How to Prioritize Your Retirement Travel Goals As You Age

In his 40-plus years as a dentist with a full roster of patients, Roy Feifer kept most of his vacations relatively short. So, in 2015, when he retired and sold his South Florida practice, Feifer and his wife, Barbara, began dreaming about the types of extended trips they could finally take without work standing in their way. Today, their retirement bucket list includes Churchill, Manitoba (the polar bear capital of the world), Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, a family cruise with their children and grandchildren, and somewhere they can see the Northern Lights.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered their plans for the last two years, the Feifers—who split their time between New York City and Boulder, Colorado—are eager to make the most of their golden years, starting with the most active trips on their list. “The operative words to us are: Do it now,” says Feifer, who is 70. “Do it now while you’re younger and healthier because, frankly, everyone has an expiration date, and we don’t know when that is.”

How to Prioritize Your Retirement Travel Goals As You Age

They're far from alone. Many people aspire to travel more once they stop working, but all of that newfound freedom and extra time can be overwhelming. Here’s how to craft the perfect travel bucket list in retirement, according to experts—and a few things to consider along the way.

1. Assess your health, fitness, and ability levels

Keep in mind that age is just a number—many retirees are fit, sharp, and active. Still, unexpected health and mobility issues may arise that can make some trips more challenging than others. When plotting your travels, Kathy Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations for Acendas Travel, recommends organizing trips based on how strenuous they’ll be. Take the most taxing, adventurous trips early in retirement, then scale back to more leisurely, easy-going travels as you age. “There are certain trips that could easily be on your bucket list, but are really tougher than you think,” Sudeikis says. “Seeing the Great Wall of China is spectacular, but climbing the wall is a whole other issue.”

Parameters will vary from retiree to retiree, but consider factors like time zone changes, layovers, flight time, stairs, time on your feet, elevation gain, walking requirements, and accessibility. Be honest with yourself—and your travel agent—about your physical fitness and cognitive abilities as you plan trips.

“The important thing is to always be realistic about your own abilities,” says Lynn Cutter, senior vice president for Smithsonian Travel. “There are 80-year-olds who may have no problem climbing a flight of 100 stairs that might be too challenging for a 65-year-old.”

2. Research age limits

As you strategize which trips to take first in retirement, research and prepare for travel-related age restrictions (or hire a travel agent to do so for you). For example: Guiding companies require travelers to be under the age of 65 to trek out onto the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. Some countries also set a maximum age for renting a car—in Portugal, travelers must be between the ages of 18 and 80.