Baby Boomer Travelers: 50 and Fearless

Elder travelers are no longer strangers to the adventure market. In fact, they’re one of its key drivers.


No longer content with traditional group tours or cruises, today’s 50-year-old-plus crowd is in better shape than ever, has more disposable income than generations past and remains young at heart. They’re also living their dreams—on adventure vacations.

These active elders are zip lining in Costa Rica, white water rafting in Colorado, cycling through Italy and Ireland, glacier exploring in Patagonia and skydiving in Hawaii—which is what an attendant on a recent flight I took planned to do for her upcoming 55th birthday.

Demand in the Elder Adventurer Market

According to the 2006 Adventure Travel Industry Survey, Practices and Trends, released by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), 41- to 60-year-olds comprise the highest participating age group in adventure travel, at 42.2 percent. Add in those older than 60 and the total jumps to more than 61 percent.

“The 50-plus traveler is a significant audience for adventure travel, especially as they’re one of the groups still traveling [in this economy] since they have the means,” says Chris Doyle, vice president of ATTA, who notes that at age 43, he often is one of the youngest participants in the group adventure trips he’s taken.

The definition of adventure travel for those over 50 varies too, with experiential travel easily falling under the adventure umbrella. “Experiential travel includes adventure travel as well as learning vacations, culinary trips and voluntourism,” says Kathy Dragon, an expert on this segment of the industry who has personally led more than 3,000 trips for 50-plus travelers and who is CEO of the soon-to-launch site

Planning Trends

They’re also planning activities around the trip, both before and after the travel takes place. “What’s most interesting to me about this group is they’re spending six to twelve months really planning the trip,” says Dragon. “I took a group to Patagonia recently and they got together to take tango lessons and cooking classes, as well as bring in a lecturer from a nearby college to talk about Argentina six months before we even departed.”

Preparedness Tips

Doyle and Dragon both agree that not all adventure tour providers understand this market and how to cater to them, such as realizing that customers in their 50s and 60s may be perfectly fine with long treks or mountain bike rides during the day, but they want creature comforts when they settle in at night, such as not having to sleep on the floor or share a bathroom.

There’s also the issue of making sure you’re physically up to any challenges you might face on an adventure vacation. Here are a few key tips to consider during the planning process. For additional tips, visit Dragon’s site

  • Make sure you’re in good health before booking;
  • Know your physical limits;
  • If new to adventure travel, start slow and work your way up in terms of difficulty;
  • When choosing a destination, determine whether you want a classic location, which will have a more developed tourism infrastructure, or a cutting edge one, which will likely offer more bare-bones amenities;
  • Remember that adventure is relative: for one person it might mean a yoga retreat; for another, it could mean climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Choose the activity that meets your interests and needs.
  • If you book with a travel agency or outfitter, make sure they’re reputable and have guides experienced in dealing with elder adventurers.

Lastly, remember to get out there and have fun!

Themes: Outdoor Adventures

User Comments

Not so fearless or fit at 47 While I may not be 50 yet...tick..tick..tick. I love adventure vacations and so do my peers. We also enjoy taking our teens along to zip line and parasail. If your readers like adventure, I highly recommend king salmon fishing in Alaska. We fly into Anchorage, hop on a float plane and land at Riversong Lodge. Hook one of those 50 pounders and you are sure to get an amazing upper arm work out! Later that evening the chef will cook up your catch. Yum.

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