Three's A'loud

Top tips for travelling when you are older - Part 2

When we returned to South Africa from our travels as young adults, a family member asked if we didn’t regret spending so much money on tours and excursions while we were overseas. “Surely” this person said “you are devastated that you didn’t save that money to put down on a home-loan or a vehicle-instalment.”

“The only thing we regret,” my husband replied, “is that we didn’t spend twice as much on travelling while we had the chance.”

Fast forward 10 years and it was a little harder to convince him to fork out on plane tickets. After all, in the past decade our little family had grown from two to five. Also, our assets had grown from 30 CDs to a house, a car and a truckload of other necessary and not-quite-so-necessary things that all had to be maintained and paid on a monthly basis. But I was a woman on a mission. I really wanted to experience the thrill of taking off in one time zone and touching down in another. I wanted again to see how other cultures handle the same challenges we have in different ways. I wanted to see more of the natural wonders our amazing planet holds!!!

On top of the world. Inca trail, Peru.

When we travelled in our early twenties we just arrived somewhere and found a job and drank beer in the local pubs to learn more about the traditions and habits of our host-country but now we

  • Did not have that much time and
  • we had the miracle of google at our fingertips.

So my second top tip for travelling when you are older is to

  1. Do your research.

    It sounds obvious but during our trip to South America we joined so many other travellers on some of our day trips and random activities who arrived on the continent with almost NO knowledge of local history, language or traditions. Planning your trip, researching the best things to do and finding the ultimate excursions is at least half the fun of travelling to a new place.

  2. Get a good balance between free time and planned excursions.

    My third tip. I read so many online reviews and comments from travellers insisting that you need to get away from “commercialized tourist traps” and organised tours. When we were in our early twenties I tended to see their point. But you know what, at our (not so old) age there is no more time to be a travel snob. We booked lots of guided walks and tours because it is really wonderful to hear local history from locals. Although I had some doubts we went to almost every single one of the “commercialised tourist traps”. And you know what I realised all over again? They are famous because they are amazing! YES we went up to the Christ the Redeemer statue. Sure there are crowds, but if you just stop moaning and turn your back on the 40 people trying to take the exact same selfie, you will be amazed at the breathtaking views of amazing Rio. (Ps. I am not a selfie-snob. Of course we took about 600 selfies too.)

    Rio selfies

    Another unexpected benefit of guided tours is that often you get to skip queues. Lots of them. When I started planning our trip I thought that we would save money by going to the main attractions ourselves. But the truth is not that simple. For example: you can go up onto Sugarloaf Mountain yourself or with a tour operator. If you go with a tour operator it costs quite a bit of money. But you get to skip most queues and have a professional person telling you exactly why the things you are seeing are famous and significant. If you go yourself you have to walk there (time) or get a taxi (cost). Then you have to stand in a queue to buy tickets for the cable car (time) and pay for the tickets (cost). When you have your tickets, you have to stand in another queue to board the cable car (time). When you get to the top it is amazing but you have to figure out for yourself what you are looking at or keep on paging through your guidebook (time and distraction).

    Please do your own research about the places you want to see, but after adding up all the time and cost factors it is often much easier and costs about the same to book a reputable tour operator. I am so happy that we decided to leave the finding of the right taxi, getting to the correct entrance and standing in long queues to the younger travellers who still have their entire lives before them.

    Gerhard and Susan. Rio de Janeiro 2018

    By the way, I found all my favourite guided excursions on Tripadvisor and AirBNB experiences. Check it out and also be sure to google “Top ten things to do in…” for a treasure trove of ideas from locals and tourists alike.

All that being said, after you have booked all the guided tours and excursions your heart desires, make sure you leave some free time for yourself to go back to your favourite beach, forest, mountain or restaurant.

Sunset on Ipanema beach

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