“I wish I had the life of the Traveling Tulls,” my niece, just 34, teased recently. She had one little one on her hip and another by her side. I smiled and assured her that we didn’t live like the Traveling Tulls when we were 30 either! Those were frugal years. Trips were long car rides home to see family, or occasionally, a rented cottage by the water. We were fortunate to fit a few splurges into our kids’ childhoods – Disneyworld, visits to the National Parks, and one glorious European cruise with the extended family. It wasn’t until the kids were flown that we had the discretionary income* to travel widely. For the first time, we were able to book those once in a lifetime travel experiences.
Celebrate the Sixties, the best decade for life-changing travel
The sixties are the prime traveling years for most of us. Our nuclear family responsibilities are over, with college and wedding expenses behind us. If not retired, we’re winding our careers down and refocusing our ambitions on our personal lives. And, if life’s been good to us, we’re healthy and ready for adventures.
So where to start? There are so many beautiful places to see and explore! We asked some of the top travel bloggers for suggestions for a 60-something’s Bucket List. The trips suggested have us ready to pack our bags! So many great once-in-a-lifetime travel destinations and most within reach financially. No need to fly in a private jet or stay at the world’s finest hotels to enjoy these bucket list destinations. (But you can if you want to!)
But when we narrowed our focus to trips a person might NOT be able to take in their 70s and beyond, we came up with this retirement bucket list.
Top Travel Writers’ Picks of Once in a Lifetime Travel Experiences
by Pam of the Directionally Challenged Traveler
Antarctica is the ultimate bucket list experience for any traveler. The ice continent is unlike any other place on Earth. It has the least amount of human impact on it and is still strongly protected to keep it that way. You can only get to Antarctica via a cruise ship – there are no hotels or flights. Since only about 100 people can go on land at any given point, be sure to book a small ship so you can go on land and see the penguins and seals up close.
There are plenty of activities in Antarctica to enjoy. The staff describes each activity, length of time, and difficulty level prior to going on land so you can decide which is best for you. Geology walks, casual hikes, and difficult hikes were some of the free activities to do. If you’re truly adventurous (and possibly a little crazy), most cruise ships allow you to do a Polar Plunge! Kayaking is available for an additional cost. Dry-suits are provided and the kayaks are meant for beginner kayakers, so don’t be afraid to try something new. For the truly brave, you can spend a night in a tent on land. How many people can say they’ve spent a night on Antarctica?
On the ship, there are plenty of lectures to learn about the explorers who visited Antarctica, the wildlife that calls the cold their home, and how to take better photographs. Since the cruise ship is small, you can get to know other passengers and staff as well.
From adventure to relaxation, Antarctica, with its extraordinary ice formations, truly does have it all.
Wilsons Promontory in Australia
by Audrey of Gumnuts Abroad
When I was young older people would often tell me to travel because “you won’t be able to when you’re my age”. Well now I’m “their age” and I can tell you travelling when you’re older is great fun! And only limited by your imagination. One place I recommend to people of all ages is Wilsons Promontory. Located on the southernmost tip of mainland Australia it’s a popular getaway for both couples and families. Here you’ll find pristine wilderness, unspoilt beaches, rainforests, and incredible coastal views. Native Australian wildlife abounds and if you come at the right time of year, you’ll see gorgeous native wildflowers like wattle and even orchids.
Simply called ‘The Prom’ by locals, Wilsons Prom encompasses 50,000 hectares of national park. Naturally, bushwalking is popular activity and there are over 30 self-guided tracks to choose from. Catering to all fitness levels and abilities the trails range from gentle strolls to more difficult multi-day hikes.
Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches and Wilsons Prom has several for you to choose from. A favourite amongst visitors is the aptly named Squeaky Beach. This stunning beach is famous for its bright white sand that squeaks when you walk on it. Take a stroll along the shore and listen for the squeak, at the end of the beach are huge boulders and rock pools for you to explore.
Older travellers tend to appreciate good quality accommodation and Wilsons Prom has a variety of options to suit all budgets. From camping in the national park to chic B&Bs and luxury lodges with stunning views, The Prom has something for everyone. It’s the perfect destination!
The Azores Archipelago
by Emma of Travel on a Time Budget
When I’m slightly older, I’d like to see more of the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago of nine Atlantic islands some 1,000 miles west of Lisbon (I’ve so far been to two). They are a fascinating destination to experience spectacular scenery, eat delicious food and generally relax.
They’re also perfect for anyone who adores the natural environment. Being volcanic islands, there are caves and craters galore to visit, mountains to climb, and a variety of scenic coastal drives you can take. The Azores are also well known for their wildlife, so booking onto to a dolphin or whale watching trip is highly recommended.
More active travellers should take advantage of the dramatic landscape to do some hiking. On the main island, São Miguel, there are hiking routes around the iconic Caldeira das Setes Cicades. This is a seven mile round volcanic crater an hour from the capital, Ponta Delgada, which features two lakes: one green and one blue. I also loved the Lagoa do Fogo, also around an hour away. Drive up to the summit of both to make sure you see them from up high before deciding which hike you want to do.
On Terceira island, you can clamber down into volcanoes (e.g. theAlgar do Carvao) and walk along lava tubes (e.g. the Gruta do Natal). On Pico island, you can climb Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest point, which rises to almost 8,000 feet.
After exerting yourself, you can make use of the islands’ natural hot springs to relax those muscles. On São Miguel, head for the Vale das Furnas and the Poca da Dona Beija. Soak up the relaxing bathing experience first hand by dipping into five small pools that vary from 28 to 39 degrees centigrade.
Seeing Orangutans in their Natural Habitat in Borneo
by Trina of Team Hazard Rides Again
Going on a houseboat tour to see orangutans in Kalimantan (the Indonesian side of Borneo), is an unexpectedly wonderful combination of luxury and adventure.
We did the 3D/2N tour and we wish we could have done more.
My husband and I are generally quite frugal, so we don’t usually opt for luxury accommodations. The comfort level of the houseboat, or klotok, surprised us. We had the top deck to ourselves, comfy mattresses so we could sleep on the deck, and even our own private chef that made incredible food. The bathroom is basic but had everything, including a shower and running water.
In addition, the crew was awesome. My husband, Tim, is partially (legally) blind and he needed extra help all along the hikes. They handled it. I didn’t have to worry about him every step of the way. In fact, there were a couple of times when my husband and our guide sent me on ahead to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and they looked after him – at a little slower pace.
As for hiking through the rainforest to see orangutans in Borneo – it was fantastic.
Better than any adventure movie, we tromped through mossy terrain with gnarled trees and giant ants. And I mean giant, like give it a name and keep it for a pet-sized ants (about 2-3″).
And then you get to see the orangutans. The tour to Camp Leakey, and other rehabilitation centers in the area, includes visiting the feeding stations. This guarantees that you’re going to see orangutans.
While most of these orangutans have been rescued and rehabilitated, and are somewhat habituated to humans, they are still completely free and wild. This forest is their space and they’re going to do what they want.
They come in, swinging through the trees overhead, watching you as much as you’re watching them. You see the trade-offs, and power plays of who gets to eat first, and who waits until a certain dominant male has left. It’s fascinating.
On our way out, Tim, with his entourage, caught the attention of a former queen orangutan and ended up in a very close encounter. So close, he could have reached out and touched her.
Taking a houseboat tour to see orangutans in Borneo has been one of the greatest highlights of our ongoing travels and we can recommend it to anyone.
Crossing the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer
by Talek of Travels with Talek
Crossing the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer Train is a perfect adventure. This trip combines rail travel, wildlife viewing and gourmet meals while traveling from one beautiful city to another. What a comfortable and entertaining way to travel.
The train has several routes including trips between the cities of Banff in Alberta and Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The Banff to Vancouver (or the other way around) is appealing because, if you’re leaving from Banff you can spend some time the city itself with its trendy restaurants and performance venues as well as the jaw-droppingly beautiful Banff National Park.
The train trip takes two days with a stop in the country town of Kamloops. The seats are comfortable and recline. Take a nap! Or a short walk will take you to the between cars open air section from which you can take unobstructed photos of the beautiful passing landscapes.
Along the way a dedicated staff of pleasant stewards point out interesting sights and give historical anecdotes. There is so much of nature’s beauty to see in the Rockies; mountains, rivers, eagles, wild goats and, if you’re lucky, you might even see a bear! Since the top and sides of the train cars are glass, you have unobstructed views all around.
You won’t go hungry on this train ride. Breakfast every morning, followed by mid-morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks and a hearty dinner. All these gourmet meals are accompanied by your choice of beverages including alcoholic.
After two days of being lulled and pampered, you arrive in one of the world’s great cities, Vancouver. Visiting Vancouver is another great experience on this trip. Enjoy the city’s museums, cuisine, nightlife and parks. You won’t want to leave!
Japan by Rail
by Jan of Leisurely Drives
Ancient castles, artistic gardens, active volcanoes, attractive food ……Japan has it all.
The Japan Rail Pass provides the best way to see Japan. Foreign-tourists get unlimited rides on bullet trains (Shinkansen) for 1, 2 or 3 weeks. Base yourself in Osaka (recommended) or Tokyo and travel everywhere. Trains are fast, squeaky clean, empty (reserve your seat just before boarding, no charge) and punctual. Suggestion – buy your pass before reaching Japan. Detailed information is available at Japan-Experience.
Kyoto’s manicured gardens, pavilions and kimono-clad ladies give a real feel of Japan. Imposing Osaka castle, beautiful Hokkaido, Nara deer park, floating Tori Gate at Miyajima and a volcano (Mount Aso) are must-see attractions. Stay one night at a Ryokan (hotel with hot springs) for tasting Japanese lifestyle. Visit Shikoku island for a day to view the beautiful Ritsurin gardens. Of course, explore Tokyo and Mount Fuji.
Hokkaido is special – beautiful landscapes, gorgeous lavender fields in Furano, few tourists. You will enjoy the unique experience of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which “slows down” from 200 mph to just 85 mph inside Seikan, the world’s longest under-sea railway tunnel.
Getting around is easy. Notices and timetables are in English, stations have elevators, restaurant menus have pictures of dishes, and people are unbelievably helpful even if they don’t know any English. We travelled for three weeks with just English and sign language.
Ah, the bowing! Everyone bows – porters, cleaning staff, ticket checkers, bento box (delicious fast-food) sellers. NO tipping anywhere – nice!
Challenges? None really, because everything is easy, even buying tickets on the Tokyo Metro. If you need help, ask anyone. If (s)he doesn’t know English (s)he will find an English speaker for you.
Japan is a “must-see” destination deserving a place in everyone’s bucket list. We have been there, done that, but want to go again.
Petra in Jordan
by Amy of the Traveling Tulls
There are very few places in the world that live up to the expression “takes your breath away.” Petra is one of them. The memory of coming through the narrow siq into the valley of monumental pink sandstone carvings will stay with you forever.
Petra was an active trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire for over 500 years beginning in 400 BC. After the area was absorbed into the Roman Empire the city began to decline and, after a major earthquake, was ‘lost’ to history. Fortunately for us, it was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1800s and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. (I put lost and rediscovered in quotes as the local Bedouin people knew of the site and sheltered there occasionally.)
Though the highlights of Petra could be seen in one day, to fully appreciate the site you should spend a few days hiking and exploring. Schedule your visit to include a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday overnight so you can go to Petra By Night, an evening walk to the Treasury lit only by luminaries. It is a truly magical evening of music and history.
Any visit to Petra involves a lot of walking. The siq, a narrow canyon leading into the site, is 1.2 km, or .75 mile long, and of uneven ground. (Bring a flashlight if you’re going in at night.) Once inside the ancient city you’ll continue walking the Street of Facades to the museum. Side excursions will take you to the Royal tombs, and the theater.
And then there’s the Monastery… The largest and most impressive stone building is on a high plateau, reached by a climb of 850 steps. You can ride a donkey up the path, but we don’t recommend it. Hike up and enjoy the view.
Visiting Petra is a once-in-a-lifetime trip but will require some fitness. Go as soon as you can!
New Zealand South to North via Caravan
by Laureen Lund of My Fab Fifties Life
My nomad life has taken me around the world a few times over the past four years (101 countries and counting) and New Zealand lands near the very top of my favorites. It’s unsurpassed for scenery, and being outdoors is the national pastime. The downside, roads are narrow and winding (no freeways) and it’s expensive.
And yet, I would go back tomorrow, and I would rent a caravan again. It’s the perfect way to get close and personal with New Zealand’s glorious mountains, oceans, trails and wildlife.
There are many companies to rent from, and many different styles and sizes of vans and RV’s. We rented one of the smaller-style vans. With a raised roof we could stand inside (some are too small for that) and there was a small kitchen. The table folded down to a bed for two. A porta-potty was included.
We began our journey in Christchurch on the South Island and spent the first two weeks exploring the highlights of the South Island including Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Franz Joseph Glacier and the Pancake Rocks. Next we visited Picton and then took the ferry with the van across to Wellington on the North Island. We spent another two weeks exploring the thermal area of Rotorua, climbing Tongariro, swimming at Whangarei Head and to the tip of the North Island Cape Reinga.
New Zealand has a wonderful selection of FREE camping areas to park and stay the night. We used these regularly but also went to paid camping areas that provided showers, laundry and sometimes even a pool.
I can’t wait to do it again.
by Steph Dyson of Worldly Adventurer
Patagonia has rapidly become the ultimate bucket list destination for the adventurous. Covering the southernmost parts of both Chile and Argentina, it’s best known for its hiking trails and spellbinding scenery, which has been marked by the slow progress of glaciers across the ages. Destinations such as Torres del Paine National Park – home to the lauded W and Circuit treks, El Calafate – with the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier – and the Carretera Austral – South America’s most remote and striking road trip – are what draws travellers to this region. But there’s plenty more to tempt you: ferry journeys through the fjords that dapple the western edge of Patagonia, endemic wildlife such as guanaco, huemul deer and puma, plus delicious local cuisine.
While backpackers have long been exploring the wild corners of this bewitching, glacier strewn land at the southernmost tip of South America, it actually better lends itself to a trip for those with more time and more financial independence. Partially, this is because things aren’t exactly cheap in Patagonia, particularly when compared with more affordable destinations across the continent. But it’s also because a larger budget goes a long way in this region. Not only does it allow you to swap out camping for one of the many luxurious hotels in Torres del Paine but having the budget to rent a car and thus explore the region at will is guaranteed to result in a highly memorable adventure.
For those who want to make Patagonia a real trip of a lifetime, consider heading to Ushuaia in Argentine Patagonia and adding on an Antarctica cruise to your vacation. Most cruise ships for the white continent depart from here, with December through March the best months to visit, thanks to the wealth of wildlife and the long hours of daylight that you can experience
Explore Seattle and the Cascade Mountains
by Megan of My Moments and Memories
Seattle is one of the most surprisingly beautiful cities in the world, boasting so much natural beauty it almost seems unfair. It has an abundance of sea, mountains and lakes, and to truly ‘do Seattle’ should include experiencing each of these bounties.
Downtown Seattle looks over the Puget Sound – it is an incredible backyard, filled with sheltered waters, and dotted with islands. There are so many to explore, but if you have limited time, then I’d recommend heading to Bainbridge or Whidbey Islands. If you like a more upmarket experience, with a little boutique shopping, a delicious spot for lunch, and perhaps a wander around a beautiful estate (Bloedel Reserve), then Bainbridge is for you. If you have a car, and would like to explore a little further, then a trip to Whidbey Island and up to Deception Pass may give you the chance to see more.
Downtown Seattle itself has much to do, and many famous attractions – the Space Needle, Chihuly Glass Gardens and Pike Place Market to name a few. However, my recommendations for your downtown wanderings would be to include a scenic float plane flight over the city from Lake Union. This is a unique way to see the beauty and variety that Seattle city offers. Follow this with an early evening visit to Smith Tower, one of our favourite and most unique Seattle destinations. Built in 1914, this was Seattle’s original skyscraper. Today you can take one of the original lifts to an observatory floor and speakeasy themed restaurant that is full of character and history. Grab a cocktail and watch the sunset over this gorgeous city – the 360 degree views will leave you spellbound.
One of the most underrated aspects of Seattle, is the amount of incredible day hikes it offers. The Cascade Mountains run through Washington state, with several stand out mountains, including the iconic Mt Rainier. A fabulous day trip option, that includes a moderate hike, would be a trip to the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, stopping to hike Wallace Falls en route. The hike follows the Wallace River, through beautiful Washington forest. There are three levels of falls so you can cater your hike to the time you have available and abilities.
If you’re an experienced hiker, and would like something a little more strenuous, Lake 22 will not disappoint. This hike has it all – beautiful forest, a talus slope to scramble over, and the ultimate reward at the top – a stunningly serene lake which reflects the snow covered mountains that surround it.
For more in depth ideas on what to see and do in Seattle, visit www.mymomentsandmemories.com
Visiting Vietnam in Your 60’s
by Sarah of A Social Nomad
Vietnam is a great place to add to your 60+ bucket list. The phrase that you’ll see repeated throughout the country sums it up for me. Very Good, Very Cheap, Very Vietnam.
Vietnam is a seriously cost-effective place to travel to – great rooms are available for little expenditure, leaving you to focus your budget on amazing things to eat, which are also cheap, so then you get to spend your dollars on fantastic things to do. All the folks that you’ll meet in a tourist environment speak English, so it is easy to travel around. There are heaps of online booking sites if you’re nervous about not pre-booking accommodation or travel, but there’s also a can-do attitude that means your hosts will work it out. Want to sit in a café and have a very cold sunset beer? No problem. Even if there’s no beer, your host will go and find some and bring it back for you.
Vietnam is very safe to travel in – my 60-year-old sister-in-law took her very first backpacking trip there, rode her first motorbike, got her very first back of a motorbike transfer when we left Vietnam for Cambodia and had her very first beach massage. Vietnamese food is awesome – and if you don’t like Vietnamese food, you’ll always find a pizza or a burger. Overall, the friendliness of the people and that your dollar goes a lot further means it’s easy to try new things and if it doesn’t work out for you, then you can move on without having blown the budget!
Adventure awaits in retirement. With so many options for once in a lifetime trips, how to decide where to go first? We suggest scheduling the most physically challenging trips first. Check off the Antarctica adventure, the safari in Africa to see the great migration (and enjoy wine tasting in South Africa), the trip to Machu Picchu where you’ll hike the Inca trail, or the river rafting trip as soon as you are able, and then head to where your heart is pulling you!
We’re off to the Galapagos Islands in 2023! I studied the works of Charles Darwin in college and am very excited to see these unique islands and the giant tortoises!
What would you recommend to a newly retired adventurer? Bora Bora, the Taj Mahal? Let me know which once in a lifetime travel experiences you’re dreaming of in the comments!
*Discretionary income is defined as the amount left after taxes and mandatory life expenses.
Note that though the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups have higher discretionary income, these people still have large expenses looming, such as college tuition and retirement saving.