Best Travel Tour Companies for Seniors
The benefits of travel, whether it's a refreshing weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a new destination, are undeniable. And for retirees or seniors who have time and a travel budget, the opportunities are nearly endless. The world and even their own city, state, or country are waiting to be explored.
It should be recognized that seniors are as diverse as any other generation, perhaps even more so as their years of experience, careers, ages, hometowns, and beliefs have taken them in many directions. Their interests, abilities, values, and habits may be different, but it can safely be said that for many, travel is in their plans.
By the time you hit 50, you’ve learned a lot about how to make the best use of your travel time. It’s no accident that older and wiser travelers tend toward senior travel tours, which offer the chance to leave the driving to someone else, not sweat the details, and be freed up to really enjoy a destination.
Most tours for older travelers do a good job meeting the needs of travelers in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s, but there are some travel tour companies for seniors that go above and beyond. The travel experts at Familyvacationist.com narrowed down the choices to the top tour companies for senior travel.
1. Road Scholar
With its educational focus and tours spanning more than 100 countries and all 50 states, Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) is a perfect fit for curiosity-driven lifelong learners. The company’s average guest age is 72, but participants on these travel tours for seniors range in age from 50s to 90s. Programs are ranked by level of activity, and span the spectrum from “Easy Going” (which focuses more on classroom learning) to more physically demanding options like the outdoor-adventure focused “Outdoor: Challenging” programs.
Road Scholar also offers “Choose Your Pace” senior travel tours that allow participants to adjust their level of challenge on a daily basis. And for skip-gen vacations, Road Scholar offers Grandparent Programs, a series of fun-for-all senior tours designed specifically for grandparents traveling with their grandkids.
For more than 90 years, Globus has been a trusted guided tour specialist that ranks among the best travel tour companies for seniors. One of the ways it has translated age into wisdom is by recognizing that a one-size-fits-all tour doesn’t work for everyone. Its range of touring types significantly boosts the chance of creating personalized matches between destinations and travelers.
For instance, some of its travel tours for seniors focus on the big sights and tourist attractions that first-time travelers won’t want to miss. But there are also plenty of itineraries in Italy, the Mediterranean, the U.K., and the U.S. that earn the company’s Undiscovered designation by focusing on off-the-beaten-path attractions and experiences that create once-in-a-lifetime moments for seasoned travelers who want to go deeper into a destination.
And for couples and groups with different interests, Globus’ new Choice Touring format gives people a variety of included activity choices at each destination so that everyone can find the right adventure.
3. Intrepid Travel
With its focus on active trips, you might think of Intrepid Travel as a tour company geared toward younger people. But Intrepid Travel’s North America Managing Director Matt Berna sums up the company’s age-inclusive ethos when he says, “Life is an adventure at any age and it’s highly likely you’ll find people of similar age and interest sharing—and enjoying—the trip right alongside you.”
In fact, Intrepid reports that senior travelers who fall into the 50+ age category are among the most interested in its new active trips, which include walking and trekking tours, cycling trips, and multi-activity adventures. The company designs trips that are meant to be enjoyed rather than being a constant endurance test, so what Berna calls a “general level of health and fitness” is all that’s needed to make the most of the experience.
With a century of experience showing people the world, Trafalgar is one of the tour industry’s largest and most trusted brands. And with 60 percent of its guests falling into the 50 to 71 age range, it’s an expert in travel tours for seniors travelers.
With its mix of travel directors who oversee all the details and local specialists who bring every destination to life, Trafalgar creates senior tours that offer both novelty and comfort. And recognizing that health and safety is more of a concern now than ever, it pioneered the industry’s first Wellbeing Director position, which focuses entirely on ensuring suppliers and partners are following health protocols, staying up to date on Covid restrictions by region, and handling all health-related queries.
5. Smithsonian Journeys
If you have the time to go deep in a destination, Smithsonian Journeys might be the perfect fit. In addition to its Classic Land Journeys (which mix iconic and hidden sights) and Active Journeys (which shine an adventurous spotlight on the great outdoors), Smithsonian Journeys’ Living In programs offer something somewhat unusual for a tour provider: the chance to slow down and stay a while.
While not exclusively senior travel adventures, these three-week stays in Italy, France, and (starting in 2023) Spain allow travelers to live like locals while also offering tour benefits like planning experts, tour managers, and plenty of organized learning opportunities. And because it’s Smithsonian, educational enrichment is always front and center, allowing you to not just experience the world but to also understand it more deeply.
Guided tour specialist Backroads, which specializes in cycling, hiking, and multi-sport vacations, knows that a love of athletic pursuits in the great outdoors is a lifelong passion for many. And to appropriately scale its offerings to different age groups, its trips range from active to easygoing, with a lot of flexibility built into the offerings that make them especially appropriate for senior travel tours.
Of particular interest for older couples in which one partner is sportier than the other, E-bikes are included in Backroads’ trip prices so that groups with mixed abilities can ride together. Most cycling trips include two support vehicles, so that you can bike as much or as little as you want each day. And Backroads’ new Dolce Tempo trips are geared to be more easygoing, but still offer plenty of fun and adventure along the way.
7. Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.)
Catering primarily to travelers 50 and older, Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) offers travel tours for seniors that build in plenty of ways to support older adventurers. Recognizing that many of its travelers are retired, O.A.T offers longer trips—in fact, unlike many travel tour companies for seniors, the majority of O.A.T’s adventures are two weeks or longer. Many also include pre-trip and post-trip extensions for those who want to stay even longer.
Seniors can easily match their energy level and accessibility needs with O.A.T.’s Activity Level rating system, which ranges from one for easy trips to five for strenuous journeys. And solo travelers can take advantage of the company’s free and heavily discounted single supplements on trips. O.A.T. reports that 92 percent of its 30,000 single spots this year are being offered without a single supplement fee.
Some tour companies cater to seniors with specific interests. It is a great opportunity to travel with fellow seniors who share the same passions and interests. Guided group tours are convenient, include expert guides that provide interesting background information on every place you visit, and are generally an easy stress-free option. People who choose group tours enjoy the company of other travelers, as well as the local expertise of the guides
Walking the World
Walking the World, based in Grand Junction, Colorado, offers walking and hiking tours mainly for travelers over the age of 50 who want to be immersed in the destinations they choose. Experienced hikers will enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, with treks of up to 10 miles on some days during the eight-day itinerary. Meanwhile, the Ireland trip covers 11 days of exploring fishing villages, rolling green hills, the stunning Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney National Park. Daily walks range from four to eight miles and are described as gentle to moderate.
Senior Cycling, based in Asheville, North Carolina, specializes in bicycle tours for active adults ages 50 and up. The groups are small, limited to a maximum of 13 participants, and are always accompanied by the "sag wagon," in case someone needs a break from riding. Tours are rated at three levels, from easy (for the occasional rider who prefers bike paths and flat terrain) to advanced (for those who are at ease with about 50 miles per day, traffic, and hills). Custom tours can be arranged for families or groups of friends.
Country Walkers, born and based in Vermont since 1979, offers walking tours in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. Its goal is to introduce travelers to new landscapes and cultures around the world — on foot. Their tour types include self-guided, fully guided, and guided-flex, providing for independent exploration. Travelers can select from five levels, starting from "easy walking," which includes a daily distance of two to four miles. "Moderate walking," the mid-range option, suggests four to 10 miles and up to six hours of walking in a day. Tours at the "challenging walking" level might go up to seven hours a day on foot, covering six to 14 miles. Guests of all ages can find a destination and appropriate tour for their interests and fitness level.
Adventures Abroad offers trips on every continent and describes their clients as "curious, active, and often very well-traveled." The company largely caters to travelers 50 or older, but tours are open to adults of all ages. For their "soft adventure" trips, which concentrate on the culture and history of a destination, there are no strenuous activities, though a reasonable degree of fitness and ability to walk are required. Trips are rated from one to four based on physical activity, with the first level requiring only leisurely walks. Level four trips might include walks or hikes on uneven ground for three to seven hours. Specific trips are suggested for each activity level for easy planning.
Tour Operators Specializing In Travel For People With Mobility Issues
Some tour operators for older travellers can accommodate guests with limited mobility, others might have itineraries that involve lots of walking where wheelchair or walker access is not possible (such as places with steep inclines or on unpaved or cobblestone walkways). Thus, you should do your research before booking if you have a mobility impairment.
There are also many travel agents that specialize in booking accessible travel activities, transportation and accommodations for mobility impaired travellers, but there are too many to list in this article.
Access Tours is a non-profit organization providing wheelchair accessible package vacation tours in the American West.
They cater to people with physical disabilities, especially slow walkers and scooter or wheelchair users, along with those who would normally accompany them.