How to Plan an Epic Retirement Trip, According to Recent Retirees

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Between advancing your career and raising a family, it’s easy to put off planning a no-holds-barred vacation until you make a retirement travel plan. But once you’ve clocked out for that final time? No more excuses. Taking an epic retirement trip is the ultimate reward for a job well done and a fitting way to mark your transition to the golden age. We asked a handful of retirees to share their most memorable retirement travels after bidding the working life adieu.

Finnish Lapland

“Instead of throwing a grand retirement party, we headed to the serene winter wonderland of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, accompanied by our daughter and son-in-law. Lunch at the rustic Nili Restaurant introduced us to the local game, berries, and Lappish lake-caught fish. An excursion to the Santa Claus Village included a reindeer sled ride and Arctic Circle crossing ceremony in a kota, a traditional Sámi hut with a fire inside. We looped around Rovaniemi on an evening snowmobile trek, stopping on the frozen river at Jätkänkynttilä, Finland’s first cable-stayed bridge. But the most incredible moment occurred on our last night—during a stay in a glass igloo, when a Northern Lights alarm stirred travelers from their slumber and we all gathered outside to witness the green glow of the Aurora Borealis. To truly experience Finland requires more than a few days; the lack of time constraints during retirement allowed that.” —Jeff and Julie Martin, retired from the paper industry and nursing, respectively

Dordogne, France

“After presenting at a veterinary World Congress in Bordeaux, my wife Joanne and I embarked on a D.I.Y. trip to explore Bergerac, an area that first piqued my interest after reading Martin Walker murder mysteries delving into Périgord culture. We selected Clos Lascazesm, a remodeled farmhouse in Paleyrac, as a central location to explore. The Vézère Valley is rich with prehistory, including 200 multicolored paintings inside Font-de-Gaume cave, 20,000-year-old bones and artifacts at Musée National de la Préhistoire, and the troglodytic [cave-dwelling] villages that dot the region. We climbed the town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, which hangs dramatically over a cliff face above the Dordogne river, then toasted over a nine-course wine-pairing lunch at Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat. A more relaxed, non-Paris trip to a less-traveled region of France, Le Périgord is easy to navigate via rental car with fabulous culinary and wine experiences, fascinating history, and friendly locals.” —Phil Roudebush, retired veterinarian

Piedmont, Italy

“This guided tour in September 2018 was part of a ‘bookend’ trip of sorts, a follow-up to one Karen and I took in the 1970s to uncover our heritage in Norway and Sweden. Piedmont checked off the boxes of active travel with the beauty of fall harvest season in Barolo. The food was predictably wonderful, the walks each day energizing, and you just can’t beat those views of the Langhe hills and the Italian Alps. We also tasted freshly foraged truffles, shopped for artisanal textiles, and got a peek of the Shroud of Turin. The itinerary was booked through Country Walkers; the other travelers in the group were fun and interesting and the experience was enhanced by our knowledgeable and organized guides. Being a family physician reinforced the fact that life can change in a heartbeat: What fortune to still be together in good health to travel with friends we enjoy.” —Mark and Karen Backman, retired from medical practice

Mount Kilimanjaro

“We always plan our own trips, and prefer off-the-grid adventure travel, but like to balance R&R with energetic days. This month-long journey to Tanzania included both. We used the family-run, solar-powered Honey Badger Lodge [in Moshi] as our refuge and home base in between legs. We started with a six-day climb to Mount Kilimanjaro, organized by Milestone Safaris & Mountaineering, for which we trained nine months by climbing high-altitude peaks at home in New Mexico. Our guides encouraged us with Swahili songs and dances, and we saw the sun rise over the Kenyan plains as we approached the crater’s rim. The company also led our five-day safari through the Serengeti, Tarangire, Manyara, and Ngorongoro, during which we covered 800 miles and witnessed the wildebeest migration. We ended the trip on the Indian Ocean, in a private villa surrounded by coconut groves at Kijongo Bay Beach Resort. To fully immerse yourself in Tanzanian culture and people, a month is minimal, and this opportunity usually comes after retirement.” —Bob and Janet Ratliff, retired engineers

Lisbon and Southern Spain

“We planned this September 2019 trip in our heads, then met with Cathy Moha of Gourmet Voyages to refine the details; she had arranged two prior trips for us, so she was familiar with our interests. In Lisbon, a local accompanied us to the market, selected ingredients, and cooked while regaling us with history and customs. The Douro Valley with its river, vistas, and fortified wine was inspiring, and it was neat to visit the bookstore where J.K. Rowling started writing the first Harry Potter book after she moved to the city to teach English classes. We explored the ancient Roman baths in Ronda, as well as the ring where Hemingway would watch the bullfights. We did a walking tapas-and-wine tour in Malaga. We saw the caves in Gibraltar. With age comes more knowledge and the ability to appreciate places and experiences that may not have been viewed as significant when we were younger.” —David and Jean Schlesinger, retired teacher and high school secretary, respectively

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