'We're not here for a long time, but for a good time'


With so many public servants about to retire, the over-55s with time and money on their hands have become an important new group for the travel industry, writes ISABEL CONWAY

THEY WERE enough to give senior travel a bad name. Margaret never wanted that holiday in Portugal and now they were about to leave for home she never wants “to see that bloody place again, as long as I live”. “Yes that’s the good thing about a bad holiday - going home, which is a positive joy,” reflects the ultimate crank, Victor One Foot in the GraveMeldrew, from the iconic BBC TV series on growing old ungracefully.

In the real world, the over-55s are a ray of sunshine for the travel industry, especially now with hopes pinned on the flight of the public servants who will have the time and the money – perhaps for that “trip of a lifetime”, or at least a long holiday.

John Grehan, manager of Flexible Trips Ireland, part of thomascook.ie, says that notwithstanding our economic woes, there is some movement at that sublime end of the market, the round-the-world cruise. “We are going to start targeting the public servants, especially those with family or children who have emigrated to places like Canada and Australia and the recently retired, and those who will leave shortly – including public servants – are already asking about long-haul, multi-centre trips.”

Anyone believing that senior travellers want no more than a beach bed or a guided bus tour with frequent pit-stops, is out of touch, says senior travel specialist James Malone.

“The over-55s are often far more active than those half their age, and being retired but still young enough to travel with the mortgage paid off and the family reared, is creating a new and important target group for us,” he adds.

Malone, who set up seniortrips.iefive years ago, believes that specialised travel for older active people, from walking holidays and themed city cultural trips, to sports- and hobbies-linked packages, are going to be ever more popular. During the Celtic Tiger era, middle-aged and retired people were snapping up holiday properties in Spanish sunspots. Now the demand is for rental – two holidays or a longer period away enjoying cheaper out-of-season rates. The long-stay sojourn – overwintering – down on the Costa del Sol is increasingly popular too, and can work out cheaper than staying home in Ireland.

Retired Dublin home economics teacher Iris Condron and her husband Barry will celebrate their 60th birthdays by donning their leathers and biking the length of US Route 66, stopping off on the way in Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows at the Elvis Chapel.

“We are not here for a long time, we are here for a good time,” is her motto. The future biking queen’s only concession to turning 60 is that she insists on it being a three-wheeler motorbike. “Easier to throw my leg over and harder to fall off.”

Kathleen and Bernard McMahon – he is a retired public servant from the Department of Justice – have travelled extensively since he retired early. They took a trip around the world in 2000 and marked his retirement with a cruise to Alaska. Thanks to Sir David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet,business is booming for holidays in the world’s chillier regions and another favorite “trip of a lifetime” is an African safari, with Irish operators and travel agents reporting that many more older travellers are opting for this ultimate travel experience.


Bernard and Kathleen McMahon recommend you:

– Thoroughly research destinations and prices on the Internet.

– Once you have picked a country, read up on the history, culture, people and food so you get the most out of the experience while there.

– As you get older, the quest to travel further with exhausting long-haul flights diminishes.

– There are wonderful parts of the world to explore nearer home. We love Italy and Austria.

James Malone, managing director seniortrips.iesays:

– Look after the necessities such as good travel insurance and other practicalities.

– Do your research. Location is everything: close to public transport, medical facilities, cultural attractions and shops and restaurants and being able to access a beautiful city or town.

– Book early to avail of the best offers and good-quality accommodation