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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Boomers are booming!


    Think Baby Boomers are over the hill? 
     Think again. 
     Boomers are standing on top of the hill looking out at the view all over the country and all over the world.  
     There are approximately 79 million of us, and we comprise about 26% of the nation's population.  According to the Pew Research Center, roughly ten thousand Boomers will reach the age of 65 today, and about ten thousand will cross the threshold every day for the next couple of decades.
     The aging of the Baby Boomer generation is dramatically changing everything about our culture, including the travel industry.  Boomers are leaving the empty nest behind for travel that ranges from short hops to destinations across the country to months-long round the world tours.  And, oh by the way, it only costs $250,000 to book a flight on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic® space ship into outer space!
     Where are Baby Boomers going?  Everywhere! 
     Although the traditional bus tours and cruises are still popular, mature travelers are also indulging in adventure travel, eco-touring and the growing trend of genealogy tours. 
     Travel for rest and relaxation is still high on the list of Boomers' plans.  Snow Birds head south to planned senior communities in Florida and Arizona to escape winter and indulge in golf, swimming and social activities. 
     Some cruise lines still cater to the older set with formal dining, dress codes and lecture series about cruise destinations.  Unpacking once and allowing a luxury hotel at sea ferry the traveler from one destination to another is an easy way to travel.  Furthermore, cruise travel is ideal for seniors with mobility issues since wheel chairs and scooters are easy to maneuver around a ship.  Some cruise lines are now offering wheel chair accessible tenders to give disabled travelers equal access to ports of call. 
     Riverboat tours are a popular way to visit Europe now, and bus tours are also traditionally popular with the older traveler and range from the very busy "if it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" world-wind tours of Europe, to more leisurely tours of one state or country at a time. 
     But, there are other ways to travel, and Boomers are taking advantage of these new ideas.
     A growing trend in travel for Baby Boomers is a movement away from escapism and toward more meaningful travel.
     Eco-touring is attractive to ecologically minded Baby Boomers.  Tours focus on leaving the smallest possible footprint on the area visited as naturalists guide the tourist through wild or ecologically sensitive areas.  Many eco-tours tend to be adventure type tours which can include hiking, horse-back riding and river rafting near Jackson Hole, Wyoming to gorilla watching in Rwanda. 
     Volunteer travel combines touring with meaningful work that can include anything from digging wells for an economically disadvantaged village to cleaning up waterways or working with endangered animals.  Volunteer travel tours can last from one week to more than a month and can include stays with indigenous people.  Volunteer travel opportunities can be found through local churches, universities, museums and charitable organizations.  Or go to www.unitedplanet.org to find out about "Volunteer Quest" programs. 
     Elderhostel (now known as Road Scholar or Exploritas) travel combines travel and education.  This organization has offered tours since 1951 and for the more adventurous traveler, these trips usually involve a stay in a college dorm or inexpensive hotel while combining sightseeing with lectures and immersive experiences off the beaten track.  Similar to education tours are culture tours, often offered by universities and hosted by college professors.  These tours can include everything from low impact walking tours in Savannah to pub tours in Ireland concentrating on Irish writers to expensive three-week jazz cruises to golf, tennis or another sport?  Trips and tours offering tee times or court time, lodging, food and travel are available for every sports enthusiast.  You can try the rocky windy courses of Scotland or kick back with a julep at the 19th hole at one of the the premier golf resorts in the south. 
     A really hot trend in travel among Baby Boomers is Genealogical Touring. According to published research by a University of Illinois expert in tourism and recreation, genealogical tourism represents a conscious shift away from relaxation and into the realm of personal enrichment and fulfillment.  Traveling to the old church where one's great grandparents are buried or buying a loaf of bread from a tiny grocery store your great uncle once owned offers a sense of continuation.  (Journal of Travel Research) 
     Where to start? 
     Our national parks system is a great place to start if you're just trying your travel wings. 
     With 392 parks and 40 designated historic sites encompassing 84 million acres of land, the national parks of the United States appeal to visitors of all ages.  Seniors in particular enjoy the solitude, ranger-guided programs and wildlife viewing opportunities in parks across the country.
     If you are 62 or older, you qualify for the America the Beautiful Senior Pass.  This lifetimes pass is available for a nominal fee at any national park that charges admission.  Benefits include admission for yourself and up to three guests at any national park site, or for everyone in your vehicle at sites that charge per-vehicle entrance fees.   
     Grandchildren under 16 are always free and do not count toward the number of guests.  In addition, seniors are entitled to half-priced camping and other amenities at facilities run by private vendors. (USA Today)
     Travel is good for Boomers.  It gives us a chance to connect with our loved ones in new surroundings.  It broadens our horizons and keeps us enthusiastic about life.  Travel planning is fun, and having a future trip planned gives us something to anticipate with pleasure.
     We'll be providing travel ideas, tips and links on this page aimed toward the Boomer traveler.  And we invite you to send your own favorite travel destinations, stories and photos for our travel page.  Meantime, we hope you'll start dreaming of new destinations...whether far away and exotic or close to home and familiar.