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Travel habits evolve with age. A budget-strapped twenty-something’s choice of couch surfing up and down the California Coast will inevitably differ from that of parents with small children on a Disney vacation or empty-nesters celebrating an early retirement with a trek across the Serengeti. The good news: There’s no right or wrong way to travel, so long as you’re balancing travel aspiration with practicality. With that in mind, here are some ideas for your next vacation, factoring in the unique considerations that come with each decade of life.

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Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands

You’re an idealistic adventurer with more time than money. But you’ve got a giant backpack—and aren’t afraid to use it.

Backpacking Thailand is a rite of passage for many twenty-somethings. It’s significantly cheaper than doing so in Europe. As a result, Thailand has attracted a fantastic community of youthful travelers. Begin in Bangkok, sampling its temples, markets and street food, before launching to Chiang Mai, where elephant sanctuaries and “monk chats” await. End your journey in the tropical islands of Phi Phi and Koh Phangan, home to the world’s wildest full moon parties.

Highway 101, Oregon
Grab your BFFs and wind your way down one of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA: Oregon’s Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Dare we say it’s more spectacular than the much-traveled Pacific Coast Highway in California? Rent a car from Portland and start in Astoria to cruise down a lush and rugged coastline that hugs the Pacific Ocean. You’ll weave in and out of small port towns where whale watching excursions, brewery visits, cheese factory tours and sand dune adventures beckon. You’ll also find budget-friendly motels and hotels where you can crash along the way.

After springing for the flight, India is a bargain destination where adventures abound. Marvel at the Taj Mahal in Agra; visit the ‘Beatles Ashram’ in Rishikesh; cruise the waters of Kerala aboard an iconic houseboat; and join other twenty-somethings in Goa for a kaleidoscope of beachfront parties.



You’ve got more disposable income and a desire to break free from the 9-to-5. But you may be starting a family and have small kids to factor into vacation plans. 

Riviera Maya, Mexico
Sink into the sand of Mexico’s best beaches, south – way south – of party-centric Cancun. You’ll find a wide array of all-inclusive resorts that cater to all traveler types, from singles to couples to families, in spots such as Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres. (Families will be particularly pleased with resorts that include kids’ clubs and onsite splash parks.) Add some culture to the sun-surf-sand theme by visiting Mayan ruins, such as Tulum and Chichen Itza, or snorkeling the eerily beautiful Underwater Museum of Art, where 500 life-size sculptures submerged underwater are growing new coral and attracting diverse sea-life.

Walt Disney World, Florida
If you’ve got kids, this is the ultimate bucket list family vacation. Ride the iconic attractions (Dumbo the Flying Elephant) while enjoying the newest ones (Pandora – The World of Avatar). Save money by staying outside the Disney resort grounds, such as along International Drive; however, staying onsite makes it easier to come-and-go to the theme parks as you please, especially if your little ones require afternoon naps. Staying at a Disney property comes with another perk: access to Extra Magic Hours.

If small kids don’t factor into your travel plans, get behind the wheel for a road-trip adventure across Iceland’s Ring Road. Because Iceland is a pricier destination to travel, you won’t find many twenty-something travelers exploring beyond the capital of Reykjavik. Instead of a sea of selfie-happy Millennials, you’ll find some of the most incredible and other-worldly landscapes on the planet, from lava-sculpted terrains to glacial peaks to beaches so silent you can hear yourself breathe … deeply.


The Galapagos Islands

You recognize that travel yields experiences that are priceless. Although you may not have much time, due to “adult” responsibilities competing for those precious vacation days, you plan and set aside the funds for experiences that will produce epic memories.

U.S. National Parks
We all instinctively crave a little nature. Whether you’re simply looking for the antithesis to your office cubicle or eager to wow your children with natural splendor that’ll tickle all the senses, the U.S. cradles some of the world’s most spectacular parks. Take your pick: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon … the list goes on. Put your iPhone away to unplug among mountains, trees and lakes that’ll restore your spirit and sense of wonder.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
If Charles Darwin could see it now. The setting he made famous with his Theory of Natural Selection has evolved into a true bucket list travel destination, with an increased number of cruise and charters navigating the archipelago 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador. It’s a Garden of Eden more spectacular than any zoo or wildlife park, with blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, lizards and giant tortoises entertaining young and old alike. (Indeed, the animals are not afraid of humans and seem to always “pose” for pictures.) While the Galapagos may prove a pricier family destination than, say a U.S. National Park, it certainly caters to kids’ curiosities and is one to experience before tourism overtakes the setting.

Say “Konichiwa” to Japan if you are traveling without young kids in tow. (The long flight and major time zone difference would make it a challenging family trip.) Pair exploration of Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan’s main cities connected by bullet train, with settings that delve deeper into the culture. Consider staying in a traditional ryokan near Mt. Fuji or spending a few nights in Okinawa. Often called the “Galapagos of the East” for its beautifully diverse flora and fauna, Okinawa is also home to one of the world’s oldest populations. Perhaps they’ll share their secret to longevity with you?

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The Amalfi Coast

As your travel experience has grown, your motivation for traveling has become more refined and niche, and you likely have more money to indulge. You also don’t necessarily want to be traveling in settings crawling with twenty-somethings.

Customize a luxury safari that strings together jaw-dropping settings across the Serengeti. From the comfort of your open-air vehicle or upscale lodge, spot the Big Five: elephants, lions, buffalos, rhinos and leopards. (Some upscale tent camps even feature partially open-air showers where it’s not uncommon to watch giraffes graze on nearby trees as you bathe.) Be sure to time a trip around The Great Migration, a fascinating natural phenomenon straight out of National Geographic, and tack on a few nights post-safari on the island of Zanzibar for some R&R before flying home.

European Christmas river cruise
Nobody does the Christmas season quite like Europe. Gather your family for a weeklong river cruise in December along the Danube or Rhine Rivers. Unpack once and settle into your cabin, as the boat winds through settings such as Nuremberg, Salzburg, Vienna and other towns that host centuries-old Christmas markets. Onboard, you’ll enjoy meals and holiday diversions, with time to explore festive port towns at your leisure.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
La dolce vita, indeed. Indulge in culinary delights and copious amounts of limoncello from a private terrace overlooking Positano, Ravello, Capri or any of the other glamorous settings that make the Amalfi Coast of Italy such a swoon-worthy destination—and one best experienced when you’ve got money to spend. Hire a private driver to navigate the topsy-turvy roads perched above the Mediterranean so that you can savor the setting and not sweat the steering.

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Route 66

As you inch toward retirement, you appreciate more white-glove attentiveness and less rugged adventure (even as the wanderlust of your 20s remains). Go ahead and splurge, you’ve earned it. 

Mediterranean Cruise
You’re well-past the age of bouncing around hostels carting a backpack. Unpack once and let a cruise ship string together European destinations such as Barcelona, St. Tropez, Monte Carlo, Rome, Capri, Venice and Athens. It’s a delicious sampling platter of history, culture and cuisine in style—and without all of that running around. Travel with your adult children (and let them pay for it).

Canadian Rockies
Oh, Canada! Witness remote wilderness and unfolding mountain peaks as you journey by rail, comfortably seated in a glass-domed train car. While there are several options to explore Canada by train, The Rocky Mountaineer is considered one of the world’s greatest train journeys for its varied itinerary options, gourmet meals and, of course, dazzling views. From April to October, this rail adventure slices through the Canadian West, with overnight stops in British Columbia (Vancouver, Whistler, Quesnel) and Alberta (Banff, Calgary, Lake Louise).

Route 66
The iconic Mother Road is calling. You’re in no rush to get back to work or the kids, so drive, leisurely, west on this historic route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Along the way, you’ll experience the nostalgic (and often kitschy) roadside signage and folksy stops that have made this drive a classic. From the the World’s Largest Rocking Chair (Cuba, MO), to Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, TX), to the World’s First McDonald’s (San Bernardino, CA), this drive is among the most colorful in the world. Mark your “must sees” ahead of time, but prepare for the delightfully unexpected by keeping eyes and ears open along the way.

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Tagged: Asia, Banff, California, Canada, Chicago, Chicago, Europe, Germany, India, Italy, Los Angeles, Mexico, Midwest, National Parks, Thailand

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