With tours around the world and experiences that are hard to replicate as an independent traveler, senior-friendly tour companies are a great vacation option for anyone over the age of 50. The best senior travel tour companies offer a wide range of formats to fit the varied needs, preferences, and interests of older travelers, too. And if you’re a senior who’s traveling solo, some of these tour companies also offer discounts so you don’t have to pay full price for a double room.
2024’s Best Senior Travel Tour Companies
The best tour companies for seniors stand out for a variety of reasons. They all have robust plans and protocols in place for such things as cancellations, changes, and other unforeseen circumstances; are very clear about the psychical requirements for each tour; and offer seniors tours to meet the interests all kinds of older travelers. Most also offer flight reservations and optional travel insurance. Here are the highest-rated and most trusted senior travel tour companies in the world.
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1. Trafalgar Tours
One of the oldest and most respected names in group travel, Trafalgar Tours has logged more than 75 years in the travel business and offers a wide variety of destinations and travel styles: guided tours, river cruising, next-gen and family tours, luxury and customized private tours, and safari and adventure travel.
Trafalgar’s “Be My Guest” experiences allow you to visit and dine with local families in homes, farms, and restaurants. “Mini-stays” of three to five days appeal to the busy traveler or to those who want an “add-on” to a longer tour or stay. “At Leisure” trips have a relaxed pace, longer stays at each accommodation, and later starts in the mornings.
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Because Trafalgar’s customer base is international, tour participants are likely to be English-speaking citizens of a variety of countries—a plus for North Americans who would enjoy traveling with people from all over the globe. A travel director accompanies each tour group and coordinates with local tour guides at each destination. Many of the travel directors have five years’ experience or more.
Trafalgar has a “Very Important Traveler” program that offers 5% savings on selected trips. For solo travelers, the cost of a single supplement depends on the trip. Optional experiences on each tour cost extra but also offer the flexibility to create your own custom tour: You may opt out of the activity and choose to do something else—or just relax.
Trafalgar is the anchor brand of The Travel Corporation (TTC), which comprises 42 travel brands, including tour operations that specialize in different destinations, age groups, price range, and travel styles. For example, the CostSaver brand is very inexpensive, while Insight Vacations is a premium tour company, and Luxury Gold is TTC’s high-end tour company.
Quick Facts about Senior Tours with Trafalgar
- Average group size: 22 to 29 people on small group tours; 40 to 50 on classic tours.
- Price range: Moderately inexpensive but “optional experiences” are not included and can be expensive.
- What’s included: All accommodations, meals as stated in itinerary, and most tips.
- What’s not included: Optional excursions, some meals and tips.
- Primary audience: Travelers from around the world; 60% of clients are ages 50 to 71.
- Destinations: 303 trips in 72 countries across six continents.
- How to book: Directly through Trafalgar; via Travelstride, Tourhub, or TourRadar, all which are tour specialist online travel agents (OTAs) that offer hundreds of Trafalgar trips; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
2. Tauck Tours
Tauck Tours offers deluxe and highly inclusive tours to more than 100 destinations on all seven continents. With nearly 100 years in the tour business, Tauck prides itself on quality and on the experience of its Tour Directors, who come from 40 countries and average 10 years of experience. The hotels it selects are always excellent and well-located.
Tauck aims to appeal to people of all ages by offering land journeys, European river cruises, small ship ocean cruises, and multi-generational “Tauck Bridges” family travel. Each tour has ratings for activity level and pace (rated one through four), but, like many tour companies, Tauck warns that travelers with mobility issues must bring their own assistance.
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Seniors who prefer to have the majority of their experience planned for them will appreciate the full itineraries and the many included meals in fine hotels and restaurants. With individual excursions included rather than optional, Tauck travelers are encouraged to try experiences (e.g., a raft trip or a helicopter ride) they might not otherwise have considered.
Tauck promises to “manage the unexpected—big and small,” with its Global Response Team, a comprehensive support system that takes care of all details, including such exigencies as accidents and quarantines. The company has a frequent traveler savings program and offers some savings for solo travelers on selected journeys.
Quick Facts about Senior Travel Tours with Tauck Tours
- Average group size: 35 to 44 people for land trips; 24 for small group journeys; river boat and small ship group sizes depend on size of ship but shore excursions are in smaller groups.
- Price range: Upscale/Premium with many inclusions.
- What’s included: All accommodations (generally upscale), tips, most meals, luggage handling, airport transfers as specified in the itinerary, entertainment, local excursions and visits, any taxes or surcharges.
- What’s not included: Tips for Tour Director (and bus driver, where applicable), some meals (usually lunch).
- Primary audience: “People of all ages,” but the company caters to seniors.
- Destinations: More than 70 countries on seven continents (with land journeys on six); river cruises in Europe.
- How to book: Directly through Tauck; via Travelstride, a tour specialist OTA that offers hundreds of Tauck trips; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
3. Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT)
Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), part of the Grand Circle Corporation since 1978, focuses on active travelers over 50 who are looking for hands-on experiences in destinations around the world. The seniors-only company prides itself in taking travelers off the beaten track with immersive “Day in the Life” experiences such as shopping at local markets, visiting children at school, and taking part in home-hosted meals. OAT opts for accommodations that offer authentic local experiences—think smaller family-run hotels, paradores, and hotels close to city centers.
Both land and small-ship tours for seniors are available. Most trips last two weeks or more, with optional pre- and post-trip extensions, appealing to retirees and working people who have saved vacation time as well as travel funds. The physical requirements of each tour are described in detail, with an activity level rating system of one (easy) to five (strenuous). Each itinerary outlines the included meals and local tours; optional tours require an additional fee, but the itineraries also recommend many free or inexpensive options for your free time.
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OAT has made itself a leader in solo travel: More than a quarter of its senior citizen clients are solo travelers, and of those, 85% are women. Roughly 92% of its single spaces are free of any singles surcharge, others are heavily discounted, and the company also offers a roommate matching program. In 2019, OAT began offering some women-only departures.
While not a cut-rate tour company, OAT works hard to provide senior tours at low per diems—giving you more for your travel dollar. The Travel Channel recognized it as a top provider for budget-conscious travelers, and the Grand Circle Foundation received a Global Vision award for leadership in tourism and philanthropy.
Quick Facts about Over-50 Tours with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT)
- Average group size: Small-group land tours have no more than 16 travelers; small-ship adventures have no more than 25 participants.
- Price range: Moderate.
- What’s included: All accommodations (comfortable hotels), most meals, daily cultural activities, some tips, and airport transfers.
- What’s not included: Some optional tours, meals, and tips.
- Primary audience: “Curious lifelong learners” age 50+.
- Destinations: 76 countries on six continents; no tours in North America
- How to book: Directly through OAT
4. Road Scholar
Road Scholar is a senior travel tour company that emphasizes lifelong learning and educational travel for older travelers. Founded in 1975 as the nonprofit Elderhostel, the organization changed its name in 2010 and now provides study tours throughout the U.S., Canada, and in more than 100 other countries. All of its senior-focused tours include guidance and lectures by Road Scholar faculty who are experts on topics relevant to the destination. Lodgings are always comfortable and “sometimes even iconic.”
Road Scholar programs include theme-based travel (such as arts, philosophy and religion, and nature studies), outdoor adventures, service learning trips, adventures afloat, intergenerational tours, and independent city discoveries. The “Choose Your Pace” feature allows you to choose among multiple options of tour length, challenge, and pace. Extended-stay programs range from eight days in Florence to 45 days in southern Spain.
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Activity levels for tours range from “easy-going” to “outdoor: challenging,” with the physical demands of each tour described in its itinerary. An “easy” tour might cover a week of Chautauqua lectures in New York, while a “challenging” tour might include hiking and kayaking in Alaska.
Nearly 25% of Road Scholars are traveling solo; the senior tour company offers some discounts on single rooms, provides supportive advice to women traveling solo, and emphasizes “learning in the company of a small group of individual friends, rather than traveling with a collection of couples.” Road Scholar travelers tend to be curious and open to new ideas and cultures. The travel company recently added a virtual Adventures Online series of in-depth lectures for those who wish to supplement an in-person journey or simply learn from home.
Quick Facts about Senior Travel Tours with Road Scholar
- Average group size: 13 to 24 people on “small group” tours; 12 or fewer on “micro group” tours; other group sizes vary by tour type and destination.
- Price range: Moderate to expensive, but with lots of included perks that other tour companies charge extra for.
- What’s included: All accommodations, most meals, tips, excursions, expert lectures (in addition to your tour director), and airport transfers if you book flights through Road Scholar.
- What’s not included: Porterage and airport transfers if you arrange your own flights.
- Primary audience: Lifelong learners over the age of 50.
- Destinations: Road Scholar’s senior tours cover all 50 U.S. states as well as 100 countries on all continents; the emphasis is on North America.
- How to Book: Directly through Road Scholar; via Travelstride, a tour specialist OTA that offers more than 1,500 Road Scholar trips; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
5. Smithsonian Journeys
Like Road Scholar, Smithsonian Journeys is a group travel company for seniors that focuses on educational travel. It offers specialized land journeys, active outdoor journeys, small ship cruises, and cultural stays. At least one expert accompanies each tour or stay, providing lectures and local tours appropriate to the destination. Tours include culturally immersive experiences like visits to homes, meals with locals, and demonstrations of local crafts and cuisines. High-quality accommodations are included in the price and reflect the character of the local culture.
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Smithsonian also provides special interest tours for older travelers, including study at Oxford, cave art exploration, and observation of the total solar eclipse in 2024. Its Cultural Stays allow travelers to “unpack once” and spend from one to three weeks exploring and learning in and around a single destination.
A branch of the 175-year-old Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Journeys has operated tours for more than 50 years. Its wide range of travel options appeals to many age groups, but the average age of travelers with this company is 55+. (The typical age range on active tours is 45 to 70; on special interest tours, it’s 55 to 80.) Smithsonian’s five activity level ratings are somewhat more demanding than Road Scholar’s, ranging from “Easy” (easy walking and shorter travel days) to “Challenging” (e.g., climbing Kilimanjaro).
Quick Facts about Senior Tours with Smithsonian Journeys
- Average group size: 12 to 24 people for most land journeys; cruises from 36 people (river boat) to 264 (small ship cruise).
- Price range: Moderate to expensive, but with lots of included perks.
- What’s included: Excellent accommodations, most meals, most tips, excursions, experts and lectures, and airport transfers. Some itineraries also offer airfare-inclusive pricing
- What’s not included: Some meals and some tips.
- Primary audience: Travelers 45 to 80 years old who want to better understand the world.
- Destinations: 130 itineraries on seven continents (with an emphasis on Europe).
- How to Book: Directly through Smithsonian Journeys or through a travel agent such as AAA.
Established more than 90 years ago, Globus heads a family of travel brands that also includes Avalon Waterways (river tours) and Cosmos (budget tours). The company offers travel styles for a variety of fitness levels and interests, with an emphasis on freedom and flexibility that works especially well for seniors. It ranks among the best escorted tour companies for the 55+ age group because it recognizes that the one-size-fits-all mentality does not work for everyone, especially older travelers.
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Free time on every tour allows for “adventure a la carte.” A wide array of optional excursions and activities is offered on each itinerary: some are extra-cost activities provided by the company, while others are simply helpful suggestions for independent exploration. Globus provides tour directors and local guides from the region for every tour, as well as “skip the lines” access to sites, centrally located first-class hotels, opportunities to meet local families, and some “experiential dining” meals.
Globus tours come in many different formats. Globus Undiscovered tours take you off the beaten path where there are fewer crowds; this option is attractive to seasoned travelers who have already seen famous sights like the Tower of Pisa and the Mona Lisa. Escapes by Globus offers up to a 40% discount on tours taken between November and March. Choice Touring and Independence by Globus provide itineraries that allow you to choose excursions and have more “I-time” while the company provides lodging and the help of a tour director.
Quick Facts about Guided Tours for Older Travelers with Globus
- Average group size: 24 people (small-group discovery) to 36 people (average size of a coach tour).
- Price range: Inexpensive, but optional excursions cost extra.
- What’s included: All accommodations, some meals, airport transfers on published tour departure and return dates, and admission to sites included in tour.
- What’s not included: Optional experiences (may be $50 to $100 each), tips, and some meals.
- Primary audience: Adults who want a wide variety of travel options.
- Destinations: More than 50 countries on six continents.
- How to Book: Directly through Globus; via Travelstride, Tourhub, or TourRadar, all which are tour specialist OTAs; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
7. Intrepid Travel
Founded in 1988 in Australia and now employee-owned, Intrepid Travel offers 1,100 escorted tours worldwide, with an average of 10 travelers per tour. The company focuses on small group active trips off the beaten track. Its tours often use public transportation and stay at locally owned accommodations.
Intrepid has an age-inclusive philosophy (“18 to 70”) and aims to provide tours for all interests and comfort levels. Tour styles include “Basix” for the budget travel crowd and “Comfort,” which tends to attract older travelers. The travel tour company also offers retreats and tours for women, solo travelers, and the 18-29 age group. Note that while Intrepid tours are active, its tours are “not a constant endurance test.” A general level of health and fitness is adequate for its trips.
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Examples of Intrepid tours include a winter journey to Iceland to view the Aurora Borealis, a hiking-cycling trip in Sri Lanka, snorkeling in Bali, kayaking in Alaska, and enjoying the Naadam Festival in Mongolia or Day of the Dead in Mexico. A “Comfort” trip to Jordan might include some moderate hiking to sites, floating in the Dead Sea, a stay in a desert camp, and snorkeling in the Red Sea. Intrepid also offers small ship adventure cruising to such places as the Galapagos Island, the Greek and Turkish Islands, Antarctica, and French Polynesia.
Intrepid conducts safety assessments of all included and optional activities; experienced local leaders provide instruction and advice to travelers who are new to an activity or area. It also has an excellent record of corporate responsibility. Intrepid focuses on sustainable travel and has been carbon neutral since 2010.
Quick Facts about Guided Tours with Intrepid Travel
- Average group size: 10 people.
- Price range: Moderately inexpensive but extra cost for premium upgrades.
- What’s included: On general tours, you get accommodations, breakfasts, and local experiences. On premium tours, you can expect additions like breakfast and some other meals, tips, and airport and luggage transfer.
- What’s not included: See above.
- Primary audience: Active adult travelers of all ages.
- Destinations: More than 100 countries on seven continents, including polar regions and more South Pacific destinations than most other senior tour companies.
- How to Book: Directly through Intrepid; via Travelstride, Tourhub, or TourRadar all which are tour specialist OTAs (online travel agents) that offer hundreds of Intrepid trips; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
8. Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises specializes in European river touring, but it also offers small ship ocean cruises and expedition voyages. The company is more than 25 years old and is among the most awarded river cruise lines worldwide. Viking owns and operates its own ships; it also owns some dock locations.
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Viking does not try to be all things to all people. There are no casinos on its river boats, for example, nor are children under 18 allowed. Viking also has a “no nickel and diming and no umbrella drinks” policy. However, you can expect outside rooms, onboard enrichment lectures, destination performances, onshore excursions in every port, introductions to local life and people, and an experienced staff. (In fact, 90% of the company’s river cruise staff returns each year.) Optional pre- and post-tour land extensions are offered.
With a philosophy that travel “should be a doorway to cultural insight and personal enrichment,” Viking could be regarded as a waterborne version of Road Scholar or Smithsonian Journeys. The company owns a learning channel (Viking TV) and provides recommended readings and other materials before you depart.
Quick Facts about Cruises for Seniors with Viking
- Passenger limit on river boats: 190 people (up to 930 on ocean ships)
- Price range: Moderately expensive but inclusive.
- What’s included: Onboard accommodations, meals, shore excursions, entertainment, tips; and transfers with air purchase through Viking. Some tours also include free international airfare.
- What’s not included: Transfers and porterage for those not using Viking for air reservations, some tips.
- Primary audience: Adults, but primarily older adults.
- Destinations: Mostly Europe for river tours, also cruises on the Nile, Mississippi, and Mekong Rivers; expedition cruises to Antarctica and the Great Lakes; ocean cruises to various destinations.
- How to Book: Directly through Viking; via CruiseCritic; or through a travel agent such as AAA.
More Senior Travel Tour Company Options for Older Travelers
If you can’t see yourself in any of the senior tour styles I’ve mentioned above—or maybe you just want even more options—I have a few more recommendations.
1) Those who loved travel experiences in their student days and prefer an inexpensive tour may want to look at EF Go Ahead Tours.
2) Those who are physically fit and want active travel like cycling tours and walking tours with a mixed age group have many good options, including Backroads and Country Walkers, which can be a good fit for senior cycling and walking enthusiasts.
College graduates should check to see if their alumni association sponsors any tours: AHI, Odysseys Unlimited, and other companies work with these associations to provide excellent tours at good prices.