Where to Go in 2019: 12 Budget Vacation Destinations for Seniors

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closeup of senior couple together on the beach
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SENIOR HOT SPOTS

One benefit of being retired is the luxury of time. Many seniors enjoy a fair amount of flexibility, which means ample opportunity to save big bucks on travel. By vacationing during the off-season and pouncing on limited-time specials, savvy seniors enjoy discounts on food, lodging, transportation, attractions, and events. With so much incentive, why sit at home? Head to one of these budget-friendly destinations.

French Quarter in Charleston, South Carolina
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CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

Soak up some Southern charm in genteel Charleston, named the region's best city by Southern Living magazine for the second year in a row. Attractions such as the Fort Sumter National Monument and Gibbes Museum of Art offer senior discounts, while strolls along the waterfront and past gracious homes are free. One big draw is Spoleto Festival USA, an annual performing arts event (May 24 to June 9) that has traditionally offered 10 percent off senior tickets for select performances. Save more by booking early or attending Piccolo Spoleto, a companion festival featuring regional artists. Accommodations in spring and fall — the best times for avoiding the sweltering summer heat — start at less than $80 a night.

Branson, MO
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BRANSON, MISSOURI

This vacation town deep in the Ozark Mountains is being talked up everywhere from Forbes to The New York Times. Take in country music shows and concerts, hit the links for a round of golf, cruise the lakes, explore the History of Fishing Museum, and just plain relax. Elvis fans should plan a spring visit for the annual Elvis festival (April 11 to 14). Coupons and discounts for shows, restaurants, and activities are available with the Branson Premium Coupon Package. Senior discounts on lodging also are available at local resorts and hotels.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
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THE MARITIMES, CANADA

The Maritimes are Canada's eastern provinces: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. The region is a frugal choice for American seniors on a budget: The U.S. dollar is still a bit stronger than Canada's loonie. Take a ferry from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia (the fare is as low as $31 for seniors during the off-season) or drive north to New Brunswick.

There's no shortage of outdoor adventure, including whale watching at eye level on a Zodiac boat. Halifax's Pier 21, the Canadian Ellis Island, stirs memories for immigrants, and historic hotels such as the Algonquin Resort and Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa may take seniors back to childhood vacations. Summer is the best time to visit, although that's when prices are at their highest.

River Walk along the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, North Carolina
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WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

City and seashore fun are rolled into one in Wilmington, which was hailed as one of the top U.S. destinations on the rise in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards. It boasts three nearby beaches and a Riverwalk with shops and restaurants. Go at sunset for a memorable view of the Cape Fear River and walk down memory lane with visits to historic homes, museums, and the Battleship Carolina.

Many attractions are free, including two nearby state parks, the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, the Hanover County Arboretum, and the North Carolina Azalea Festival, coming April 3 to 7. Those that charge admission usually offer senior discounts. There are six public golf courses and fishing off public piers. Shoulder-season rates on accommodations are available in spring and fall starting as low as $50 a night at budget hotel chains (but expect to find more rooms at $80 or $90).

Plymouth, Massachusetts
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PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS

Plymouth and the surrounding county are a choice destination for senior history buffs, especially in the spring before the crowds arrive. Pilgrim Hall Museum, the oldest museum in the country, displays artifacts that arrived with the Mayflower, as well as a piece of Plymouth Rock that visitors can touch. Historic walking and ghostly tin-lantern tours are typically offered April to November, and 17th-century houses that belonged to some of the original 101 Mayflower passengers are now museums and charge no or modest entry fees. Outdoor adventures include whale watching, harbor and lobster cruises, and journeys through the 100-year-old Cape Cod Canal. Nightly accommodations at budget hotels start at about $125 in the spring.

Yakima, Washington as viewed from Lookout Point
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YAKIMA, WASHINGTON

Yakima was selected as one of "America's Best Small Cities on the Rise" by SmarterTravel. It boasts plenty of craft breweries downtown and more than 120 wineries (many award-winning) in the surrounding areas. Seniors will enjoy the small-town prices, farmers market, and "u-pick" farms. Mountain passes about 30 minutes away offer hiking trails along the back side of Mount Rainier. There's white-water rafting on the Tieton River, fly fishing and tubing on the Yakima River, biking along various trails, and opportunities to spot wildlife in their native habitats. Accommodations start at about $60 a night.

view of Las Teresitas Beach, Tenerife, Spain
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TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS

The Spanish island of Tenerife attracts seniors with year-round warm weather, an outstanding diversity of landscapes, and good value given the strength of the dollar against the euro. With quality hotels, roads, and medical facilities, the island is a well-equipped and appealing alternative to more popular European destinations. Prices generally are lower here than on the continent, and travelers can reach the island from more than 180 cities. Round-trip packages from New York City, including four nights at a 5-star property, start at $1,100 a person. Go in spring and fall to avoid the crowds.

Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains, New York
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ADIRONDACK MOUNTAINS, NEW YORK

Ditch the big-city excitement and head upstate to the serenely magnificent Adirondacks. Whether you're active or sedentary, winter and summer sports, cultural events, shopping, and more can keep you busy for days on end. Several communities host winter carnivals, and miles of scenic byways and country roads beckon adventurous drivers. Unparalleled leaf peeping in the largest publicly protected area in the continental United States draws crowds in the fall. Hop aboard a Trailways bus during off-peak hours and save 50 percent on the fare just for being a senior. Lodging discounts for seniors are available as well. Blue Mountain Rest in Adirondack State Park, for example, shaves up to 40 percent off the weekend rate for a longer stay for those over 62 and paying cash.

downtown skyline at dawn in Roanoke, Virginia
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ROANOKE, VIRGINIA

There are reasons why Roanoke, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was named one of the South's "Best Places to Retire" by Southern Living magazine: the temperate climate, easy hikes through lush forest, and farm-to-table cuisine to name just a few. Antiques and art are plentiful and local wineries are making a name for themselves. A lower-than-average cost of living commends the locale as a place to vacation as well as to live. Off-season lodging rates start at about $50 to $60 a night even for hotels with some of the highest ratings in online reviews.

Hendricks County, Indiana
Photo credit: Storefronts on Courthouse Square by J. Stephen Conn (CC BY-NC)

HENDRICKS COUNTY, INDIANA

Hendricks County, a western suburb of Indianapolis, has become a popular place for empty nesters. It boasts arts and cultural activities, recreational options, and attractions such as the Oasis Diner, a 1954-era eating spot in Plainfield that's been restored to its original luster. Visit Hendricks County, the local destination marketing organization, specializes in planning affordable package tours, demonstrations, and workshops for senior groups often organized around themes.

scenic view of the mountain surrounding Estes Park, Colorado
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ESTES PARK, COLORADO

There's plenty to keep active seniors busy at the YMCA of the Rockies, which stretches over more than 800 acres surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park: archery lessons, swimming, a rock climbing wall, ropes challenge courses,  zip lining, a craft and design center (think ceramics, jewelry, and basket weaving), fishing, ice skating in winter, miniature golf, horseback riding, and campfires with s'mores. You can volunteer to work at the property — as a laundry attendant or sales clerk, for example — in exchange for room and board and access to most activities. A weeklong stay in early May can cost as little as $61.50 a night; YMCA members get a $15 nightly discount.

historic district in Mazatlán, Mexico
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MAZATLÁN, MEXICO

Cancún may attract the party crowd, but snowbirds have been seeking out the sun in Mazatlán, which is a good fit for budget-minded seniors. All-inclusive resorts are plentiful and even some of the higher-rated hotels can cost less than $60 a person per night. The beaches are beautiful and there are historic attractions to explore, as well as hiking, bird-watching, and all sorts of water sports. Off-season here is spring and fall, specifically April and May and October and November.

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