International travel can be perk of senior lifestyle - Your West Valley News: Columns

International travel can be perk of senior lifestyle

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David Fidelman

Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 3:15 pm

One of the major things seniors do, once they’ve retired and have plenty of time for it, is travel.

They see exciting new places, see other cultures, and make friends with traveling companions who are just like their neighbors back home. They go by car, by travel vans, trailers or motor homes, by air, by bus, by train, or by boat.

Trailers and motor homes are among the favorite ways to travel domestically, in fully equipped vehicles ranging in size from about the size of a regular van to trailers that take up half a block when parked in front of the house, that contain stoves, microwaves, refrigerators, one or two bedrooms with queen or king size beds, bathroom with shower or tub, TVs and DVD players.

People take their pets, sometimes their grandchildren, their cellphones and iPads, their computers with mobile internet connection, visit national parks or campgrounds around the country, and call it roughing it.

Some travelers go to foreign countries by plane or boat, and the travel itself can be an adventure.

As the saying goes — getting there is half the fun. That includes air travel.

Here’s what you go through if you’re going from Phoenix to Vienna: First you fly to an airport with an international terminal, usually Newark or JFK, with one or two stops or airplane changes on the way.

You deplane at the domestic terminal, and make your way to the international terminal at the other end of the airport to board your international flight, going through security on the way. You land at the international terminal in Frankfurt, Germany and make your way to the other end of the airport to the domestic terminal, again going through security, to catch your flight to Austria.

It’s the same if you go to Ireland, except that you land at Heathrow and change to a domestic flight to Dublin.

It takes the first few days of your trip to rest up. But you can’t, because you have to spend the next 14 days traveling from city to city, seeing all the sights and absorbing the local culture. This type of tour is summed up in the title of the old movie, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Going by boat is much more fun, after you get to the port of debarkation.

Cruise ships are like floating cities, with amazing amenities. They have every imaginable entertainment and sport facility — theaters, swimming pools, tennis and table tennis, miniature golf, golf — although none of them are large enough yet to have even a nine-hole executive golf course. The entertainment is first class, with performers who may some day become well-known stars in the entertainment world. Seminars are conducted by well-known authorities in their fields. The shopping areas compare with a suburban mall. It’s sometimes more interesting to stay on the ship than to visit the ports of call.

The reason the ship activities are made so interesting is obvious. On a 14-day Hawaiian cruise, there are four days at sea from Los Angeles to Honolulu, five days visiting the various islands, and five days at sea back to the mainland. An 18-day cruise from Miami to Europe takes 10 days at sea to get to Spain, five days at cities in Spain and Italy, and four days at sea to get from one city to another. Then you fly home from Venice.

Life aboard a ship can be so interesting that a few years ago there was a story in the newspapers about a lady in England who retired to continuous passage on the QE2. With discounts and travel credits, the cost came to little more than the cost of living in a retirement home, and what could be more exciting than visiting exotic ports around the world, with all the shipboard amenities and the presence of the ship’s medical staff if such care became necessary.

There are riverboat cruises on the great rivers of Europe and Asia. A 14-day river boat cruise will take you from Vienna to Amsterdam on the Danube and Rhine rivers. You travel on the ship every night, and every day after breakfast you dock and get off the ship to visit a German town exactly like the one you saw the day before. You see the same castle, the same church, and the same shopping district. You see the Lorelei, and when you get home you’re an authority about the castles on the Rhine.

Timing is an important part of travel. Seniors usually plan their trips for times when the weather is good and the normal tourist crowds aren’t around. One couple arrived in Venice just in time to see a dead body being fished out of the canal right in front of their hotel window. The photographs were a welcome addition to the vacation pictures they showed their friends after they returned home, and made a big hit at their grandchildren’s show-and-tell at school.

If you use a major travel company or cruise line for your trip, you seem to have made a friend for life. Every other day, your mail will contain a letter informing you of new travel opportunities and bargains, and every couple of weeks you’ll receive a 200-page slick paper publication showing all the tours and cruises that are available.with pictures of the romantic sights and the people you can meet on your travels. Also invitations to breakfasts where you can learn about opportunities and special deals available only to a select group of preferred travelers.

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