning has already begun for many. “From the time the vaccines started to roll out, I’ve received inquiries from several of my older clients,” says Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure sales for Altour. “They didn’t make actual bookings at that time, but they were gathering information for trips they wanted to take once they received their two doses.” Recently, he has been getting calls every day from more of his senior clients, making plans for trips through the end of 2021.
One of the greatest benefits of the vaccine is the mental relief it brings to those who have had it. “Having had the vaccine, I no longer have to worry about taking a trip, getting sick on the road, and potentially having to quarantine far from home,” says Roger Cox, 75, founder and editor of Tennis Resorts Online. “That fear, along with concern for endangering family, kept me from taking an otherwise annual ski and family trip over Christmas.” Fortunately, Cox isn’t wasting any time getting back out there and reuniting with loved ones. “Once my partner, Susan, gets vaccinated, we’ll head west to visit my family in Colorado and hers in New Mexico.”
It’s these long-awaited family reunions that are driving many to make plans now. It’s also the simple pleasures that people miss, such as dining out in a restaurant or staying in a luxury hotel. According to Cox, one of the things he misses most is enjoying a late afternoon glass of wine and relaxing on a hotel room’s terrace or at the bar poolside or beachside in the fresh, open air. For others, it’s a fabulous breakfast or thoughtful turndown service. With travel once again an enticing option, many are looking forward to enjoying all the perks.
Seizing the Moment
It’s common to put off travel until the golden years, especially for those busy raising families, saving for the future, and just working to get ahead. Joseph Murphy, 66, sees this as his time to travel now that his kids are grown, and he has the discretionary income to afford it. Although he has yet to retire, he is looking forward to getting back to traveling, especially in the lower 48 where he can visit by car. “I’m on a quest to absorb as much knowledge as I can and to continue growing spiritually.” Travel is just one of the ways he plans to accomplish that.
After a year of being cooped up, some seniors are dreaming big and looking forward to experiencing the epic destinations they’ve long thought of visiting. “As the world opens up, I think we will see more and more seniors traveling to places they have always hoped to see but put off for various reasons,” says Rapp. “I believe we will see many more seniors traveling than ever before as a result of this last year and a half.”
Traveling Their Way
Altering the way they travel and how they prepare for it, such as investing in travel insurance, researching cancellation policies, and elevating their overall experience, most seniors are embracing the return to travel.
“I’m seeing senior clients talk about upgrading the way they travel—flying Business Class when they usually fly Economy or Premium Economy, upgrading their room category in hotels, and booking a better hotel,” Rapp notes.
Staples adds, “I believe they will be looking towards destinations where case rates are low or on the decline and where they have more options for private experiences and outdoor adventures.” She also expects seniors to gravitate away from group travel and instead move toward “travel bubbles” with family and friends on a private and customized basis. Regardless of where the over-65 set flocks, it’s clear that domestic travel will be a priority for many in the coming months.