Retirement Road Trips: Five bucket list holidays worth saving for

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Into the wild: A luxe tent room on safari in Tanzania
Into the wild: A luxe tent room on safari in Tanzania
Larger than life: Auckland’s Karekare Waterfall
A glimpse of Ushuaia, Argentina
Gold Class on the Golden Eagle Luxury Train
A bronze lion standing guard at Forbidden City, Beijing

So you’ve worked hard, and retirement is on the horizon.

Maybe it’s several months off, maybe a couple of years. You’re not entirely sure how you’ll spend the next chapter of your life, but a fantasy holiday to mark the occasion would be the dream. 

Everyone’s ideal trip is going to be different, but the travel experts all agree on one thing: the same destinations and style of trips tend to pop up on retirement bucket list trips every year. Consulting the pros, we’ve selected five epic voyages to kick start your retirement in style. Start saving now!

1. The expedition cruise

A glimpse of Ushuaia, Argentina

John Galligan Travel has carved out a niche with mature clients, offering high-end adventures for time-rich travellers.

“Our ‘Bucket List’ programme is designed specifically for people celebrating a big event in their lives, like a significant anniversary or special birthdays, and many of those are retirements,” John says.

He recommends drawing up a shortlist of places of interest before booking anything, then discussing the pros and cons. Years of experience show that off-the-beaten-track destinations book out fast, and he recommends pricing a trip now, to gauge expected costs, even if you don’t plan on travelling for a few years.

The trip: Luxury Antarctica Expedition

Taking in 11 ports and three countries, this 20-night expedition includes 16 luxurious nights aboard Silversea’s Silver Cloud Expedition with a balcony suite, taking in Argentina, Chile and the Falklands before hitting Antarctica. With a night in Buenos Aires and one in Santiago, the ship – which got a much-needed makeover in November 2017 – will take you to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, including three extraordinary Falkland Islands. Icy Elephant Island, Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands all offer up incredible wildlife sightings, including penguins, whales, seals and seabirds. Last port is Ushuaia on the tip of Argentina, before flying to Chile’s exciting capital for a final night.

Best for: Wildlife fans who don’t mind long days at sea.

Cost: €11,250pps (equivalent to saving €625 per month over three years, based on two sharing). Flights, balcony cabin, on-board fine dining, beverages, gratuities, guided Zodiac cruises, land and sea tours are all included in the price.

Book: (01) 207 6555;

More: Act now as the pensions timebomb goes tick-tock…

2. The luxury safari

Into the wild: A luxe tent room on safari in Tanzania

Liane Goldring of Mahlatini Luxury Travel believes safari is the perfect bucket list experience as it offers such a unique and different holiday.

“Being on safari allows you to re-connect with nature and yourself on a level most people have never experienced,” she says. “It is simply life-affirming, even life-changing!”

Liane recommends planning well in advance, as most safari camps and lodges are small and those in the best locations get booked up quickly (you’ll need to get your visas and vaccinations sorted too).

“Always get help from an expert to help you plan things,” she says. “The best safari experts have been to and experienced all the destinations they offer and are best placed to guide you on where and when to travel to make sure you get the most from your journey.”

The trip: Highlights of Northern Tanzania

An 11-night trip taking in the best of Tanzania, including the celebrated Serengeti, you’ll fly from Dublin to Kilimanjaro before staying in some of Africa’s most famous game reserves. Accommodation is a mix of luxury vintage safari tents (think Out of Africa) and cottages – on a working farm close to the iconic Ngorongoro Crater – and transfers include the romance of light aircraft. The wildlife will thrill you, with each game drive offering a new experience. Your trip ends in the Serengeti, in a luxury, mobile camp that relocates throughout the year to maximise game viewing.

Best for: Animal lovers who like their creature comforts.

Cost: From €9,610pps (or €534 per month if you save over three years, based on two sharing). All flights, transfers, scheduled safari activities, meals and beverages at all-inclusive properties are included.

Book it: (01) 906 1883;

More: ‘Don’t retire – rewire’: The tried and tested strategies for retirement

3. The iconic train journey

Gold Class (1).jpg
Gold Class on the Golden Eagle Luxury Train

Golden Eagle Luxury Trains are experts on epic rail trips, specialising in long-distance journeys to some of the world’s most remote and captivating destinations.

“Typically two to three weeks in length, they’re often very difficult to access independently,” explains marketing manager Natasha Baker.

“The iconic Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok (or vice versa) is one of our most popular trips,” she adds, as it appeals “to time-rich adventurers, looking to explore new destinations in comfort and style.

Book far in advance, however, as many departures only happen once or twice a year. “Certain tours can sell out six to nine months in advance, with our highest suite categories often selling out 12-18 months ahead.”

The trip: Persia and The Silk Road

On a 16-day rail journey aboard the elegant Golden Eagle train, you’ll traverse Central Asia and Iran, following an ancient trade route while enjoying a cinematic window on this remote part of the world. The adventure begins in cosmopolitan Almaty, where the Golden Eagle train will whisk you westwards across Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Highlights include exotic Samarkand, ancient trade hubs and the ‘Las Vegas of the Kara Kum.’ Passing into Iran, you’ll visit Mashhad and the Shahdad Desert, before time in Shiraz and two nights in thrilling Tehran.

Best for: Culturally curious lovers of train travel.

Cost: From €17,646pps (or €980 savings per month over five years, based on two sharing), including three nights’ hotel stays, 12 nights on the Golden Eagle in Silver Class, all meals, drinks, guided off-train excursions, transfers and gratuities. Flights are extra.

Book: +44 (161) 928 941;

More: ‘Remember to smile a lot’ – How to prepare for retirement

4. The Asian odyssey

A bronze lion standing guard at Forbidden City, Beijing

“The Far East might be better known as a backpacker, island-hopping destination but also holds appeal for retirees,” explains Tanya Airey, MD of Sunway – voted Ireland’s Favourite Travel Agent in our Reader Travel Awards 2019. “Four- and five-star hotels are much less expensive than in Europe and the US and the service is unbeatable. Reaching a ‘certain age’ is respected and revered there too!” Tanya advises booking at least 10 months prior to travel dates to get the best deals and options. Check prices and deals now to budget and allow for a 10-15pc change. Sunway operates a payment plan so you can pay your deposit on booking and make regular payments to spread the cost. “You can decide the number of months or weeks you want to spread payments over and budget accordingly,” says Tanya.

The trip: Five-star China

A luxury, 14-night all-inclusive trip to China that showcases the best of this ancient powerhouse. From vibrant Shanghai to a relaxing four-night river cruise along the mighty Yangtze, you’ll experience the joys of urban and rural China. China’s Panda Conservation Centre, a trip on the bullet train and The Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses are all highlights. Last stop is bustling Beijing, with trips to Tiananmen Square, the magnificent Forbidden City, Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China.

Best for: Active retirees with a passion for adventure.

Cost: From €3,690pp (or a saving of €205 per month over three years, based on two sharing). Flights, accommodation, meals, sightseeing, transfers, guides and visa fees included.

Book: (01) 231-1800;

5. The epic road trip

Queenstown Airport, New Zealand. Photo: Deposit

A land of alpine peaks, glacial lakes, deserted beaches, vast national parks, sublime forests and cosmopolitan cities, New Zealand is a sight for sore eyes and the ultimate reward for flying halfway around the world. Given the length of the flight, it makes sense to stay for at least two weeks to explore the beauty and diversity of the North and South Islands. The pace of life is relaxed and a carefully planned road trip offers a memorable bucket list journey, surrounded by magnificent scenery. Add in luxury accommodation, and everyone from outdoors enthusiasts and nature fans to wine lovers and keen drivers will treasure the experience.

The trip: Ultimate New Zealand self-drive

A relaxing 21-night self-drive trip that takes you to many of the country’s most celebrated destinations, this holiday could see you traverse the North and South islands, discovering startling scenery and culture en route. Starting in Auckland and ending in Queenstown, the itinerary takes in coastal cities, geothermal landscapes and sparkling lakes, stopping off in luxurious and unique properties along the way. From country estates to stylish lodges, the resort stays along the way are chic, luxurious and laidback. There’s plenty of downtime and days off from driving, including an overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound. Highlights include Rotorua’s unique geothermal activity, Napier’s natural beauty, Wellington’s beachside charm and the wineries of Marlborough.

Best for: Drivers looking for a structured trip, but with plenty of room to explore by themselves.

Cost: 21 nights from €19,289pp (or saving of €1,072 per month over three years, based on two sharing) including international business class flights, 4WD car hire, internal transfers and flights, luxury accommodation, many meals and adventures including a flight over the Kaikoura Peninsula, dolphin cruise at Marlborough Sounds and a Taste Marlborough tour.

Book: (01) 664 9930;

Top Tips

Bucket list holidays are expensive. Start saving in a dedicated account, and shop around to get an idea of itineraries and prices. Book with a licensed and bonded travel agent to make sure your trip is protected.

NB: All prices subject to availability. Savings figures based on 2019 prices, which are likely to rise over time.

Weekend Magazine

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