How often does someone tell you, hey – it’s good to be old?! Well, I’m here to tell you that when it comes to travel, at least, this is definitely true. Here are my top five reasons why you should celebrate and appreciate traveling in your so-called Golden Years.
1. SAVE MONEY: Your kids are grown up and out of the house. That means you no longer need to book your trips around the school year. Not surprisingly, school holidays coincide with peak seasons for most vacation destinations. Save money by traveling in the “shoulder seasons” when the rates are generally lower for both hotel and airline reservations.
No more sweating your way through Epcot in July and paying top dollar for the privilege. Even better (for many)? No more sweating your way through Epcot – ever. Unless, of course, you prefer that to going to the theater in London or sipping a café au lait in Montmartre . . . .
2. AVOID THE CROWDS: Empty nesters can finally choose NOT to travel shoulder-to-shoulder with a gazillion other people during school vacations. That means you’ll only stand in line for an hour in October to go up the elevator of the Eiffel Tower instead of three or four hours in July. (That’s only a slight exaggeration, by the way)
Go ahead and love Paris in the springtime. Or the fall. Or the first week of December (do some early Christmas shopping). However, it also is a good idea to find out, if possible, when European school holidays take place if that’s where you’re heading.
My Costa Mediterranean cruise happened to coincide with school holidays in Western Europe one October and there were far more ankle biters whining for gelato and tattooed teens doing cannonballs into the ship’s pool than I would have liked. Whining in another language is not any cuter than whining in English, by the way.
3. REQUEST WHEELCHAIR ASSISTANCE AT THE AIRPORT: With no offense intended to those who have no choice but to use a wheelchair, I have to tell you – people in wheelchairs are treated like kings in airports. I found this out by accident when my cousin hurt her back and needed assistance on our way home from a trip to Italy. We were thrilled with the experience!
Now, if you are upset that I am saying this, I can’t help you cultivate a sense of humor. That ball’s in your court. What I am saying is if you or a friend or spouse has achy arthritic knees or any other reason to even CONSIDER wishing you didn’t have to walk miles between gates in international airports, my advice is to BOOK A WHEELCHAIR.
A wheelchair is free and it’s wonderful. The pleasant assistant whips you from the gate to baggage claim and not only helps you grab the luggage, but then takes you to the front of the line for customs and passport control. You’ll also both get to zip through security with the First Class passengers, then breeze on to the next gate for your connecting flight. I’m not suggesting that able-bodied people feign injuries to get this great service, but I am saying that if you could use the help – GET IT. Don’t be a hero! What’s the point? But don’t forget to tip that wheelchair assistant VERY handsomely.
4. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK GOOD ALL THE TIME: Not that I’m suggesting you let your personal hygiene go down the drain. No, I’m just glad to finally to say that I no longer stress about whether my hair has started frizzing or my tennis shoes look goofy. I recently traveled with a friend and her young (and gorgeous) daughter who met us each morning in full makeup and dressed like a model on a photo shoot. Everywhere we went, from the busy streets of Rome to the piazza in Orvieto, men’s heads swiveled to follow her progress across the cobblestones.
I’m not knocking that, but I am saying it’s a relief to be at a time of life when you’d rather wear comfortable shoes than worry about whether guys will think you’re hot. On the other hand, if you’re still out there looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, more power to you (and DO NOT travel with a good looking 20-something if you ever want anyone from the opposite sex to even casually glance in your direction).
Special tip: If you insist on wearing your cutest sandals to stroll about the city, my advice is this: as soon as you get back to your hotel, grab a glass of wine, take a seat on the john, swivel to the side and soak your poor feet in the cold bidet. It’s such a comfort.
5. TIME IS FINALLY ON YOUR SIDE: When we are young adults, we’re building our careers, raising kids, maintaining a home, and so much more. There’s not enough time to travel much, and especially in our American culture where most people only get two or maybe three weeks’ vacation a year. Those precious days are probably spent taking the family to the beach in August, then maybe sharing the holidays with the folks in your hometown in December.
Those times with family make for such sweet memories (hopefully), but if we’re lucky, we may live long enough and stay healthy enough to explore more vacation choices when we’re older. Assuming you have any cash left after helping put the kids through school and religiously paying into your retirement accounts, maybe it’s finally time to take a cruise down the Danube or hike a mile or two along the Great Wall of China. If you didn’t have the time or the money at 40. Maybe now you do.
I hope so! And I wish very happy travels to everyone who’s ready for new adventures – no matter what your age.