Now that you’re a little older and the kids are out of the house, you’ve got all this time on your hands, right? Well, not exactly. But it’s definitely time to start knocking some items off that European bucket list.
Now more than ever, those looking for European tours for seniors have more options than ever. So many companies, cities and even countries are competing to attract the millions of Baby Boomers entering retirement age. Combine that with an increased focus on handicapped accessibility by the European Union and the result is a recipe for comfortable, authentic travel experiences that you’ll never forget.
Whether it be with self-guided travel, a river cruise or an organized tour, here’s how seniors visiting Europe can get the most out of their trip:
Package tour or not?
The first thing you have to decide, besides where you want to go, is whether you prefer to travel independently or with a tour company. For some people, the idea of being shuttled around on a bus with 40 other seniors sounds like a snooze. But to others, it’s a great way to find like-minded people who can become lifelong friends.
The key to successful package travel is to go with a company that aligns with your interests, which means it’s imperative to shop around for the right itinerary. Companies like Viking and AMA Waterways offer fantastic itineraries on river cruises that provide all meals in a luxurious setting with easily accessible shore excursions.
If you want to stay on land, AAA Exclusive Vacations has plenty of options for European tours for seniors. Exploring imperial Europe by traipsing through Budapest, Vienna and Prague is a must for any senior history buff. Tauck can take travelers on a journey that delves into the Hapsburg Empire and its major urban centers.
Major European cities have made their public transit systems a priority for decades, which makes it very easy to get around. But if you decide to travel independently and accessibility is an issue, keep in mind that many subway lines require a lot of walking and climbing stairs, so you could stick to street level and catch a city bus.
Make sure to download Google Maps or the AAA Mobile app on your phone before you go. Then, once you arrive, plug in the address of your hotel and you’ll always be able to easily get back. Of course, you can always take a taxi, in which case you could just show a non-English speaking cabbie your address on the map.
For people who are comfortable driving a stick, or don’t mind spending a lot on an automatic, consider renting a car for a drive through the countryside. It’s often more cost effective to get a cheap Peugeot versus paying for two or more people on a train, so long as you’re not driving between major cities and paying to park.
Driving is also a great way to get a feel for a country.
Be smart with your smartphone
Before you embark on your journey, taking a few minutes to download a couple things on your phone will help make it unforgettable, particularly if you’re traveling independently.
The first is to search around for free audio guides. Travel guru Rick Steves, for instance, has dozens of informative audio guides that provide walking tours and maps you can follow along on your phone. He even provides concise but detailed explanations of some museums or major sites like the Vatican.
Also make sure to download an app that can read QR codes, those funny black and white squares that are popping up on products nowadays. Many cities and historical sites have incorporated the codes on signs or place markers, which gives you a free source of information while on the go.
And last but not least, make sure to go to the AAA Mobile app and download the cities you will visit. That way you can still get walking, driving and transit directions without an internet connection, meaning you won’t have to pay expensive roaming fees for your data while abroad.
Have you traveled on a European tour for seniors? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.