Trekking in the Pyrenees all day, then enjoying a sumptuous meal in a French chateau.
Cycling around Cape Cod while taking breaks for shopping and exploring quaint villages.
Polar camping in the Antarctic, then returning to your ship for a hot toddy.
Welcome to the pleasures of luxury adventure travel. Maybe you've never thought of yourself as an adventurous traveler. But do you enjoy exploring on your feet more than sightseeing from a bus? Do you love the feeling of collapsing onto crisp cotton sheets at the end of the day, happily exhausted? Then luxury adventure travel was made for you.
The concept: physically demanding, active itineraries that include fine dining and top-notch accommodations. It's especially appealing for 50-plus travelers who enjoy a challenge but don't want to rough it. Luxury adventure travel companies promise small groups, unforgettable cultural experiences and the opportunity to visit the world's wild places.
Companies that specialize in senior adventure travel are seeing an increase in solo travelers. Overseas Travel Adventures reports a 26 percent jump in the last two years.1 "American boomers and seniors clearly have a bucket list of destinations they are determined to see, regardless of whether a partner or spouse can tag along," says OAT's CEO Kara O'Toole. Not only that, but senior adventure travel tours are great ways to meet other enthusiastic, over-50 travelers. And, they're typically not age-exclusive; if you want to bring your 30-year-old daughter, she's welcome.
Even when you add the word "luxury," adventure travel takes you to wild and sometimes inhospitable places. Read the suggested packing list carefully, understand local conditions and don't expect the tour operator to provide a spare parka if you forget yours. Chilean luxury adventure travel company Explora has a handy adventure travel packing list for trekkers.
Most senior adventure travel companies rate their trips by difficulty. ElderTreks, for instance, ranks its tours from 1 (hikes up to an hour in length) to 5 (hikes of 8-10 hours; participants should be able to walk 8 miles and climb 10 flights of stairs without difficulty). Plan a trip for your current fitness level, instead of hoping you'll be in better shape by your departure date.
You may find yourself overheated, windblown or chilled to the bone. For instance, adventure travel companies that offer Antarctic trips often say the experience includes several "Zodiac landings." What's a Zodiac landing? This means getting into a small inflatable boat to travel from a cruise ship, then (often) wading through water to land on the ice. "I gotta tell you that the coldest we ever were in Antarctica was when we were in a ‘speeding’ Zodiac," says one travel blogger.
Even if you're in great shape, you may need a break after several days of exercise. If you're biking, ask if the company provides a "sag wagon" with food, water and first aid that can give lifts to tired cyclists. If you're trekking, consider a tour where all the hikes begin from the same home base (as opposed to a sequential hike), so you can take a day off if you need to.
Because you're engaging in challenging physical activity, the chances of getting sick or injured are higher. And if you sprain your ankle and are unable to continue your Himalayan trek, the rest of the tour group isn't going to wait for you. A comprehensive travel insurance plan can protect your travel investment if your trip is canceled or interrupted for a covered reason, and also may reimburse you for emergency medical expenses. Read your plan carefully, however, as some forms of adventure travel (such as caving or mountain climbing) may be excluded.