15 top vacation spots for retirees

By Sydney Champion/GOBankingRates

Retirees might be out of the workforce, but that doesn't mean they can't go on vacations. After all, retirement is the perfect time to travel the world and visit the spots you've always wanted to see in person. The only question is: What are the best vacation spots for retirees?

GOBankingRates turned to travel experts to find out their recommendations for U.S. retirees looking to explore new destinations.

Click through to see their top vacation spots for retirees.


This article was originally published by GOBankingRates.

​1. Alaska

Looking to take a vacation within the U.S. but still experience something new? Try Alaska.

"Demand has gone through the roof this year for Alaska," said Jaxson Maurer, owner and operator of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in the Seattle area.

Described as "a magical wonder" by Maurer, Alaska can be a relaxing vacation destination for retirees -- especially those who opt for an Alaskan cruise. "Guests can enjoy dinner while watching cascading waterfalls sail by, see massive glaciers come up around the corner, eagles soaring above head and whales popping up to say hello," he said.

If you're worried about cost, remember this tip from Maurer: "Look at value instead of cost. There is always something cheaper out there, but what will your experience be like?"

​2. River cruises

If a voyage on the open sea sounds unappealing, consider a river cruise instead. River cruises are rising in popularity among retirees, said Maurer.

"The two most popular destinations are the Danube and the Rhine rivers in central Europe," he said. And the best part about these types of cruises: You can view multiple destinations at once, just like with traditional sea cruises.

"Passengers can enjoy local wine and beer on board as they meander through the countryside of Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary with castles, villages and vineyards passing by," said Maurer.

​3. The Caribbean

Whether you opt for a Southern Caribbean cruise or plan a trip to Cuba, "the Caribbean is always a hit for those interested in relaxing," said Maurer. But, beware that Caribbean vacations are popular choices for everyone.

"The powder soft white sand and turquoise-blue water attracts people of all ages," said Maurer. "So for retirees looking for a more peaceful experience, they should consider traveling to the Caribbean in May or September/October to avoid the crowds."

Also, don't wait until the last minute -- book your Caribbean vacation early. "With the economy stronger now than it was a few years ago, the 'last-minute deal' is more and more becoming a thing of the past -- especially in the cruise industry," said Maurer. "Cruise lines are investing billions in new ships to keep up with demand, and they are looking to fill their ships fast and early."

​4. Hawaii

If the Caribbean is not high on your list, there's always Hawaii.

"Hawaii (and the Caribbean) are easily accessible for North Americans, making it the ideal getaway for those who do not want to spend a full day in an airplane going half-way around the world to get to their destination," said Maurer.

There are even Hawaiian cruise deals you can take advantage of. For example, the Expedia CruiseShipCenter is currently offering a six-night cruise starting as low as $599 this fall.

​5. Williamsburg, Virginia

Whether you enjoy playing golf, going to museums or shopping, you can find a variety of fun things to do in Williamsburg. "Williamsburg and nearby Jamestown provide a wide range of price and activity levels for virtually every interest," said Elizabeth Avery, founder of SoloTrekker4U, a travel deals site that caters to solo travelers.

From classic architecture to reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg, a vacation in this Virginia town could be an affordable option for you. "The price range for lodging is better than large urban areas, although tickets for events do add to costs," said Avery.

To balance those costs, Avery recommended using transportation options that offer senior discounts -- like trains -- booking a room that comes with a kitchenette or fridge to save on food expenses and traveling "during the off-season or shoulder season when reduced tourist demands soften prices."

​6. Tuscany, Italy

Who wouldn't want to travel to Italy? If you're a retiree wanting to visit this beautiful and historic country, consider Tuscany. "Pricing is much better going outside Florence to the countryside," said Avery. However, she advises retirees to find accommodations with access to other popular sties in and around the Tuscany region, such as Florence, Siena or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

To save money on your vacation to Tuscany, Avery recommended retirees checking out prices up until mid-May and in the fall as early as mid-September. Also, she said to:

  • Look for trains that offer senior discounts.
  • Consider house-swapping or short-term rentals.
  • Consider using pre-paid cards to avoid expensive ATM and bank fees.

​7. Sicily, Italy

Sicily is an Italian island located in the Mediterranean Sea and boasts breathtaking ocean views. And, it's one of the Italian destinations Leo Locke, president of Italian travel tour operator Donna Franca Tours, recommends for retirees, along with Malta and the Amalfi Coast.

By taking a Sicilian tour, for example, you can see the Valley of the Temples, go wine tasting and grub on delicious Italian fare, like arancini (Sicilian rice balls), caponata (an eggplant stew), and of course -- pizza.

To save money, Locke said, "Senior travelers and retirees can reap substantial savings and added benefits by traveling to Europe in the off-season. Airfares and hotels offer lower rates, the climate is milder, and many monuments as well as museums are less crowded."

Also, find out if you can travel by train. "Train travel also offers an affordable and stress-free way of connecting between destinations," said Locke.

​8. Bangkok, Thailand

"Having spent 17 days primarily as a solo woman traveler, I fell in love with Southeast Asia," said Avery of SoloTrekker4U. "I personally recommend [Bangkok] and look forward to going back again."

Vacationing in Bangkok can get you some of the same luxuries as other popular destinations -- but at a lower price. In Avery's experience, she was able to find four- and five-star hotels that were much less expensive than hotels in Europe and the U.S. Plus, "the service is unbeatable and yes -- reaching a 'certain age' is respected and revered," she said.

But you don't have to limit yourself to Bangkok. Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours -- a guided tour company catering boomers, seniors and retirees -- said it's possible to find a two-week vacation in Thailand for well under $2,000. "Thailand has arguably distinguished itself as the best value destination in the world," he said. "And it's not simply about price -- from bustling Bangkok to enchanting Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand will take your breath away."

​9. Jekyll Island, Georgia

You might have never heard of Jekyll Island, but it could be the perfect vacation destination for you if you're a retiree. Jekyll Island offers many attractive activities for baby boomers and retirees, said Liz Dahl, founder of BoomerTravelPatrol.com, a site where boomer travelers share their experiences.

"There are beaches, fishing, biking, tennis, golf and even Sunday dinner dances," she said. For example, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel's Grand Dining Room hosts events where attendees can feast on gourmet dinner and go ballroom dancing -- a romantic option for retired couples.

​10. Montreal, Canada

"If you want a bit of international flavor and don't want to spend the time or money to travel to Europe, how about visiting Montreal?" asked Dahl. "It has the feel, language, cuisine and culture of France without the hassle of getting there. In addition, the U.S. dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar. It's a win-win."

But if you have to fly to get to Montreal, Dahl said to always check the rates for flights out of airports within one to two hours from your city. "Chances are, you will find a better deal. I know I have," she said.

​11. California coast

Retirees on the West Coast can find relaxing vacation options in California. For example, consider taking a road trip up or down the coast to Morro Bay.

"Morro Bay is a laid back, easy-on-the-budget destination," said Dahl. "You can tour vineyards, eat fresh seafood, go paddle boarding, whale watch and participate in many eco-friendly activities."

When booking a hotel for your vacation, Dahl recommended never using the 1-800 number. "Call the property direct," she said. "They have immediate access to their inventory, and you may be able to negotiate a great rate. Also, be flexible -- which retirees can be -- because a different date might save you quite a bit."

​12. Tulum, Mexico

Skip over the touristy, spring break Mexican destinations -- like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas -- and visit Tulum. It's a tranquil, somewhat secluded beach town with clear, blue water and plenty of activities for retirees.

"If you are a retiree who enjoys an active lifestyle, Tulum has it all: Biking, beach walking, yoga, swimming, diving or simply a spa relaxation," said Raminta Lilaite, director of communications at Riviera Maya Property Consultants.

When looking at your lodging options, consider "staying in one of the beachfront bungalow hotels to get the full experience of Tulum," she advised. But if you want to save money, she recommended staying in one of the hotels in town or with locals by renting an apartment or house.

​13. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel and temple and should be on every retiree's bucket list. If you're an active senior, you can take a one-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, said Jacquie Whitt, co-founder of Adios Adventure Travel, which organizes trips for travelers. For retirees who are less active, a "trip to Machu Picchu can be scaled and slowed down," she added.

Whitt offered a few savings tips for people interested in taking a trip to Machu Picchu or other exotic destinations:

  • "Invite friends or other couples. Tours for two are the most expensive ways to travel."
  • "Don't be afraid to stay in three-star tourist class hotels. They may not have onsite spas or marble countertops, but they can be very comfortable. You can save hundreds of dollars per day by making this small change."
  • "Monitor costs for international flights. Flights are the single most costly part of your trip. Choose your travel dates based on least expensive flights."

​14. South Africa

"The surge of the U.S. dollar versus the South African rand has made this bucket list destination extremely accessible for budget-conscious retirees," said Geronemus of smarTours.

Retirees who love the outdoors and don't mind getting up close and personal with live animals will enjoy one of South Africa's safaris, recommended by both Geronemus and Karen Cleary, the African destination manager at Boundless Journeys.

"One of our biggest draws for our retired guests are our safaris," said Cleary. "Safaris are on most people's bucket list, but many people don't get to them until later in life. They are low-impact -- most days spent in safari vehicles viewing the vast landscapes and incredible wildlife -- and also make a great multi-generation vacation to bring the family to celebrate a big event or reunion."

​15. Vietnam/Cambodia

"We see a lot of retirees that are wanting to go to places that were once considered unreachable in the not-so-distant past," said Maurer of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. These places include Vietnam and Cambodia, which he recommended retirees should see by taking a cruise on the Mekong River.

"Excursions in Vietnam and Cambodia can include exploring the Viet Cong fighters' Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City or a visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia," he added.