6 Great Vacation Ideas For Vaccinated Travelers Over 65

by Becky Pokora

Forbes Advisor

Tuesday April 13, 2021

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Being 65 or older in 2021 has a few perks. When you're retired, you have time to travel and the flexibility to leave whenever you'd like to. And, now, being 65 means you're eligible for COVID-19 vaccines earlier than other people. Maybe you've already gotten your shots.

Newly vaccinated and a year of staying close to home is the perfect recipe for your passport to be burning a hole in your pocket. Finally, the chance to travel is right around the corner. Not everywhere is open yet, but enough places are that you have a few options if and when you're ready to resume traveling again.

Being vaccinated doesn't excuse you from local regulations, though. Before you travel, you'll need to confirm whether testing is required before arrival (or before heading home) and be prepared to abide by spacing and masking regulations. Still, being vaccinated affords you the peace of mind to start planning—or at least dreaming—where you'll go next.

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Soak Up the Sun Without Leaving the Country

The number of resorts in Arizona is mind-boggling. Choose from properties that specialize in golfing, wellness or ultra-luxurious pools: Phoenix and Tucson have it all. These properties typically drop in price every summer, but this year there are already deals for anyone who wants a luxe trip without the extreme heat.

Spoiled for choice, you'll find five-star properties with all major hotel chains. Properties like the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain and El Conquistador Tucson, a Hilton Resort, are both available for under 40,000 points per night.

Hyatt has numerous options as well, ranging from The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on the lower end of the price scale (12,000 points) to the Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa (45,000 points per person). At Miraval, the rate includes meals, transfers, most activities and a credit toward the spa or specialty experiences.

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See a Part of Europe You've Never Been To Before

The most-visited capitals of Europe are still closed to travelers, whether you've been vaccinated or not. Instead of sulking, use this as an excuse to plan a trip somewhere new. Both Albania and North Macedonia are allowing visitors with no quarantine required. Try Albania if you normally love the rugged coasts along the French Riviera. Pick North Macedonia if you love the history and cuisine of mainland Greece.

Neither country has a lot of chain hotels, though there are a few. You'll have far more options by using flexible currencies toward paid rates booked through credit card travel portals. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem Ultimate Rewards at a rate of 1.25 cents per point toward travel. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you'll get 1.5 cents instead.

Star Alliance currently operates the most flights to the region and there are a lot of great ways to book award tickets. United miles are easy to use and search (with no fuel surcharges), but you'll typically save a few miles by booking through Avianca LifeMiles, an American Express and Citi transfer partner, or ANA, an American Express transfer partner. Transiting European hubs can be a little tricky these days, so be sure to book an award ticket all the way to your final destination to avoid any hangups at airline check-in.

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Get a Dose of Culture

Many of Washington D.C.'s museums are still closed, but in a city with hundreds to choose from, you'll still have plenty to enjoy. Spots like the International Spy Museum and George Washington's Mount Vernon are already open. Outdoor favorites, including the many monuments and memorials, are also open for visitors.

If you're coming in Spring, you'll get the added benefit of thousands of cherry blossoms being in bloom all across the city. However, you can stay away from the more crowded Tidal Basin area by visiting the National Arboretum. This stunning, but under-the-radar, spot features over a thousand trees spread over a socially distanced friendly 400 acres.

You'll find every hotel chain imaginable here, making it easy to redeem points for your stay. Right now is a great time to redeem free night certificates, too. Free nights from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express are valid for hotels priced up to 50,000 points per night which includes properties like The Westin Georgetown, The Mayflower Hotel and the St. Regis Washington, D.C.

Getting to D.C. should be a piece of cake for most frequent flyers. Every airline flies into one or more of the area airports which means there's strong availability on saver award flights. This also might be a great time to pull out your Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: there are a few select routes into Washington Reagan (DCA) but there are dozens into Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). It's not as convenient, but if your companion flies free, it's worth the commute.

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Take an Alaskan Cruise

Many Alaskan cruises this year are cancelled due to local restrictions or cruise lines hoping to avoid Covid-19 outbreaks onboard. Small ship operator Lindblad Expeditions, though, is still planning to operate several itineraries in the upcoming season. With fewer than 100 passengers onboard, you'll have exclusive access to ports that big ships can't reach for epic chances to see wildlife or get up close to glaciers.

These trips take your experience up a notch but are priced to match. However, you can use points to cover the cost of your cruise by redeeming Hyatt points for your journey (or at least earning Hyatt points on the cost of the cruise). Alaskan cruises start at 285,000 points per person for double occupancy. Meals, small group excursions and onboard naturalists are included.

Getting to some of the smaller airports in Alaska, such as Juneau or Ketchikan, can also be pricey. Alaska Airlines will be your best bet for these routes, with award tickets as low as 5,000 miles per person for a one-way flight from Seattle (SEA) to Ketchikan (KTN). If you don't have Alaska miles, the same route can be booked using 7,500 British Airways Avios, which is a Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.

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Visit a New Corner of Mexico

Vaccinated or not, Mexico's largest resort towns are inundated with visitors and communities are stressed. Thankfully, the country has a lot more to offer than Cabo or Cancun. There are Mexican destinations for any personality.

One of them, Mérida, is particularly great for travelers redeeming points. Fly right into Mérida International Airport (MID) with connections through Houston (IAH — on United Airlines) or Miami (MIA — on American Airlines). A saver award is anything priced at 17,500 miles or less for a one-way flight, but American has been generous with Web Specials lately. If your dates are flexible, you might find a flight priced at 10,000 AAdvantage miles.

This is another city with points hotels in almost every program. They're cheap, too. The Hyatt Regency is a Category 1 charging 5,000 points per night. Hilton has hotels at 10,000 points and IHG has two central properties for 12,500 points. If you're on a budget, it's a great destination — especially considering you can eat like a king for a few dollars in town.

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Hug Your Grandchildren

While world travel is fabulous, there's nothing that can compete with re-connecting with family. Your loved ones might not be ready to receive visitors yet, but if they are, put this on the top of your list. Like everything this year, be prepared for it to look a little different from what you're used to. Be prepared to get creative with ways to spend time together safely, like enjoying a day at the park together, unless you're sure your whole family is also vaccinated.

Bottom Line

With more people getting vaccinated every day, we're getting closer to traveling again and seniors can move to the front of the line. Travel is still complicated, but for anyone willing to look into potential restrictions and regulations, the world is waiting.

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