Somewhere between the realm of cheap senior travel (windowless staterooms and mildewed resorts) and luxury vacations (private villas with butler service) exists the perfect trip budget. We think we've found it: $2,500 per person.
Our research revealed some surprisingly luxurious senior tours and all-inclusive vacations for that sum. You can get an Alaskan adventure, a transatlantic cruise or even a European tour. Here are a few of the best senior travel buys for $2,500.
If you want to stretch your $2,500 vacation budget to the max, choose a cruise. Your meals, entertainment and accommodations are all included, and the experience is about as low-stress as it gets. But you have a decision to make: do you prefer luxury or length?
With $2,500, you can pack a lot of pampering and fun into a seven-day cruise. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers tours of the Eastern Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway, starting around $1,200 per person for a luxury spa suite (October 2015 prices, double occupancy)1. You get a king-size bed, a private balcony and complimentary access to the Thermal Spa Suites — and after airfare, you'll still have money left over for shopping and excursions.
If a long, leisurely trip sounds appealing, one smart senior travel idea is a repositioning cruise. Typically scheduled for the spring and fall, these are one-way cruises intended to bring a ship from one seasonal port to another. These sailings are usually longer and lower-priced than typical itineraries, making them ideal for 60-plus travelers with time to spend. Cruise Critic suggests finding an Alaskan cruise ship that sails along the California coast to Hawaii or the Panama Canal2. Or consider a transatlantic repositioning cruise. You can travel on the Celebrity Equinox for a 14-day journey from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona starting at $1000 per person (spring 2016 prices, double occupancy)3. Don't forget you'll have to fly home afterward.
If the idea of being shipboard for two weeks makes you queasy, take a look at Royal Caribbean's 9-night Alaskan Cruise tours. These trips, leaving from Vancouver, B.C., visit historic ports and sites of stunning natural beauty, first by sea and then on land. Prices start at $1,283 per person (summer 2015 prices, double occupancy)4. If you live on the west coast, this senior cruise adventure comes in well under $2,500 with airfare.
In the Caribbean and Mexico, $2,500 will buy you a whole lot of luxury if you go all-inclusive. However, 60-plus travelers may want to steer clear of raucous party resorts as well as family-friendly destinations where children run wild.
Take the Villa La Estancia Cabo San Lucas, a serene, all-inclusive resort offering 5-day packages — with air — starting at $1,489 per person (fall 2015 prices)5. That leaves you with plenty to spend on excursions, like marlin fishing or a sunset cruise. The all-inclusive St. James's Club in Antigua promises "country-club prestige" on 100 acres near English Harbour. Travel there in the summer and you can save up to 45 percent; we found a four-night package plus airfare from New York for $1,767 per person (summer 2015 prices).
What if you get bored out of your mind just sitting on the beach? There are abundant options for educational and adventurous senior tours under $2,500. A good place to start is Road Scholar, the non-profit organization formerly known as Elderhostel. For under $1,000 per person (plus airfare) you can spend six days touring Arizona, including Sedona and the Grand Canyon; exploring Georgia's barrier islands; or kayaking on the lower Columbia River. Meals, accommodations and side trips are all included.
Can $2,500 buy you a quality senior tour of Europe? Yes — but don't expect too much. These senior tours typically include accommodations, some excursions and some meals, but aren't all-inclusive. They may also be too fast-paced for travelers who like to linger and explore on their own. AffordableTours is a good place to find budget-priced escorted tours or Europe for $1,000 or less per person (plus airfare). There's a nine-day trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest starting at $999 and a seven-day Taste of Ireland tour for $963 (2015 prices). With airfare and a modest dining budget, you can swing one of these European senior tours for $2,500.
When planning senior travel under $2,500, don't forget to add the essentials, like ground transportation, taxes, fees and travel insurance. Allianz Global Assistance offers robust and affordable travel insurance plans for any budget. Safe travels!