Retirement may mean watching expenses, but it hardly requires giving up on vacation. Competition is fierce among travel companies, and with a little shopping around, you’ll be amazed at how far you can go, even on a fixed income.
Package tours can be perfect for many retirees, offering value, safety and new friendships. With a group leader to handle the inevitable hassles of travel, you can focus on enjoying the trip. In addition, tours may provide special experiences and access unavailable to independent travelers.
Below are examples of vacation packages available for budgets between $500 and $2,000 per person, and there are plenty of other options on the companies’ websites. Note that prices listed may fluctuate, and usually apply to specific departure dates.
For more options, check with the United States Tour Operators Association (ustoa.tripwing.com), which lets you search for trips offered by its members, and can be filtered by cost, date and location.
$500 or less:
How does a vacation at sea sound? If you’re over 55, a five-day Eastern Caribbean sailing on the Carnival Sensation can be yours next month for as low as $329 per person for an inside cabin, plus taxes, fees and port expenses of about $112. The trip visits Amber Cove, a cruise port resort area in the Dominican Republic, along with Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos, where (at an extra cost) you can horseback ride on the beach or swim with stingrays. With two full days at sea, there’s also time to enjoy the ship, lounging by the pool at its quiet adults-only area, sampling the offerings from TV chef Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint, and taking in Broadway-style shows.
The fine print: You’ll still have to get to the departure port of Miami. And although most cruises are advertised as all-inclusive, there are plenty of ways to spend money on board from a casino to spa treatments. While all meals are included, alcohol is not. And neither are tips, which average about $13 per person per day. Info: Carnival.com
$1,000 or less
Hawaii can be a pricey destination, but purchasing air and hotel together can bring the cost down considerably. Consider this three-day visit to the Kauai Marriott Resort. The package from Pleasant Holidays runs $835 and includes airfare from San Francisco, the use of an oceanside cabana for one day, a $50 food and beverage credit, and a 10% discount on spa services. You can leave the grounds to hike and explore the lush landscape of what Hawaiians call the Garden Island at Waimea Canyon, Poipu Beach or the Wailua River.
The fine print: Meals are not included, and dining can be expensive at the resort. Additional costs for departures from other air gateways.
Pleasant Holidays offers a three-day air-hotel package at the Kauai Marriott Resort for under $1,000. (Photo: Marriott.com)
$1,500 or less:
Even a location like China is within reach if you shop around. SmarTours offers a 10-day package, visiting the capital of Beijing and the bustling port city of Shanghai, with visits to Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, and the Bund district, for $1,499 per person, with discounts often available. The trip includes airfare to China, hotels, breakfasts, and a lunch, plus transportation within the country, and English-speaking guides.
The fine print: The cost is for departure from San Francisco, although add-on airfare from other locations is competitively priced. The tour includes two free days in each city. Although optional tours are available, including a Forbidden City tour, an acrobatic performance and dinner, and an evening river cruise, they have an additional cost. China visa required, costing at least $140. Alcohol not included. Info: smartours.com
$2,000 or less:
Just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean turning off your brain. Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, prides itself on expert-led lectures, and provides reading lists for its trips, like its eight-day exploration of the Santa Fe region, focusing on its centuries-old Spanish and Native American cultures. The tour includes cooking demonstrations, a Pueblo visit, and museum and national park outings. Cost is $1,999 for April or November 2018 departures. Includes airfare from major gateways and 18 meals.
The fine print: Don’t expect solitude. In the past, the popular trip, called the “Great American Get-Together in Santa Fe” has attracted more than 100 participants, although some excursions are divided into smaller groups. The city’s elevation of 7,000 feet may challenge some visitors. Alcohol not included. Info: RoadScholar.org
Don’t let the germs in your hotel room spoil your vacation.