Senior travel on the rise, Sauk Valley travel agent says

Avril Winkle is the owner of Destinations Travel Services in Sterling.

STERLING — In her more than 30 years of planning and booking vacations that have sent her clients around the world and back again, Avril Winkle has seen it all when it comes to making sure travel plans go off without a hitch.

Lately, she’s seeing even more of it.

Seniors are traveling more than ever, Winkle said, nearly four years after worldwide travel was almost entirely grounded during the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s keeping her and her staff busy at Destinations Travel Agency in Sterling.

While that’s a good thing for business, it’s also a good thing for seniors, too.

Winkle sees the rise in senior travel as helpful to their long-term health and wellness, and that’s a point she drives home to those who are thinking about traveling.

“As a senior, you don’t have to think that you are retired and must stay bound to your town or city,” Winkle said. “With most responsibilities of adult life over, it is time to let down your hair and enjoy traveling to rejuvenate your body and mind. Exploring new environments and meeting new people can help older adults stay both physically active and socially engaged, whether the idea is to experience more of the world, spend time with loved ones, or just take a break from the everyday routine.”

Popular destinations that seniors have in mind for this year and next include Australia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy and New Zealand. Theme-based international travel activities rising in popularity include African safaris and luxury train rides across Canada. Within the United States, places that Winkle often sees seniors wanting to explore include Alaska, New Mexico, Mackinac Island in Michigan, and various national parks.

Planning vacations through a travel agent has its advantages, as opposed to trying to figure everything out on one’s own. A travel agent can bring a lot to the table: getting the best deals, helping determine the prime time to travel, and prior experience planning trips – and that experience can help travelers get the most out of their trip.

Not sure where to stay, and are they as good as advertised? Looking for places to visit during your stay? Want to know a good place to eat? Ask an agent.

Planning a trip through Destinations isn’t simply transactional, Winkle said; they try to build personal relationships with their clients, and they enjoy it when they get to hear about their trips, which can also help them plan trips for other clients.

“For me relationships with my clients are key, and many of those are seniors. The best part of working with them is getting to know and share in their lives; these are folks who have lived a full life rich with experiences. Their stories, which they are usually very willing to share, are filled with humor, adventure, and moving anecdotes,” Winkle said. “Getting to hear them is a real blessing. They don’t sweat the small stuff. Because they deal daily with the aches, pains, and limitations of aging they are usually more able to roll with the punches and unexpected challenges that inevitably develop with travel.”

The world, Winkle said, “is a playground waiting to be explored,” and she and her staff are happy to help seniors explore it. They want to do more than just help them make plans, they want to help them make memories.

“With an insatiable appetite for adventure and discovery, this demographic seeks more than just a typical vacation,” Winkle said. “They yearn for experiences that enrich their lives and create lasting memories.”

Have fun and be safe

Before planning any trip, Winkle wants travelers to check off some important boxes about themselves:

  • Ask your doctor if you’re up to the trip physically.
  • Have your doctor provide a detailed list of medications and any medical devices you may use, such as implants and pacemakers.
  • Figure out how to manage any medications while away from home and adapt to being in different time zones.
  • Find out whether vaccinations are necessary.
  • Check to see what insurance will cover. Most Medicare insurance plans don’t cover travelers outside the U.S., so a policy that covers them in case of any medical emergencies may need to be considered.
  • People should also consider travelers insurance for longer trips. Most plans may allow travelers to get some money back if they get ill and can’t travel, or if weather disrupts cruise plans, Winkle said.
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