THE BLOG

Travel Goes 'Boom' in 2015 as Retirees Stay Active

02/23/2015 01:07 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

Susan Madden, 62, her husband and their dogs plan to travel via RV on five separate vacations in 2015, making the trek from their home in New Hampshire to warmer temps in Florida. The Maddens are just two of the many baby boomers who will make a similar journey in 2015, according to new survey results from AARP.

The 2014 report, which surveyed more than 1,000 of AARP's members ages 45 to 49 (leading-edge Gen X) and 50-plus (baby boomers), found that the "Greatest Generation" will make about four to five trips in 2015. The idea of snowbirds, or travelers -- mostly retirees -- flocking to tropical destinations to escape winter isn't new. But what may be more surprising is how active this age group will be throughout 2015. We know the travel industry is already adapting to the needs of the millennial traveler, but what about the 50-plus crowd? After all, according to AARP, baby boomers spend $120 billion a year on leisure travel.

On the upswing
Echoing the travel plans of the Maddens, AARP discovered that nearly half of the 50-plus crowd surveyed plan to travel more in 2015 compared to previous years.

"Back in 2012, our members told us that some of their top interests were spending time with friends and family, pursuing hobbies and other personal interests, learning new things and traveling," said Stephanie Miles, vice president of member value for AARP. "And just last year we saw in a USA Today/AARP Life Reimagined poll that while more than 90 percent surveyed were happy with their life, they aren't ready to slow down."

In fact, the AARP travel study also uncovered that one-third of employed boomers plan to work while traveling, and, surprisingly, nearly half aren't using all or most of their vacation time to travel.

Escaping to warmer climates
Predictably, warm locales were considered paramount to the 50-plus group, with beach destinations being the most popular among participants who noted that they take an annual vacation. Additionally, there was an 11-percent increase year over year in boomers who wanted to take a cruise.

Of those traveling within the United States (55 percent), Florida, New York and California were the top three regions, and one in 10 mentioned their interest in popular entertainment locations, including Disney parks, New York City and Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, boomers headed overseas were planning trips to Europe (Italy, Great Britain and France) and tropical escapes in the Caribbean and South America.

But no matter where they're headed, baby boomers are just as budget-minded as their younger counterparts. According to the survey, cost is the no. 1 overall barrier to traveling. However, survey respondents also said they are determined to plan well in advance and save more for vacations in 2015.

Madden echoed this sentiment, noting that she and her husband, a retired military officer, take advantage of discounts afforded to retired military personnel whenever offered. Plenty of hotel brands, including Choice Hotels, Hilton and select Disney properties, offer reduced room rates for retired military members.

Going solo
Another 2014 survey by AARP examining solo travel found that 37 percent of adults ages 45 and older took a trip alone in the past two years and more than 80 percent planned to take another solo trip in the next year.

This is no surprise to Gregg Marston, president of VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. According to Marston, the company's average traveler is 64 years old, and nearly a third of travelers in 2014 signed up for the tour unaccompanied, many of them looking for a group dynamic and a safe way to travel. "This is popular with seniors whose spouses have passed on and want to continue traveling the world and making new friends," Marston said.

But there are companies that cater specifically to solo travel for this age group as well, including Abercrombie & Kent and Overseas Adventure Travel, proving retirees are still relevant and more willing than ever to travel.

About the author: Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis-based freelance travel writer who blogs at Go To Travel Gal. You can follow her on Twitter @GoToTravelGal or on Pinterest.