first wave of baby boomers have reached 65, and as the largest generation in
history heads into its senior years, travel companies, cruise lines and
adventure specialists are lining up to help make the dreams of these travellers
decades of child-rearing and high-pressure careers, the newly retired are discovering
just how much leisure time, wanderlust and cash they have. With the financial clout and free time their
younger compatriots can only dream of, they have started making those once-in-a-lifetime
trips on their bucket lists a reality.
the options they are exploring reflect a generation of travellers that are,
compared to their predecessors, healthier, wealthier, more active and hold
higher expectations for what they will get out of a trip. “There are key
psychographic nuances of the travelling Boomer,” said Dr Simon Hudson, director
of the Center of
Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development at the University
of South Carolina, in his academic research paper on the topic. “They are
looking for a memorable experience rather than a holiday.”
Baby Boomers now travel, both domestically and abroad, more than the general
population, according to one US survey. Dragoman,
a UK-based tour operator specializing in 3-month overland trips, has seen a 23%
year-on year growth in mature travellers, with South America and India both emerging as popular destinations. And
options are plenty for those looking for trips of a lifetime that can still be
taken in the sunset year, as are resources. Some travel operators, such as Saga, have set up special travel
divisions to cater to the Baby Boomer sector. And there are also websites such as
Boomeropia and Baby Boomers Traveling that are
dedicated to this category of travel as well.
This category is not just about driving down iconic Route 66 in the US on a
Harley Davidson, cycling around Paris with a Gauloise cigarette in your mouth, learning
to tango in Buenos Aries, diving for manta rays off the remote Andaman Islands,
retracing the steps of Paul Gauguin on the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific or
painting watercolours in Patagonia. These kinds of unique trips also encompass
the once-in-a-lifetime trips like Machu Picchu at Peruvian dawn, laughing with Cambodian
monks at Angkor Wat and signing up to Virgin Galactic’s outer space flight. This
is dream big time.
tour companies cater to such high end, individual itineraries, including Abercrombie & Kent and Bridge and Wickers.
in touch with planet Earth
with wildlife top the bucket list. Consider game drives in Africa, panda
spotting in China, getting up close and personal with polar and grizzly bears
in Canada’s wild north and west, clambering through Borneo’s jungles to see orangutans,
or peering through the Indian bush for a Bengal tiger. There is whale watching
in Iceland, walking along Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast spotting endemic birds found
nowhere else on earth or hearing the cries of Tasmanian Devils down under, all
design to bring travellers and nature together.
There are many companies, including Wild
Frontiers and Wildlife and
Wilderness that cater to wildlife-themed itineraries.
out to mankind
experiencing the call to prayer at the mosques at Isfahan in Iran or the first
site of the pyramids on the approach to Abu Simbel in Egypt. You could be watching
Highland dancing in Scotland, singing in Papua New Guinea, Buddhist chanting in
remote Tibetan monasteries or dancing the night away at the Burning Man
Festival in the Mojave Desert.
out Zegrahm Expeditions in the US and Exodus and Intrepid Travel in the UK for
more ideas in this realm.
hot air ballooning trip and sky diving top this category. Whether it is above
the African plains or the Australian desert, Everest Base Camp in Nepal or Mount
Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, these adventures appeal to the more active Baby Boomer,
as do trips on small cruise boats to Antarctica and the Arctic. Think about that hike high along the Great
Wall of China or bobbing up and down in a boat in the Galapagos Islands, or careering
along a zipline in a Costa Rican jungle canopy.
adventure tour operators are country specific, but one that has global
offerings is Cox & Kings.
sitting in a field knee deep in mud at Glastonbury Festival in the UK is not a Boomer’s
idea of fun, but the old hippy trails in Nepal and India are proving to be.
Many Baby Boomers lived through the Vietnam War, now they are increasingly
interested in the country and neighbouring Laos, following in the footsteps of students
on gap year. Or you could think about joining the grey nomads in their
recreational vehicles or Winnebagos winding up the US West Coast or
circumnavigating Australia, reliving a much freer age.
STA Travel caters to the young (the ‘S’ stands
for “student”), but it also has itineraries for older travellers.
The post-Recession market for “voluntourism” is going strong and it is not just
the cash-strapped, time-rich youth that want a rewarding challenge. Hundreds of
worthwhile projects exist, from supporting schools and vulnerable children in
St Lucia to assisting HIV/AIDS suffers in South Africa to clearing up after
natural disasters like the Japanese tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti. Whether
it is helping build an orphanage in Sri Lanka, nursing orphan elephants in Kenya
or studying birds affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, you can give your
time to underprivileged people, endangered animals and threatened environments
Companies like Earthwatch and responsibletravel.com that have a
clear focus on volunteer travel.
Correction: A previous version of this article misnamed Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast. This has been fixed.