Saturday, June 16, 2007

ATLANTA — It’s finally your turn. The kids are gone; your yard is tended by someone else; the airport is your launching pad. The only dilemma is where to go.

If you’re among the millions of older Americans who are packing their bags, chances are you’re looking for more than just a trip. You also want that something extra — a bit of adventure, an exposure to something entirely different. It’s not just about getting on the plane and going.

“Travelers over 50 seem to be politically fearless and are traveling farther and farther away,” said Cynthia Hyman, owner of Atlas Travel agencies in Tucker, Ga.

“They want to take active trips where they can have an adventure or enjoy a cultural or educational program. As a result, we’re doing more business in surprising areas.”

Miss Hyman recently booked a group trip to Tel Aviv and another to Egypt. Last year, she organized a trip for eight to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Others are heading back to places they may have been on business to take a more leisurely look.

“A lot of these people have been to places like Europe more than once, and they don’t want to be dragged around on an escorted tour,” Miss Hyman said. “They’ve outgrown that and want something a little more customized.”

Trips that involve horseback riding, river rafting and biking are big, Miss Hyman said. So are trips that offer history and culture lessons.

“Italy is really hot for this,” she said. “You can bike through the country or rent a villa in Tuscany for a week and make a lot of side trips. Going someplace where you only have to unpack once is another big thing, which is why river cruises are so popular. You can see several cities and only have to unpack once.”

Diane Burke of Explorations, a travel agency in Vinings, Ga., also sees the trend toward adventure travel among older explorers.

“We do a lot of African safaris or trips to places where you can bike and backpack,” she said. “They’re heading to Alaska, South America and the Amalfi coast near Naples, Italy — exotic places where there’s a lot of adventure.”

Cruises, once solely the pleasure of well-heeled older travelers, have become so enormously popular these days that many retirees are very selective about which ships they board.

“The demographics have widened so much for the cruise business, and many travelers don’t necessarily want to be on a big, crowded ship with 2,000 other people,” Miss Hyman said. “They’re more apt to float down a river in Europe for seven days.”

In the 10 years Mary and Edward Callahan have been married, they’ve traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand and London. As head of the Academy for Retired Professionals at Emory University, Mrs. Callahan is often organizing trips for groups of older travelers.

“We have many people who like to go to Italy, London or elsewhere in Europe,” she said. “They like exotic places and don’t want American trips. They expect something educational, an aspect that’s always part of our travels.”

Some of her regular tour participants are artist Wayland Moore and his wife, Helen. The two have been to France, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece as part of an Emory group.

“I like that the trip is set up so you don’t have to spend time with a map, figuring out how to get someplace,” said Mr. Moore, 71. “Once we get to our destination, I cut off on my own and paint. The others go exploring. The best thing is that you’re not with people who are afraid to venture out.”


Today’s older travelers are looking for adventure and education when they book trips. Among the top destinations, according to various travel agencies:

{bullet} African safaris

{bullet} Egypt

{bullet} Italy

{bullet} London

{bullet} Alaska

{bullet} Cruises on European rivers or smaller ships


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