Armstrong is not alone in reaping the sweet rewards of travel. According to AARP research, more than 62% of adults ages 50-plus plan to take at least 1 leisure trip in 2023. Those travelers will also spend nearly four times as much as jet-setters between the ages of 18-49, with 50-plus travelers set to dole out almost $6,700 on 2023 trips, said Vicki Levy, senior research manager at AARP.
There are various reasons older Americans are making the investment in domestic and international travel this year, Levy said. Travel experts with AARP, Overseas Adventure Travel, and more have gathered some helpful insights on the motivation, top destinations, and misconceptions of travel for older adults.
“In terms of health, older leisure travelers report that they experience health benefits at each stage of the trip process (while planning, during the trip, and after the trip),” Levy said. “The top health benefits they experience while on the trip are improvements to emotional well-being, connections with loved ones, and improved energy.”
‘An emotional adrenaline rush’
Finances and family obligations led Armstrong to wait until her later years to explore the world. She raised her two sons, Justin and Theo, on her own. It was Justin, then 21, who expanded her world of expedition. The college junior invited her on a study abroad trip to Africa after spending a year in Botswana. Armstrong, along with 10-year-old Theo, joined the journey in Tanzania. She describes that experience as the impetus for her now-voracious appetite for travel. Dozens of trips later to everywhere from Vietnam to Alaska, she is convinced that travel has shaved years off her life.
“Even though I have aches and pains, I find that it’s a physical adrenaline rush. I also have an emotional adrenaline rush,” Armstrong said. “When I travel, I think it keeps you in a younger frame of mind.”
Older travelers who have taken journeys to places such as Iceland and Tunisia with Overseas Adventure Travel express those same sentiments that “you don’t age” when you travel, Brian FitzGerald, president and CEO of O.A.T., told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The organization offers small personalized adventures in small groups for travelers ages 50 and older. O.A.T. takes thousands of travelers to more than 80 countries each year.
Besides finances and family obligations, some potential travelers may see exploring a new destination alone as an obstacle. However, more than 60% of O.A.T.’s patrons travel solo. More than 70,000 of those taking O.A.T. excursions by land or by ships will do so without a trip partner, but the small group offerings mean those travelers will not necessarily be alone, FitzGerald said.
Many who have traveled with the company, including Armstrong, find it rewarding to travel solo for the value and experience.
“Value is incredibly important to our travelers — specifically those who join us solo,” FitzGerald said. “Travel keeps us active and is an incredible way to continue to learn. Travel gets people out of their comfort zones and can increase confidence.”
Plan wisely, travel wisely
No matter your age, planning for travel is imperative, said Patty David, vice president of Consumer Insights at AARP. Spring is the most popular time for domestic travel, while summer is when many AARP members take trips abroad.
“As more and more travelers look to plan vacations and more frequent travel, this pent-up demand can drive up pricing,” David said. “Plan ahead as much as possible and research multiple options to save.”
AARP provides its members with numerous member benefits and travel discounts. Additionally, its research team provides context on where older Americans are traveling most. This year, the top domestic location will be Florida, with 15% of AARP members planning trips there in 2023. For international jet-setting, members’ top destinations are Italy, Great Britain, and France.
Armstrong suggests going outside the typical hot spots such as Florida for domestic travel and instead exploring the unique national parks in states across the country.
Next up in the spring for the global traveler: the Baltic states, including Lithuania, and Poland.