Have Time, Will Travel

Wanderlust-filled seniors are embracing local resources when traveling the state, the country and, in some cases, the world.


For many, retirement brings the simple, but glorious, promise of more time. More time to cook, to learn a new skill, or to travel the world.

To tap into the desires of the more travel-prone set, local senior centers now offer trips designed with baby boomers in mind. The City of Port Washington Adult Community Senior Center, for example, hosts extended tours throughout the year, to both national and international destinations. This year’s calendar includes fall trips to Michigan and New Mexico, and 2020 features tours to Portugal, Scandinavia, Croatia and the French Riviera.

Similarly, the Brookfield Senior Community Center hosts monthly bus tours to destinations throughout the state. A wine tour of northeast Wisconsin is scheduled for later this month, while September promises a two-hour, narrated tour of Lake Geneva.

With their travelers’ well-being in mind, most tours call out special considerations, such as uneven walking surfaces, to best prepare seniors for their time away.

Lisa Glenn, a City of Brookfield employee who coordinates the tours, says the City has offered such trips since the ’70s. Each tour attracts, on average, about 40 to 50 people, including some non-Brookfield residents. “We [also] do a lot of dinner theater trips,” Glenn adds, noting that attendees enjoy the tours’ convenience and sociability. “Those are still popular with the seniors who skew a little older. They’re a little less rigorous for people who have mobility issues.”

Enlisting the help of a travel agent or excursion specialist may avoid unwelcome surprises — some of which could be detrimental to seniors’ safety — when traveling abroad.

Julie Karp, who owns Milwaukee-based travel company ShoreTrips with her husband, Barry Karp, recalls a recent booking that involved elderly clients hoping to tour the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. Having visited the destination years earlier, Julie knew the palace’s steep, railless stairs weren’t senior-friendly, so she recommended an alternative tour to a nearby town. Her clients still purchased the palace tour, says Julie, but did so knowing its physical demands. “That’s really how we see our roles — as the eyes and ears. To make sure that, when you have the chance to do something, it’s the right thing,” she adds, noting they travel to every city they sell before offering it to their clients. “We try to make things easier for the elderly,” says Barry, citing ShoreTrips’ airport services as an example. “We have systems throughout the world where we’ll pick up clients at the gate, either by golf cart or by automobile that’s on the tarmac.”

A growing phenomenon among retirees and seniors is multigenerational travel, Barry continues, in which grandparents are treating their children and grandchildren to a family trip. “There’s a group of 12 or 13 people traveling together, and the grandparents pay for everything,” he explains, insisting clients plan a well-researched itinerary when traveling with children. The Karps have traveled the world with their own children, and often suggest family-friendly excursions that are both culturally stimulating and relaxing — sure to challenge children to learn something new and perhaps make them feel a bit uncomfortable, but not push their limits or compromise their safety. “Travel is the connecting force in this world,” adds Julie.

To ensure travel and its benefits are accessible for all, many Milwaukee area senior living communities also provide residents with local — and senior-friendly — travel options. The Laureate Group, for example, transports residents to the West Allis Farmers Market during the summer months, and offers outings to museums and performing arts venues. Eastcastle Place hosts restaurant, symphony and theater outings for its residents too, and Heritage Senior Living features a Wisconsin-themed monthly calendar filled with community events.

Milwaukee Catholic Home even recently launched a new program, A Life Engaged, to extend its reach to seniors outside its communities. Upcoming events include a Fall Harvest Festival on Oct. 10, and a 10-day trip to Ireland in April of 2020. To learn more, visit alifeengaged.org. MKE

Draining The Bucket List

With plenty of leisure time and most major life expenses accounted for, many seniors prefer to travel as much as they are able. According to the website Suddenly Senior, senior citizens represent a staggering 80 percent of all luxury travel purchased in the U.S., making up 65 percent of all cruise passengers and typically spending 74 percent more on vacations than the
18- to 49-year-old population segment. 
Here are more eye-opening facts from AARP’s 2018 Travel Survey:

• Baby boomers expect to take four or five leisure trips a year, spending almost $6,400 annually on travel expenses.

• 49 percent expect to only travel domestically. Florida and California are the most popular U.S. destinations.

• 47 percent plan to travel domestically and internationally. Top choices for those going abroad: the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe.

• For those who travel in the U.S., most trips entail summer vacations, multi-generational travel or weekend getaways. About 66 percent of boomers travel domestically by plane and 60 percent by car.


• 22 percent of boomers say that going abroad is a “bucket list” trip.

• Seniors are rethinking the travel guide. For those traveling abroad, mature travelers increasingly prefer touring with a local to experience a new destination — 49 percent in 2018 compared with 40 percent in 2017.

• About 57 percent of boomers travel to spend time with family and friends, the same amount as last year. Forty-nine percent say they travel to relax and rejuvenate — up from 38 percent in 2017. Forty-seven percent seek getaway from everyday life — up from 39 percent in 2017.

• On arrival, 62 percent of boomers stay in hotels or motels, preferring amenities like concierge and room service, offered at a hotel. Ten percent opt for Airbnb or VRBO types of accommodations, while 
6-8 percent prefer bed-and-breakfasts.

• Cruises make up more than one-third of international travel for seniors.

Source: Vicki Geller/AARP Travel Research: 2018 Travel Trends.