male boomer traveler

Boomers tend to take family vacations, cruises or road trip during their 50s and 60.

Wendy McNaughton

THE LOWDOWN:

Boomers have more money and time to travel than any other age group in America. But how this generation defines a dream vacation — well, that's all over the map.

In your 50s and 60s you

 ... get on the road a lot. The average 50-something takes five or more trips a year, according to AARP's 2017 Travel Trends survey. Of course, not all are full-blown vacations; you probably prefer a mix that includes weekend getaways, annual holiday gatherings, and other quick visits and adventures, too.

 ... and often drive a fancy sports car. In 2013, 36 percent of those who bought compact premium sports cars were 56 and older. The average buyer of a new Corvette is 59.

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You have high hopes of pursuing world travel. While 40 percent of Americans overall have valid passports, the figure for boomers is over 60 percent. No surprise that 43 percent of them hope to travel internationally in the coming year.

 ... are increasingly likely to have a travel bucket list. Roughly 40 percent of boomers have a travel wish list, with an average of eight locations on it. By the way, the movie that introduced the phrase "bucket list" to many Americans is having its 10th birthday this year.

... but seem unconcerned about making it all happen. While you say you plan on taking lots of trips, you haven't booked 85 percent of them yet. You'll get to this … in time.  

You like to bask in the sun. Not only are spring and summer your preferred travel seasons, but your destinations tend to be to balmy climates all year long. More than 41 percent of over-50 travelers say they plan to visit Latin America in the coming year.

... bathe in the sea. Some 48 percent of boomers say they are interested in taking a cruise in the next two years, notes travel research firm MMGY Global. It's not just megaships that appeal; demand is rising for more intimate opportunities such as river cruises and bike-and-barge trips, which can be limited to as few as 20 participants.

... and, sometimes, hang out in a hospital bed. Medical tourism — traveling to other countries for significantly lower-cost surgery — continues to grow among boomers. Patients Beyond Borders, an information resource, estimates that 1.4 million Americans traveled outside the U.S. for medical care last year.

You enjoy bringing the family. Intergenerational travel is trending. For example, more than 70 percent of Club Med guests are families, the company's CEO told Forbes last year. Another hot trend: travelers taking grandchildren on vacation with them.

... but have fun at Disney with or without them. About a third of the 50 million-plus visitors to Walt Disney World each year are adults without children in tow. This is partly due to Disney's creation of more adult options for visitors (there are four golf courses within the park) and partly to people's lifelong love of Mickey and friends.

What to Expect In Your 50s/60s/70s

Learn how to make your travel bucket list a reality.

Wendy McNaughton

You like active vacations. Travel for you is largely about doing and learning. Educational tours, for instance, are some of the most popular tour types among travelers 50 and older. "Soft" adventure travel — it gets you close to rugged terrain or wild animals but in relative safety and comfort — is hot also. And when asked, "Would you rather spend more on sightseeing or shopping?" over twice as many people said sightseeing.

... but don't mind sitting for a meal. The industry calls them food tourists — people who travel mainly for great culinary experiences, from foraging for truffles in Provence to sampling barbecue on a Kansas City–to-Chicago road trip. One study says that more than half of travelers today want unique dining experiences. But it's not just about eating out. Food tourists focus on exploring local food markets, taking classes, and interacting with chefs, sommeliers and other experts.

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PLUS:

You trust the towels ... While one-third of 30-somethings bring their own towel with them when they travel, only 8 percent of boomers say having their own towel is imperative. Where do you differ most from younger travelers when it comes to essential getaway gear? E-book readers — you are almost twice as likely to bring one on your trips as millennials are.

You show loyalty to your airlines ... Four out of 5 boomers are members of an airline loyalty program, and more frequently than not, you book your travel using your loyalty-program provider.

You are getting travel-tech savvy ... Nine out of 10 boomer travelers use the internet to help plan a trip, and 43 percent consider Wi-Fi access a necessity while traveling.

You might end up working in the travel field as a second career ... One out of 9 jobs in America depend on travel and tourism, according to the U.S. Travel Association.  

Bucket List Travel

This is a decade when you're likely to have the good health and time to take your dream vacation — an African safari or a trip to Antarctica, perhaps? But big trips take lots of planning. A few tips for making your bucket list vacation a reality:

Give yourself a year to plan
The best tour itineraries and hotel rooms can sell out, especially when you're aiming to visit a hugely popular place or attend an event, such as a World Cup soccer match. And make sure you're planning for the right time of year, so you're not arranging a trip to India during the rainy season, for instance.

Set a budget
Decide what you can afford. A weeklong luxury African safari can be $23,000-plus per person, while a budget version can be found for less than $2,000. If you're aiming high, start setting aside some money every month in a dream-trip account.

Consider a travel agent
Good agents have traveled extensively themselves, and gathered feedback from many clients on different destinations and itineraries.

Get a passport
Or if you already have one, make sure it's up to date with at least six months remaining from the date of your return, to ensure easy entry. It's a rule that many, but not all, countries enforce. Italy does, for instance; Canada doesn't. (Rules are listed on the U.S. State Department's travel site: travel.state.gov.)

What Else to Expect

Discuss: Do you have a travel bucket list?