Stride climate

Trend Watch - Baby Boomer Travel

By Samantha Scott
February 22, 2019

Out exploring the world in ever-growing numbers, baby boomers count for roughly 80% of the leisure travel spend around the world. According to AARP, Baby Boomers are expected to take between 4-5 pleasure trips a year (not business travel). About half of these trips will be domestic only and have international plus domestic.

These silver haired adventurers approach their travel experience from a leisure and lifelong learning perspective; checking off “bucket list” items and continuing to expand their knowledge of the world’s cultures and histories.

Baby boomer couple traveling in Europe

Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1945 and 1964, are increasingly showing interest in experiential travel with a luxury component. Think an invigorating walk along the Great Wall of China, toasting with a glass of champagne at the end. Or an exciting day in a safari jeep followed by a private dinner and comfortable 5 star lodge stay.

Tour companies are rising up to meet this demand.

Today, traveling group-style isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. It’s possible to find the trip and tour company that perfectly fits your personality, style, budget, and interests. It’s a great way to meet people in a similar age range. Many a lifelong friendship is formed via the group tour vehicle  - whether by coach, private car, cruise, or tuk tuk.

Coach tour


What Travel Styles Appeal to Baby Boomers?

For older travelers a sense of being well taken care of is important. Ensuring their itineraries address the needs of the age group has become ever more important for tour companies.

At the time of writer Baby Boomers are between the ages of 55 and 74. They are fairly active, mobile, and excited to try new things. That said they also desire a certain level of comfort. Speaking broadly, Baby Boomers are looking for trips that are culturally engaging, without getting overly “off the beaten path”.

The style of travel often depends on the budget range, which by default is higher for many tour companies appealing to directly baby boomers.

1. Luxury Travel

Luxury accommodations in Switzerland

Though there may have been a time when baby boomers were perfectly fine with an 8 bunk hostel room and a $8 meal, today these travelers are a bit more shrewd.

Though they might live vicariously through their children who are now doing their own backpacking and budget style travel, baby boomers are at a place where they value the finer things in life: a comfortable bed, a nice glass of wine, attentive guides, time to linger, plenty of stops for stretching legs and perhaps purchase a piece of local artwork or enjoy a traditional meal.

Luxury travel is in the details and after decades of experience, the baby boomer traveler knows what they like.

While, yes, luxury travel comes with a price tag, and yes, a large component is the comfort aspect, it’s also about the ability to enjoy farther reaching and exotic destinations with ease. Savoring an adventure going beyond your cultural comfort zone, while being fully taken care of by a knowledgeable and attentive guide.

Luxury tours are often private, but not always. If you do travel in a group, they tend to be more intimate - often between 10-12 people.

Consider: Myths & Mountains, Abercrombie & Kent, Butterfield & Robinson, Lost World Adventures

Read reviews on all luxury tour operators »

2. River Cruising

River cruise along the Danube

Over the past decade, river cruising has been one of the fastest growing segments in leisure travel - particularly attractive to baby boomers.

Unpacking only once and gliding along the worlds most spectacular rivers, usually through multiple countries, is a perfect way to travel for those boomers seeking a relaxing trip with a lot of flexibility.

You have many options when it comes to guided excursions at various ports, and river cruises regularly feature lectures and classes on board, given by scholars, professors, and local professionals. These cover a wide range of subjects and themes, including local history, cooking, crafts, and various unique subjects of cultural importance to the region.

By nature of their size, river cruises have the ability to dock at smaller ports than are accessible to larger cruise ships, and this is part of their appeal. However if you or your traveling companion struggle with mobility, take note that most river cruise vessels are not equipped with elevators.

Read reviews for all River Cruise operators »

3. Learning & Educational Travel

Traditional weaving demonstration in Asia

Baby boomers are natural lifelong learners when it comes to travel - with an insatiable curiosity. This is the generation that ushered in the “college age adult” demographic after all - a brand new definition in the 1960s.

Learning tours can be categorized into two main buckets: learning from professors and scholars as guides and in lectures, and actually participating in classes and demonstrations - such as cooking or crafts that have particular cultural importance to the destinations.

Think learning about the pyramids in Egypt from a professional Egyptologist, or getting an in depth look at the construction of and purpose behind the Roman Colosseum by an Italian professor who specializes in the Roman Empire. Or taking part in a weaving class in Cambodia, or making a traditional Italian dish in an authentic homestay.

Perhaps the most pertinent example when it comes to tour companies is Road Scholar (previously Elderhostel). They specialize exclusively in educational travel and experiences for 50 plus. Road Scholar also encourages grandparent, grandchild bonding with a special set of tours just for multi-generational travel.

4. Active Travel

Active older hiking couple

Let’s all say it together: age is just a number! Even though the age range is “50+” that doesn’t mean active options are not available. In fact it’s just the opposite.

While some baby boomer travelers are super active - and looking for a hard core trek to Everest Base Camp, or an intense hiking journey in the Dolomites - these experiences are not attractive or attainable for everybody (50+ or not!). But there are so many other gradations of active travel that are much more friendly for those travelers seeking some invigorating outdoor time.

Cycling is definitely one of the most popular options, and with most cycling tour companies utilizing e-bikes it’s now possible to go farther longer! Europe is especially common among older cyclists - top destinations include France, Tuscany, and along the Danube River.

Hiking is also a term that doesn’t have to mean a heavy backpack, high altitude, and overgrown jungle paths. It could also mean a flat walk with very little gradation through a well maintained path in Queensland, Australia, or a slightly more challenging half day out in the Galapagos Islands, observing incredible wildlife all along the way.

Or something in between, as you enjoy a lodge stay in the mountains of Switzerland, within easy access to rewarding views, but getting there ones requires some sweat.

What Are the Top Travel Destinations for Baby Boomers?

Older couple in Thailand on a guided tour

Baby boomers are traveling all over the world, with Europe showing as a strong front runner, followed by the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East.

Interestingly there is very little desire to travel to South America among baby boomers. This could change within the next few years. Many luxury, private, and custom local operators specialize in South America - bringing the experiences the continent has to offer into a greater sphere than just hiking to Machu Picchu and budget trips.

See South America luxury tours »

The Caribbean is always attractive for the warm air, deliciously soft beaches, and bright blue waters. It’s a spectacular location relaxing on the beach with a book without a care in the world. Or if you’re looking for something more stimulating, you could consider a people-to-people tour in Cuba or a nature focused tour in Costa Rica, or maybe delight your senses with a culinary experience in Jamaica.

Or for a mix of both, consider a small ship cruise for a balance of relaxation plus engaging cultural excursions in each port of call.

Many tour companies geared toward older travelers have a heavy focus on Europe, but more exotic locations are increasingly sharing the limelight. Asia and the Middle East attract 11% of baby boomer traveler according to AARP. If the unpredictable weather and the sometimes unusual cuisine doesn't throw you off, then traveling with a guide through these ancient lands is the perfect way to stretch your comfort zone and learn about a fascinating corner of the world.

One reason the Middle East accounts for 11% of baby boomer travel could be from travelers going to the Holy Land. This destination is a bucket list item for many older travelers seeking to renew their faith, and meet other pilgrims. A number of travel companies offer Holy Land tours, some are specifically geared only to this region, and others are global operators with a specific category of tours dedicated to the Holy Land.

Top Tip: A travel destination to keep your eye on in 2019 is France, which is observing the 75th anniversary of the D-Day beach landings at Normandy during World War II.   

Multi-Generational Travel

Grandfather and grandchild on trip together

A most rewarding and popular type of travel for baby boomers and seniors is multi-generational travel. This kind of trip can take many different forms, but at the core, it’s about families and friends getting to know one another through the experience of travel.

Through exploring different cultures and learning about new places, new opportunities for conversation and connection are revealed. It’s a particularly great way to draw shyer family members, or moody teenagers out of their shell.

Another great bonding idea for multi-gen travel is through visiting ancestral homelands, gravesites, and areas of personal importance, such as where the grandparents grew up. Establishing such a deep connection between the past and present can be an eye opening and fulfilling experience for everyone in the group, regardless of age.

Where are you planning to travel this year? Check out our Top Trending Destinations of 2019 for inspiration!

Did you enjoy this article? You might also enjoy Popular Trends in Baby Boomer Travel, 2016

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