The Top Retirement Vacations

Top Retirement Vacations

Key Takeaways

  • The top 3 best vacation destinations for retirees are Las Vegas, New York City, and New Orleans.
  • New York City offers the most activities for retirees.
  • Alaska, Sydney (Australia), and Tuscany (Italy) are the top dream destinations for retirees.
  • 1 in 6 retirees changed their travel plans this year due to recession concerns, while 1 in 10 canceled them.

Budget Travel on Your Terms

If you’re like most retirees, travel is at the top of your retirement bucket list. With so many incredible destinations beckoning your attention, it can be difficult to choose where to go next. There is also much to consider when planning a trip, from flight costs to accommodations to activity options.

To help you plan your next trip, we calculated travel costs to various destinations and gathered reviews from TripAdvisor and Yelp to identify the most (and least) desirable and affordable vacation destinations for retirees. Keep reading to find your next scrapbook-worthy adventure.

The Ultimate Guide to Retirement Vacation Destinations

There are so many unique places right here in the U.S.  that can make exploring America an adventure. To help narrow down the options, we ranked 119 U.S. cities across four categories: activities, affordability, quality of life, and retiree friendliness. Quality of life included variables such as purchasing power, safety, traffic, and pollution. Explore the table below to see how your favorite cities ranked; cities are listed by overall score, best to worst.

CityScoreActivity RankCost RankQuality of
Life Rank
Retiree Rank
1Las Vegas65.08395268*1
2New York City63.39111873*5
3New Orleans63.592946921
7Sanibel Island59.171036921*2
8Long Beach58.639671374
13San Antonio54.6119382483
14Santa Ana54.0017885*108
20Chula Vista52.87138729*80
Retirement Destination Scores

As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” and it turns out that staying in Vegas is a pretty good idea for retirees. Las Vegas claimed the top spot as the best retiree vacation destination and is one of the less expensive cities on the list. Between the bustle of the Las Vegas Strip, the extensive shopping, the deep lineup of shows and performances, and the adventurous beauty of the surrounding landscape, you can find plenty to do in this retiree-friendly wonderland.

Known as “The City That Never Sleeps,” New York City offers the most activities for retirees, earning it second place overall for best retiree vacation destination. The Big Apple is packed full of iconic landmarks, neighborhoods, and cultural icons, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue, to name a few.

New Orleans came in third overall for best retiree vacation destination despite being one of the more expensive cities listed. What New Orleans lacks in affordability, it makes up for in hospitality. With a rich history, vibrant culture, incredible cuisine, and thriving arts scene, New Orleans has an almost never-ending list of amazing experiences.

Moreover, most respondents expect their savings to last 13 years, despite concerns that they don’t have enough to feel comfortable. This might explain the growing notion that many Americans feel they may need to work longer to save enough for retirement. (A Gallup poll revealed last year that the average age at which U.S. employees expect to retire has risen from 60 to 66 since 1995.) The good news is that, so far, the economy is proving surprisingly resilient despite economic challenges, as consumers continue to shop in retail stores, dine at restaurants, and buy cars. Could these spending habits help delay a large economic shift for the worse? Retirees sure hope so. 

Top Travel Spots for Retirees in the U.S.

Everyone has their favorite things they like to do on vacation; some enjoy bus tours, while others prefer to dine their way across a city or spend hours exploring local museums. To further break down the best retirement vacation destinations, we identified common features and amenities travelers prioritize during travel and ranked the three best and worst U.S. cities for each.

Top retirement destinations

Travelers interested in history should put New Orleans on their list of retirement destinations. The Big Easy offers the most historical tours of all 119 cities. Steeped in culture (and folklore), the history of New Orleans is apparent in places like the famous French Quarter and the sweeping lawns of the majestic Garden District.

If you want to enjoy a vacation without breaking the bank, one of the simplest ways to save money is to choose affordable accommodations. With an abundance of affordable hotels for the taking, finding a place to rest your head in the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana won’t break the bank. A big city with a small-town feel, Fort Wayne is located where three rivers meet. Visitors can enjoy various indoor and outdoor activities, including Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve and Historic Fort Wayne.

Food-focused retirees who are on the hunt for delicious meals should consider Wichita, Kansas, as this city is home to the greatest percentage of affordable restaurants. With over 1,200 dining options, Wichita offers an amazing diversity of cuisines, from German-style pizza to Southern comfort food.

Exploring Retiree Travel Trends at Home and Abroad

Retirement offers the luxury of time, but most retirees have other priorities besides travel, like spending time with family and learning new hobbies. But when wanderlust strikes, how important is traveling to retirees, and where would they most like to go?

Among all the opportunities available to retirees, traveling and vacationing during retirement was “very important” to nearly half (47%) of our survey respondents. Moreover, retirees who travel frequently (instead of rarely) were 43% more likely to feel satisfied with their lives. With satisfaction in mind, travelers had lofty goals for their top dream destinations: Alaska, Sydney (Australia), and Italy’s Tuscany region. 

As important as travel is for retirees, survey respondents were realistic about their travel goals—and budget. Affordability is the biggest factor when choosing where to travel during retirement. The choice of vacation destination can significantly impact affordability, so let’s see how much it would cost to go on a week-long dream vacation in 10 different locations.

Retirement Destinations

Estimated Costs for a Week’s Stay

The top dream vacation destination for retirees, Alaska, is relatively affordable. We determined it would cost about $3,500 for a seven-day stay in adventurous Anchorage, including round-trip flights, meals, and hotel accommodations. Summer is the best time to visit Alaska and enjoy milder temperatures, view more wildlife, and take advantage of long sunny days. However, if seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, you’ll want to plan a trip in January, February, or March.

Sydney, Australia, is the second most popular dream destination for retirees—it’s also the second most expensive. A seven-day trip to the other side of the globe costs an average of $4,400, with more than half of the cost going toward round-trip airfare. But if you can fit this down under destination into your budget, you won’t regret the splurge. Sydney has loads to offer, including the beautiful Sydney Harbour, gorgeous Bondi Beach, and the iconic Sydney Opera House. If you have time, take a day trip to hike in the Blue Mountains or mingle among the wildlife in Kangaroo Valley.

The third dream destination for retirees is the Tuscany region of Italy, which is famous for its food and wine. Picturesque and novel-worthy, Tuscany is the most expensive vacation destination, costing an average of $5,004 for a seven-day trip. A trip to this idyllic countryside may cost a pretty penny, but you’ll deem the expense worthwhile as you explore Tuscany’s scenic hill towns, beautiful landscapes, and stunning works of art—including Michaelangelo’s David.

While travel is often worth the cost, affording vacations can require careful planning. We asked retirees how they fit vacations into their retirement budgets and whether a potential recession has affected their plans.

Things To Do To Afford a Vacation

Living your best life on a fixed income can sometimes be tricky, so understandably, retirees have leveraged several strategies to make travel more affordable. Almost half of the survey respondents (48%) cut unnecessary daily spending to increase their vacation budgets, and more than one-third searched for the best deals on flights and hotels. Some respondents even came out of retirement to afford their vacations, with almost 20% having worked part-time to earn extra income.

As for the looming recession, about 3 in 4 respondents expressed some level of concern about a potential recession affecting their travel plans. While only 1 in 6 retirees have changed their plans this year because of it, 1 in 10 have canceled their trips altogether.

Retirees trying to find extra income for travel or prepare for maintaining their lifestyles during a possible recession may want to seek guidance from a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you make the most of your retirement savings, easing economic concerns and enabling you to reach more of your retirement goals.

Traveling in Retirement

After years of hard work, retirees deserve to experience the highest quality of life. Frequent travel is one way to enjoy your hard-earned freedom and enhance your retirement. From Alaska to Australia, retirees can experience history, nature, culture, arts, and food across the globe.

Of course, it’s important to understand how far your travel budget can take you to avoid overspending or putting undue stress on your everyday life. Explore lists like these to help identify affordable destinations, take advantage of flight and lodging deals during low-demand travel times,, and meet with a financial advisor to create a solid retirement plan that includes room for a little luxury. With big goals and some advanced planning, you can turn your travel dreams into reality.


We created a metaranking using data from Yelp, Tripadvisor, Numbeo, the U.S. Census, and World Population Review to discover the best vacation destinations for retirees. We also included the following variables:

  • Activities Rank
    • Number of Bus Tours (Yelp)
    • Number of Museums (Yelp)
    • Number of Historical Tours (Yelp)
  • Affordability Rank
    • Percentage of $ and $$ hotels (Yelp)
    • Percentage of $ Restaurants (Yelp)
    • Cost of Living Index (Numbeo)*
  • Quality of Life Rank (Numbeo)*
  • Retiree Friendliness Rank
    • Number of “Retirement” posts on Tripadvisor forums 
    • Percentage of people over 60 (U.S. Census and World Population Review**)

We also surveyed 1,034 people 50 years or older who are retired (49%), plan to retire in the next year (11%), or plan to retire in the next five years (40%). In areas of the study that depict financial data, we removed outliers by determining the figures within the interquartile range. Our survey data relies on self-reporting. Potential issues with self-reported data include, but are not limited to, telescoping, selective memory, and other attribution errors. 

For vacation cost estimations, we collected data on food, hotel, and flight costs for the top 10 destinations selected by respondents. We estimated for a week-long vacation and selected hotel and flight rates for the date range of July 23-29. We took the top 10 hotels on Google hotels and averaged their nightly rate. We also selected 10 major airports in the U.S. (DIA, MIA, JFK, ORD, DFW, IAD, MCO, LAX, ATL, BOS) and averaged the cost of the five cheapest round-trip flights out of each of these. We sourced food costs from Numbeo’s cost of living index, and used “meal for two people, mid-range restaurant”, divided the price by two and multiplied by 14, assuming they ate two meals for seven days.

*Note: For cities not available on Numbeo’s cost of living index or quality of life index, data for the next closest available cities were used.
**Census population data was not available for all cities. For cities not available, we used World Population Review to find the populations over 60 years old.

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