Traveling After 55: How To Get To (And Around) Your Next Destination

Now that you know why and where you want to travel, how will you get there and back? Also, how will you get around while you’re there?

Getting There and Back

Getting to and from your destination depends greatly on where you’re going. A trip within 200 miles of your home probably means driving a personal vehicle or taking a bus or train. Longer distances mean air travel dominates, or perhaps you’ll travel on the water

Drive Yourself

For many travelers, driving a personal vehicle usually provides the lowest cost and most flexibility. Also, this method allows you to go door-to-door compared to other transport options. For some, the downside of using a personal vehicle is long hours of driving. Yet, for others, experiencing the romance of the road during a long road trip is sheer bliss.

Should you drive your own vehicle? Why not rent a car and save wear and tear on your personal ride? Most car rental companies offer unlimited mileage and one-way rentals. However, sometimes these features come at a higher cost, so it pays to dig into the details when researching alternatives.

Speaking of driving yourself, the explosion of interest in recreational vehicles (RVs) during the COVID-19 pandemic surprised everyone, including manufacturers. High RV demand in 2020-22 led to high prices, long waiting lists, and a scarcity of used RVs. Since then, demand has slackened, and many new RV owners found life on the road wasn’t a long-term passion. As a result, there are deals to be had in the RV market.

The growing phenomenon of age-restricted RV parks is of particular interest to older RV travelers. Usually limited to travelers 55 and over, these parks appeal to those who prefer to avoid the noise and chaos of children running around the campground. In addition, these facilities often feature amenities and activities tailored for older adults, like golf, tennis, pickleball, bingo nights, hobby workshops, arts/crafts, and card or game meetings.

Bus or Train

Bus and train travel were popular in yesteryear, but no longer. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that around 90% of pleasure travel over 50 miles from home is by personal vehicle. Other options are 7% air, 2% bus, and 1% train. As distances increase, however, air travel dominates:

Long-Distance Trips (for all purposes) in Miles

  50-499 500-749 750-999 1,000-1,499 1,500+

Personal Vehicle

95.4% 61.8% 42.3% 31.5% 14.8%
Air 1.6% 33.7% 55/2% 65.6% 82.1%
Bus 2.1% 3.3% 1.5% 1.5% 1.4%
Train 0.8% 1.0% 0.9% 0.7% 0.8%
Other 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.7% 1.0%



Traveling by air is the standard for longer trips, but many travelers stayed home during the pandemic. Now, air travel is rebounding, with domestic U.S. miles traveled up 34% from March 2022 to March 2023 despite an 18% increase in ticket prices during the same period. The higher prices were attributed to staff shortages and increased fuel costs.

Staffing shortages and other factors have also impacted airline service quality. As a result, customer satisfaction was down in 2022, according to the annual J.D. Power airline satisfaction survey. An example of the frustration endured by travelers was in April 2023 when Southwest Airlines delayed 1,820 flights due to a software problem.

So, what are air travelers looking for? Expedia surveyed 11,000 consumers about their preferences.

Low prices 27%
Full refunds for cancellations 20%
Enhanced cleaning/disinfecting 13%
No reservation change penalties 12%
First-class benefits and upgrades 11%
Contactless experience 9%
Environmentally friendly policies 7%

Clearly, a desire to save money rings loud and clear. The message to the airline industry is to focus on affordability. On the flip side, consumers who want to save money should book early, consider flexible travel dates and destinations, and look for perks like air miles benefits from using credit cards.

On the Water

As I noted in a recent post, Traveling in Retirement: How to Decide Where to Go, cruises are as popular as ever now that pandemic fears have eased. Even so, cruise lines have committed themselves to higher cleansing and disinfection standards to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks. Some cruise lines even offer “ship-within-a-ship” accommodations for an extra fee. These are self-contained areas accessible only to the passengers who book these special arrangements. This way, those who are squeamish about potential disease exposure can limit contact to just those in the exclusive area.

River cruises originated in Europe in the mid-1960s as a unique way to visit cities previously only visited via land. Today, river cruises are a global phenomenon and still growing. For example, Mekong River cruises in Southeast Asia and Nile River cruises in Egypt are in high demand. In Europe, cruises that visit Christmas markets in various river cities are also very popular.

Although river cruise operators have faced challenges from low water levels and political unrest in certain areas, this travel option is forecasted to continue strong growth over the next ten years and beyond.

Getting Around Once You’re There

Most travel planning concentrates on getting to and from your destination. Yet, transportation planning for the time you spend at your destination can help elevate your experience. Of course, if you are driving a personal vehicle, there’s no issue with getting around unless you’re driving an RV with no tow-behind vehicle. In most other cases, however, thinking through your local transportation needs can help make your stay more enjoyable. Here are some transportation alternatives.


A rental car is one of the most common means of getting around at your destination. This provides the greatest flexibility since you can come and go as you please. However, if your daily transportation needs are sparse, it might only pay to have a car sometimes. In those cases, you may only need to rent a car as needed.

This is where hourly renting or care sharing comes in. Hourly renting is offered by companies like Zipcar, which maintains a fleet of vehicles that can be reserved via an app. The renter picks up the car in a designated spot, only pays for the time they use it, and returns it to the same location.

Car sharing is like Airbnb for vehicles, of which Turo is one of the best-known examples. Individuals or companies offer vehicles that renters can reserve through the car-sharing platform.

Taxis and Ridesharing

Depending on availability in an area, cars for hire can be an easy way to get around. This can be a problem in more rural areas where services like taxis and Uber might be limited.

Public Transportation

For many travelers, using public transportation in an unfamiliar location incites dread due to perceived language barriers and a lack of understanding about how the system works. Smartphone technology can often alleviate these fears by using map features that spell out how to get from point A to point B using public transportation.

Walking or Biking

Depending on where you are staying, human-powered travel like walking or biking might be a great way to get around at your destination. It can also be the best way to see the sights. When booking overnight accommodations, consider the “walkability” of the area you want to visit. That way, you can limit the need for other means of transport.

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