The idea struck Fran Gould about seven years ago when her son was honeymooning in Tahiti and her daughter was vacationing in Bali. Gould needed a vacation of her own. “I thought to myself, ‘What am I waiting for?’” she says. Now, she is a well-traveled 71-year-old who has visited Hong Kong, Cuba, India, Peru, Australia, Oxford, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Scotland, Spain and Russia.
Gould is typical of today’s aging boomers who have defied notions of sedentary aging by traveling widely both domestically and internationally. “Our travelers over 55 are some of our most active and dynamic,” says Will Kiburz, who runs local travel agency Coronet Travel with his brother Jack.
He says trips for seniors often include river and ocean cruise travel, ideal for people wanting to see multiple places but unpack their suitcases only once. Resorts are in demand, too. Many active seniors opt for adventurous trips like Gould, whose recent visit to Australia spanned 17 days and six cities. “I have friends who take at least one big trip a year,” she says. “Many go to Florida or the islands, but I prefer more educational experiences. It keeps my mind smart and keeps me active.”
Gould, whose husband died 20 years ago, initially started traveling completely alone. During her trip to Hong Kong, however, she decided to change that. A person she met told her an American had a heart attack there the day before. The fear of being overseas alone and falling ill concerned her. She continues traveling solo but decided to do it as part of an organized group with tour companies like Tauck and Road Scholar.
While Gould has traveled with Tauck before, Road Scholar has impressed her most, thanks to its specialized tour guides. “I like to be in the city and take walks,” she says. “With Road Scholar, they do it right. Experts are in every city. There are usually only nine to 21 of us, so it’s a nice, small group.”
While Gould plans trips in which walking is prevalent on her itinerary, seniors should find out in advance how much walking is required. If walking long distances is an issue, special transportation can be planned in advance to help get travelers from one point to the next on their agenda. Kiburz says he has made such accommodations for many travelers.
“Experiential travel is popular everywhere—getting to know a place and its people on a bit of a deeper level than the average tourist guide itinerary provides,” Kiburz says. “That can be done at places like Stonewater Cove just a few hours from St. Louis or Wharekauhau Sheep Station in New Zealand. Experiences are the key.”
That is what keeps Gould booking more trips. Two and a half years ago she was enthralled by a Road Scholar cultural exchange trip to Cuba. After that, she was captivated by the ultramodern Dubai and Abu Dhabi when she visited her daughter, who lives there. Her next big trip is to Japan in March of 2017. “I am not sorry about any trip I have ever been on,” Gould says. “I learn something new everywhere I go.”
For travelers still hesitant, Jack Kiburz advises seizing the moment: “Do it now, or your kids will later!”
Pictured: Fran Gould in Abu Dhabi