Cinque Terre, Italy

15 Unforgettable Trips for People Over 50

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Cinque Terre, Italy

Flying Solo

The urge to travel doesn’t fade with age. In fact, it's at the top of many retired or near-retired people's to-do lists, seniors even if it means traveling alone. The best trips for solo travelers over the age of 50 provide opportunities to go on exciting adventures while meeting new people. Wondering what interesting destinations to add to your bucket list? We've pulled together 15 unforgettable, wallet-friendly trips — both within the U.S. and internationally — that'll inspire you to hit the road or hop on a plane, train, or boat — or simply explore local attractions — to see the world in a whole new way. (When you do go, remember these 45 Travel Discounts for Seniors.)  

Related: 21 Adventures for Thrill-Seeking Senior Travelers

Now: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Get Inspired in Santa Fe, New Mexico

With its warm, dry climate and copious outdoor adventures, rich cultural history, and vibrant arts and culture scene, it's no wonder Santa Fe — the oldest state capital in the U.S. — is such a hit with the 50+ crowd. Single travelers can immerse themselves in the community by visiting the historic plaza, which dates back to the early 1600s and continues to host a wide range of events — from markets to concerts. History buffs can tour the San Miguel Mission, various museums focused on the region’s Native American traditions, and the nearby Puye Cliff Dwellings, once home to more than a thousand Pueblo people. The Spanish Colonial adobe city in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is also more saturated with art galleries and museums than almost anywhere else in the world — all within walking distance or a short drive from the town square.

downtown Charleston, South Carolina

Discover Charleston, South Carolina

Deemed the region's best city, Charleston is oozing with history and hospitality — from charming buildings and walkways to friendly locals. Solo senior travelers, even those with limited mobility, will find it easy to get around and connect with others through the Southern city's varied group tours — from ghostly graveyard walks to food tours to history lessons via horse-drawn carriage, boat, or bus. For a city so closely tied to both the American Revolution and Civil War, it's also surprisingly contemporary — its restaurant and boutique hotel scene is constantly reinventing itself, making it a popular spot for weekend exploring. It's also loaded with free and cheap fun.

Related: Big Mistakes Every Novice Traveler Makes and How to Avoid Them

Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Visit the Nation's Capital

With its smorgasbord of cultural, architectural, and historical landmarks to see, every American should visit Washington, D.C. at least once. Entrance to many noteworthy museums like the National Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum is free, and visiting iconic memorials along the National Mall and many other free activities can give budget-conscious travelers a big bang for their buck. For an inexpensive, flexible, and relatively easy way to navigate the city's multitude of attractions, go on a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour — even a night tour of the capital city’s illuminated monuments and memorials. You might just meet a potential travel buddy or a new friend along the way. 

Related: 11 Ways to Save Money When Traveling Solo 

Alaskan Cruise

Embark on an Alaskan Cruise

For a vacation within the U.S., a cruise through Alaska's extraordinarily beautiful and rugged wilderness can be as relaxing or as active as you'd like. Mid-size cruises through Alaska’s Inside Passage — a coastal waterway boasting wildlife-filled fjords and lush scenery — can access ports that aren't open to larger ships. Sail through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for unrivaled views of Alaska's massive glaciers, fjords, cascading waterfalls, and wildlife. Adventurous types can fill their itineraries with excursions: skiing, mountain biking, ice-fishing, white water rafting, helicopter tours, and train rides through majestic mountain ranges and charming Alaskan towns.

Among the many benefits of membership with AARP are discounts on cruises as well as savings on scores of senior products and services. Expedia even hosts a dedicated AARP Travel Center.

Pacific Coast Highway, California
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Traverse California's Pacific Coast Highway

A scenic road trip can be an excellent, budget-friendly way to explore stretches of the U.S. you've never seen before. From San Francisco to San Diego, California's Pacific Coast Highway — or California Highway 1 — provides a glimpse of some of America's most dramatic coastal vistas. Take in bay views and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco before heading south to San Diego — winding slowly through surf towns with fresh seafood, state parks touting a range of outdoor activities, the rugged coastal mountains and cliffs of Big Sur (between San Simeon and Carmel), vineyards, kitschy roadside attractions, and more. 

Related: The Best of California For Budget Vacations 

Key West, Florida

Relax in the Florida Keys

For travelers who want to relish in a slower-paced vacation, Key West is one of the best places to visit. Renowned for its laid-back attitude, pastel-colored houses, and coral reefs, the southernmost city in the continental U.S. is America's slice of the Caribbean. Because of its close proximity to Havana, it's also a tropical paradise with delicious Cuban-inspired cuisine. Be sure to sample the island's beachfront eateries and take a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Grand Canyon, AZ

Explore the U.S. National Parks

From scenic drives through forests and wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains to ranger-led nature walks amid Yellowstone's geysers to canoeing through the Grand Canyon, the marvels of the U.S. national parks are accessible to travelers with a range of interests and physical abilities. Seniors (ages 62+) in the U.S. can buy a lifetime senior pass for $80 (or annual pass for $20), and visit more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, grasslands, and more. After an inspirational and wallet-friendly trip to one or many national parks across the country, you'll return home with a newfound respect for nature and the world around you.

Related: 19 Money-Saving Tips for Visiting National Parks

Trans-Canadian Rail Trip
Fresh Tracks Canada/Facebook

Ride a Train Through the Canadian Rockies

Admire the stunning natural landscape of the Canadian Rockies from the comfort of a train car. A rail journey from Banff to Vancouver (or vice versa) through western Canada's snow-capped mountain region via the top-of-the-line Rocky Mountaineer features gourmet meals, plush seating, and glass-domed observation cars and open-air vestibules for unobstructed views of the region's dramatic peaks and glacier-fed, turquoise lakes. Meals and overnight hotel accommodations are included, and travelers can customize their trips, which run April through October, by booking optional sightseeing tours and cruises to enjoy even more of the breathtaking scenery in and around national parks like Jasper and Banff.

Related: 40 Spectacular Train Trips Across America and Beyond

Rhine river Cruise

Enjoy a Leisurely European River Cruise

For many travelers, leisurely river cruises offer a range of sightseeing options without all the time and effort that goes planning (and executing) the perfect multi-country trip, plus there’s a different view outside your window every day. On popular and affordable European river cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Seine, and Rhône — aboard smaller, hassle-free vessels than the ocean behemoths — the destination is truly the journey itself. The pace on deck can be easygoing while meandering through picturesque landscapes and passengers can partake in a variety of shore excursions while docked in historic cities. Bike rides through medieval towns, vineyard wine tastings, and tours of spectacular bankside castles are an intimate way to explore Europe.

Related: How Cruises Have Evolved in the Past 40 Years

See the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
Roman Krochuk/shutterstock

Witness the Northern Lights

For many travelers, witnessing the kaleidoscopic Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is an often elusive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — considering appearances can be unpredictable, based on weather, darkness, and solar activity. But there are many exciting destinations for viewing the spectacular natural light show. From Alaska to Sweden, guided tours accommodate seekers of this remarkable natural phenomenon — and other invigorating outdoor activities like husky trekking in the Arctic wilderness and soaks in hot mineral springs.  

Machu Picchu, Peru

Experience Machu Picchu in Peru

Retirement trips are the perfect excuse to visit some of the most amazing cultural sites around the world, and Machu Picchu — a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World — should be on every adventure traveler's bucket list. Join a guided group tour for help planning the trip and a chance to meet new people while visiting the awe-inspiring, ancient Incan citadel and temple set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru. There are many ways to reach the ruins, depending on your fitness level. Active retirees can hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Alternatively, travelers can take a luxurious and scenic train ride from Cusco via a rail service like the Pullman-style train Belmond Hiram Bingham.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Spot Wildlife on a South African Safari

Get up close and personal with incredible wildlife on a bucket list-worthy safari adventure in South Africa. With most days spent in all-terrain vehicles observing the "Big Five" roaming the boundless landscapes, excursions are often low impact and popular with budget-conscious boomers. Book a fully guided safari package through Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, or another affordable day or multi-day Cape Town safari adventure. Other attractions include vineyard tours, beach getaways, and a tram ride up Table Mountain.

Related: 21 Places to Safely See Wild Animals Up Close

Cinque Terre, Italy

Find Your Bliss in Italy

Rent a villa to experience Tuscany for a month, hike through the centuries-old seaside villages of Cinque Terre, or wander Rome's world-renowned art museums and ancient ruins. People ages 50+ traveling solo certainly have their pick of beautiful Italian cities, coastal villages, and countryside towns for their next big adventure. If going alone is overwhelming, companies specializing in international group trips and activities for singles ages 50 and over — like Singles Travel International, U.K.-based Solos Holidays, and Tauck World Discovery — can help you plan your getaway to Italy, and some will offer room sharing options and trips free of the single supplement fee.


Kick Your Heels Up in San Antonio

For those traveling within the U.S., Texas cities are super-affordable places to explore. In particular, San Antonio — ranked No. 9 in Best Affordable Destinations in the USA by U.S. News & World Report and was recently named the most affordable "foodie city" by WalletHub — is a must-visit spot in the state. San Antonio's burgeoning restaurant scene, the Alamo historic site (the five area missions are Texas' only UNESCO World Heritage site), and the nearby Natural Bridge Caverns make it a unique place to explore on a budget. With its famed River Walk, San Antonio is also very pedestrian friendly. 

Czech Republic

Czech Out Prague

While there are many amazing places to visit in the Czech Republic, the capital city of Prague is the perfect, inexpensive European city for solo travelers, even for those new to going it alone, no matter the season. Excellent public transportation and Uber make getting around convenient; you can easily communicate in English in most places; and there are plenty of offbeat hostels for bumping into like-minded travelers. The beautiful, walkable city is brimming with history and art. Visit the "largest coherent castle complex in the world," the Prague Castle, and take in unique public art like these bizarre sculptures. Then fill up on cheap hearty meals and beer after all the sightseeing.