What Is Adventure Travel?
Adventure travel takes you off the tour bus and into the natural world, offering physical and mental challenges that give you a new perspective on the places you visit. Adventure travel trips could include bicycling, bird watching, photography, kayaking, skiing, rafting, hiking, zip lining, para-sailing and much more.
Should I Go on an Organized Trip or Plan My Own Adventure?
It's up to you. There are many tour operators that specialize in adventure travel; some focus on mature travelers, while others cater to a multiage market. A few offer itineraries for persons with disabilities. If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else, an organized adventure tour might be a good option for you. If, on the other hand, you like to research all of your options and organize your own trips, a self-planned tour could be a better choice. Travelers with disabilities may wish to work with a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel.
Adventure Travel Tips
Trip Activity Level
Carefully consider your trip's activity level. If you are out of shape and don't have time to begin a regular conditioning program, do not choose a moderately strenuous or strenuous itinerary. Tired, sore, blistered travelers don't have fun on their vacations. If you are participating in an organized adventure tour, contact your travel provider and ask about the daily activities and difficulty level for the trip you are considering. Tip: You should honestly disclose any health issues that could impact your ability to travel before you book your trip, particularly if you use a wheelchair, mobility aid or oxygen concentrator. Be realistic about your abilities and expectations.
Regular medical and travel insurance policies may not cover adventure travel activities. Check with your insurance provider to find out what your current health insurance policy will and will not cover, particularly if Medicare is your only medical insurance. If you are bringing your own equipment and plan to travel by air, you will probably need to buy insurance that covers damage to adventure sports gear in checked baggage. Be sure you know whether your travel insurance policy covers pre-existing health conditions, medical evacuation, trip cancellation and, especially, travel to your chosen destination and the types of activities you plan to undertake. Some policies have age limits, so you'll want to check those, too.
On some adventure tours, your sports equipment is provided, but if you are traveling independently you will need to bring your own gear or rent it when you get to your destination. If you plan to use a local outfitter when you arrive, call ahead to be sure that the equipment you need will be available when you get there.
Before you plan your trip, sit down with your doctor and go over your health conditions, vaccination record and proposed activities. Ask about possible health complications due to elevation changes, overseas flights and strenuous activity. Obtain a list of your prescriptions; carry the original and one copy with you on your trip and leave a copy with a friend or family member. Find out which vaccinations you are likely to need and schedule an appointment to get them. If you use portable oxygen concentrators, be sure to contact your airline well in advance of your trip to be sure you understand documentation and equipment requirements.
During your medical appointment, ask your doctor about a pre-trip fitness plan. Even if you exercise regularly, you may need to add to your fitness routine to ensure that you are ready to bicycle in Tuscany or hike the Sierra Nevada backcountry. Find an exercise buddy, join a gym or pay a personal trainer to work with you if you are having difficulty sticking to your exercise plan. Don't ruin your vacation by neglecting your pre-travel conditioning program.
Be sure to apply for or renew your passport well in advance of your departure date. Bring a copy of your passport with you and leave another copy at home with a family member or friend. If you need a visa for your trip, you will have to apply for it separately. Be aware that many countries require your passport to be valid for three or even six months beyond your date of entry.
Decide how you will stay in touch with family and friends. If you are traveling to remote areas, your mobile phone may not work. It might be easier to visit Internet cafés or find WiFi hotspots a few times during your trip. You'll also need to think about travel money. Should you need to exchange currency, you may have only one or two opportunities to do so, depending on your itinerary. If this is the case, invest in a money belt or money pouch so that you can keep your cash safe. Bring extra camera batteries in case you are unable to use your charger while on the river or trail.
A Sampling of Adventure Travel Companies
There are many adventure travel companies to choose from. These tour operators offer every kind of adventure travel imaginable, from bird watching to zip lining. This list of adventure travel companies that work with mature travelers is only a small sampling of available travel opportunities.
Elder Treks was the first tour operator to create adventure itineraries specifically for travelers 50 and older. Elder Treks specializes in small group adventures and expedition cruising vacations for mature travelers of all activity levels.
Overseas Adventure Travel caters to active travelers age 50 and over. Children age 13 and over are permitted on most trips, making OAT a good choice for grandparents who want to share an adventure with their grandchildren.
Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, is a nonprofit company that offers learning vacations for mature travelers and multigenerational family groups. Road Scholar offers several multi-sport trips each year, including skiing, hiking, bicycling and rafting adventures. Scholarships are available.
ROW Adventures began as a whitewater rafting operator, and now offers adventure trips on five continents. ROW Adventures offers a few trips each year exclusively for adventurers age 50 and older, as well as women-only trips.