Maybe it’s the absence of duty and compromise and the addition of endless cackling and chilled rosé, but holidaying with friends is always balm for the soul. And guess what, it gets even better when you’re over 50. Why? Because we have more time, more money and more of that joyous sense of freedom that only comes with age and experience.
We all know how precarious lives can be, which means there’s good reason why more and more 50-plus women are embarking on bigger and more adventurous trips.
Before the pandemic, I went Interrailing with my best friend, Rhonda. We spent a fabulous week bobbing between European cities – sipped coffee in pavement cafes in Copenhagen, bumbled around the art galleries of Berlin and cruised the canals of Amsterdam – living our very best lives. Although exploring six capital cities in as many days sounds hectic, it was threaded by some deliciously long and leisurely rail journeys where we could chat, read and snooze while the world swept by. It was one of my favourite holidays.
This year, we’re upping the ante with a week-long trip walking part of the Camino de Santiago, the network of ancient pilgrim routes which stretch across Europe. Not only is it a way to explore some of the prettiest areas of Spain‘s Galicia region, but with eight-plus hours of walking each day, we’ll chat, bond and reconnect.
We all remember those brilliant holidays with our girlfriends in our teens and 20s. The cheap and cheerful fly-and-flop holidays of our youth, when a week in sunny Spain or Greece resulted in stories we still recount now. As fun as they always were, there are a hundred and one reasons why travelling in our later years is better…
We have more money to spend
One of the many joys of getting older is that we often have a few more coins in the piggy bank. Thailand was a highlight of my backpacking days back in the 90s, when I spent three fabulous beer-soaked months hopping around its islands bouncing between full-moon parties, white-sand beaches and temples. This time, I want to see more than beach bars and ravers and explore the country in style.
A 16-day trip through the cities, jungles and beaches unveils every side of Thailand from the bustling streets and floating markets of Bangkok, wild elephants in the rainforest to empty palm-fringed beaches of the smaller islands like Khao Lak. And this time, I’ll swap the scratchy hammocks in backpacker hostels for five-star luxury all the way.
We have more time
Now we’re in our 50s or older, children are starting to flee the nest, we’ve earned maximum holiday days from work and there are fewer commitments to keep us at home. As we get older, we have more time to find and indulge in other interests, too; polish our language skills or learn a new craft, such as photography or painting (try this lovely retreat in Scotland).
Cruising has always been a popular choice for couples and families, not least because you can pack in a series of new destinations in a couple of weeks. It’s also a good call for groups of girlfriends looking for something a little different. A far cry from the mass market floating resorts which dominate the Caribbean, you could try an incredible cruise through Iceland’s fjords, with whale watching, visits to waterfalls and even a walking tour of Reykjavik with weather presenter Carol Kirkwood – how’s that for an adventure with your besties?
As we get older, we can finally upgrade our Interrailing adventures and book that once-in-a-lifetime luxury rail trip through the beautiful Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express. Known as ‘the slowest express train in the world’, it travels through the tunnels, viaducts and snowy valleys of Switzerland’s magnificent Oberalp Pass.
Alternatively, a mega trip to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies combines cruising with comfortable rail travel. See orcas, humpback whales and bears on a Holland American cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage before boarding the Rocky Mountaineer for a journey through the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
We’re more adventurous
Older women often become much more adventurous post 50. I turned 51 last year and my bucket list of planned adventures just keeps getting longer. I don’t know what the catalyst is – perhaps it’s the menopause, the easing of responsibility or a more gung-ho attitude to life – but I now say yes to all adventures from exploring Romania’s Carpathian Mountains and staying in an ice hotel to an expedition to see the penguins and icebergs Antarctica.
And the more I travel, the more I want to see. Travelling as an older women is more about learning about different places and cultures. Jordan is a magnetic country which is incredibly safe for female solo travellers. You can join a women-only trip to really get under its skin of the country, meeting local women from Amman, spending the night in the Mars-like landscape of the Wadi Rum desert and being blown away by the beauty of ancient Petra.
Another place that’s amazing for a girls’ holiday is Marrakech. With its atmospheric souks, snake charmers and spice markets, it’s perfect for a long weekend away. Of course, the beauty of travelling in our 50s is that we can splash out on nicer home comforts, like a stay in a stylish riad near the Medina.
Holidays aside, there’s also something to be said about booking an indulgent day trip with your favourite ladies to boost a winter mood. This summer, you can have a posh lunch on the incredible British Pullman, before enjoying a tour of the Balfour Winery in Kent and meeting the charming Dame Joanna Lumley, who knows a thing or two about the joys of travelling the world post 50.