Couple in Cinque Terre Italy on Road Scholar trip

A guest post from Road Scholar
Judi Travel Caricature

This week on my blog, I’m featuring a European travel guide for seniors written by my friends at Road Scholar, the travel organization that hosts educational European trips for ages 50+.

While I’ve yet to take a Road Scholar trip (but definitely plan to in the future), I talked to friends who recently went on Road Scholar vacations. S&S went on “The Best of Portugal” and D&J went on “Hiking the Cinque Terre.” Both couples enjoyed their Road Scholar travels. You’ll hear firsthand about their trips and why they recommend Road Scholar European travel programs. I’ve interspersed their photos and insights below. 

Douro River

Exploring the Douro River is part of “The Best of Portugal” Road Scholar program (Photo provided by S. Hirshon)

The Roads Scholar difference

Road Scholar is a nonprofit organization that brings together a diverse cohort of travelers, immersing them in an experiential learning program with careful pacing to meet the needs of all participants.With a mission to inspire adults to learn, discover, and travel, Road Scholar’s European travel programs for seniors help members deepen their understanding of not only themselves but different cultures, geography, history, and people across the world.

Whether you’re retired and looking to travel with a partner or looking for a solo traveling adventure, there are certain things to keep in mind to ensure your European adventure goes smoothly, especially as a senior. From choosing the right destination to packing all the essentials, there are various senior-friendly travel tips to keep in mind.

If you’re looking to travel to Europe, Road Scholar has a variety of programs to meet your needs. There are additional tips to keep in mind to help you prepare for a European excursion. Keep reading to see how you can make the most out of your time abroad.

Road ScholarGuide to European Travel for Seniors

1. Plan the best time to go

The first tip for traveling to Europe as a senior is to plan for the best time to go. Overall, the timing often depends on personal preference and availability. However, it’s generally recommended to travel during the shoulder season, the months of fall and spring. The shoulder season offers milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and often better prices due to lower demand.

There are several factors that determine when to travel to Europe, including:

  • Weather: Overall, the weather in Europe mimics that of the United States but can vary significantly by region. The summer months of June, July, and August bring warm weather and longer daylight but attract more tourists with larger crowds and higher prices, while the winter months can be cold and dreary with wet conditions.
  • Festivals: Europe is incredibly culturally diverse, with unique festivals and events occurring throughout the year. If you have a particular cultural event you want to partake in, consider planning your trip around that time, such as Oktoberfest in Germany or Carnival in Venice.
  • Budget: As with any travel plan, it’s important to remember your budget. Prices for travel fluctuate throughout the year, with higher prices on flights, accommodations, and attractions during the peak season and lower prices during the offseason.

By keeping factors like budget, weather, events, and availability in mind, you can find a time to travel to Europe that works for you and any travel companions.

Sharon and Seth in Portugal on a Road Scholar trip

S&S went on Road Scholar “The Best of Portugal” with an activity rating ‘keep the pace.’ “RS has clearly stated activity levels which they adhere to. So if a senior does not want an active pace they can look at the description to locate the correct trip for you. RS offers very detailed information about all aspects of their trips” noted S. (Photo provided by S. Hirshon)

2. Research destinations

Although Europe is the second-smallest continent, it has 44 countries recognized by the United Nations. This means there are a lot of destinations to consider when traveling to Europe. To narrow down the country or countries you want to visit on your European trip, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Interests: First, consider your interests, whether it’s art, history, architecture, nature, music, or food. With a wealth of cultural and natural attractions, Europe has a lot to choose from, and narrowing down what you want to see can help you commit to a destination.
  • Culture and language: Traveling abroad can be intimidating with cultural and language barriers. Depending on your comfort level, you can consider traveling to a destination where you don’t speak the language or choose destinations where English or other common languages are the primary languages.
  • Budget: Each region in Europe can vary in price, so it’s important to research the costliness of your potential destinations. For example, Switzerland and Scandinavia can be expensive, while others like Greece, Spain, and Portugal can be more affordable.
  • Travel style: Your travel preferences will also play a role in your chosen destination. Do you prefer large, bustling cities, or quaint villages? Do you prefer outdoor adventures like hikes or urban sightseeing? Each European country offers an array of activities and attractions that mesh better with different travel styles.
Picture of Lisbon

A view from above in Lisbon, Portugal: “I loved that RS focuses on educating the traveler about the country and sites that are visited. Each place had a well informed, enthusiastic guide to explain the significance of the site. We were also given two lectures – one on the history of Portugal and the second on current Portugal, including present day political and social issues. We were very active ie. walking 3-4 miles a day on uneven surfaces and hilly terrain. No endless riding on a bus,” said S. (Photo provided by S. Hirshon)

3. Pack the essentials

An important travel tip for visiting Europe is knowing what to pack. Below are some packing essentials for seniors traveling to Europe:

  • Layered clothing: Temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s important to pack clothes you can layer to stay comfortable while traveling.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: When traveling to Europe, you can expect a lot of walking as you tour museums, attractions, and city centers. With that said, pack comfortable walking shoes with plenty of cushioning.
  • Travel documents: Make sure all travel documents, including IDs, passports, travel insurance, and other documents, are packed and secured.
  • Medications and prescriptions: Ensure you pack all medications and prescriptions that can last the entirety of your trip, as well as medical documents, to ensure your health is in check when traveling,
  • Adapters and chargers: Electrical outlets are different in Europe, so pack the compatible adapters and chargers to ensure your electronics remain charged.
  • Daypack: Rather than carrying a heavy backpack throughout the day, bring a light daypack or cross-body bag to store essentials like cameras, maps, and guidebooks.
Roads Scholar trip to Cinque Terre Italy

D&J went on Road Scholar “Hiking the Cinque Terre” in Italy: “We have a friend who did this trip last year and told us it was fabulous. There was so much we enjoyed including the excellent knowledgeable guides; visiting places that we never would have even known about if we went on our own and the great diverse group of people. RS made it so easy — every day planned perfectly,” said D. (Photo provided by D. Morgan)

4. Consider trip protection

Traveling abroad can be expensive, and the last thing you want is to miss your trip and lose the money you spent on it. Investing in trip protection can help you get a refund for your money should an unexpected event arise, whether it’s a medical condition or another life event like a wedding.

Road Scholar offers trip protection to protect your program payment. If you book a European educational learning program with Road Scholar, optional trip protection can protect you if you need to cancel your trip for a qualifying reason, leave the program early, and for other events, whether it’s due to illness or injury. With trip protection, you can have peace of mind knowing your investment is protected if you need to cancel your trip or if it’s interrupted.

Couple in Cinque Terre Italy on Road Scholar trip

“Our group included the age range of 59-78. We hiked every day and we all did well. On a couple of days where there were sections of hiking that were more challenging, they gave us the opportunity for alternate activities. Also, there was no pressure to attend every day if you didn’t feel up to it,” added D. (Photo provided by D. Morgan)

5. Look into European travel trains

An often overlooked way to travel Europe is by train. Europe has an expansive train network that easily connects countries by rail, allowing travelers to explore new countries and regions with ease. Some of the most common trains include Eurostar, which connects London, Paris, and Brussels; ICE, a high-speed train connecting major German cities like Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt; and TGV, which connects major French cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. Travelers can also get Eurail, a train pass that allows travelers on most European trains with a single ticket. Road Scholar also offers European train adventures, allowing you to explore Europe with an expert guide by rail.

With these senior-friendly tips for traveling to Europe, you can confidently discover new areas, whether it’s to world-renowned museums in Paris like the Louvre or quaint villages in Austria like Hallstatt.

More global travel with Road Scholar

Are you ready to book a European vacation for 2024? Or have you already completed a Road Scholar trip and had a blast? LMK what you’re thinking either way. I’d love to know where you’re headed for your next vacay.

BTW Road Scholar also hosts great trips within the United States. Plus they just introduced new Floating Campus Voyages in the Mediterranean beginning 2025. Ooh, ooh, ooh I’m so ready to travel again — all the programs sound fab!