Fall Means It’s Time to Hit the Road

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The kids and grandkids have gone back to school, football season has arrived, and the smell of fall is in the air. For many folks, especially those who are already retired, it’s time to start thinking about hitting the open road or jumping on a plane to do some exploring and relaxing.

Today, we’re going to chat about some of the perfect fall trips for retirees. But if you’re not yet retired, you’ll still pick up a lot of great tips during the show. And who knows, maybe hearing about how retirement provides the freedom to enjoy more travel will inspire you to get together with your financial services professional so you can tighten up your financial strategy and set your own retirement date.

We’ll get today rolling by looking at Europe. Venturing to Europe in the fall has long been popular for retirees because the summer tourist season has passed, and things are generally less busy. However, in addition to the traditional planning tasks, you’ll also need to be aware of COVID-19 rules.

An AARP article, What to Know About COVID-19 Rules and Travel to Europe This Fall, has some terrific insights. The article first addresses the continent’s current COVID situation and its various rules for travelers.

The biggest thing to note is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, guidelines are extremely fluid. For example, in late July, the CDC considered Iceland low risk, but by mid-August, Iceland had been moved to the highest risk category, which means travel isn’t recommended.

You should also note that as COVID numbers change in the United States, European countries may at any time temporarily ban American tourists. In fact, on September 4, Denmark banned all travel from the United States for those who are unvaccinated.

That fact may sound like a bit of a gut punch, but If you’re holding firm to plans to visit Europe this fall or winter, there are some things you can do. 

The name of the game is flexibility. When you begin booking your trip, do it with the idea that your plans could change at any time — whether by circumstances here at home or in Europe.

Build a backup plan that will allow you to shift your itinerary if visiting your preferred destination suddenly becomes impossible. Focus on plane tickets that won’t hit you with change fees and make sure you have a complete understanding of the cancellation policies at the hotels you’re considering.

Finally, when you’re making a list of what you’d like to see on your trip, fill it with outdoor destinations in case museums and historical sites are suddenly closed.

It’s also important to note that if your trip will include multiple countries, you need to prepare for rules and regulations that change from country to country.

The article explains that a survey conducted by Global Data, an economic advisory firm, reveals that a majority of travelers have said that one of the challenges of traveling to Europe is that each of the continent’s countries has its own rules.

If Europe is part of your plans this fall or winter, you may want to work closely with a travel professional who has a thorough understanding of traveling through different European countries.

We’ve mentioned it previously, but this a great time to once again bring up travel insurance.

As many of you likely already know, travel insurance is designed to cushion you against a canceled trip or to help you cover unexpected medical expenses during your trip. But like so many other things, beware of the fine print because travel insurance will only cover what’s explicitly spelled out in the policy.

Before agreeing to purchase a travel insurance plan, go through it closely so you understand what qualifies as covered events. When it comes to COVID-19, you or someone else named in the policy are only covered for the virus if it’s named in the policy as a covered event or if you purchase a “cancel for any reason” plan.

And, when it comes to visiting Europe in the coming months, let’s not forget about the law of supply and demand.

As you can imagine, as Europe has slowly opened back up to visitors during the last several months, many folks have been eager to book a trip. That pent up demand has driven up costs for popular destinations like France, Italy, and Greece. Accordingly, you may want to consider less prominent destinations.

Now let’s look at some fall travel destinations closer to home.

Another AARP article, 8 Beach Towns Perfect for Fall Getaways, has some great ideas about exciting fall trips. In many ways, hitting the beach in the fall is ideal because the weather is still warm enough to dip your toes in the water, but the summer crowds have thinned out.

Newport Beach in California is one location you may want to consider. Located just an hour from Los Angeles International Airport, it features eight miles of beach. You can bike or walk along the boardwalk, take a harbor cruise, or hitch a ride on the Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel. The area is also known for its outstanding variety of restaurants.

Harbor Springs, Michigan, may be just the ticket for fall foliage fans. Located in northern Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, this community features beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, art galleries, antique stores and plenty of hotels and B&Bs.

And don’t forget the “tunnel of trees,” a 20-mile drive along state Highway 119, that takes you under towering trees and onto bluffs that loom down on Lake Michigan.

Florida’s Panama City Beach is another great option for those looking for a warmer beach destination. This area is famous for its pristine water, ample swimming and snorkeling, and St. Andrews State Park, which boasts 27 miles of sandy beaches.

As much as I enjoy checking out the changing leaves, I have to admit that a fall beach trip that still includes drinks with little umbrellas in them sounds pretty good.

But let’s get back to those fall colors for a moment. Delaware’s Rehoboth (ruh-HO-buhth) Beach is less than three hours from Washington D.C. and has become a prime spot for bike riders. If walking is more your speed, the area offers a mile-long boardwalk along the water and beach.

Being that close to Washington D.C. means it would be easy to do a trip that includes Rehoboth Beach and the long list of historical sites around the capital city.

Essentially combining two vacations into one trip is a great way to save yourself time and money. The beach in San Simeon, California, is another popular spot, though not for the reasons you probably expect. While you can’t walk or swim at this beach, there’s still plenty of entertainment thanks to the elephant seals who call it home. In November, males who way as much as 5,000 pounds hit the beach. At certain points in the fall, as many as 15,000 seals may be enjoying the beach.

If 15,000 barking seals aren’t your thing, South Padre Island in Texas may be perfect. While it’s a famous spring break destination, fall brings a more leisurely pace to the area. You’ll be greeted with sweeping views, beautiful beaches, and abundant wildlife. The South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary features a five-story tower where you can enjoy views of an incredible variety of seabirds.

There’s also the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center, which provides boat trips to see the area’s large dolphin population. The region is also famous for its fall fishing. There are numerous charters designed to help you land tarpon or red snapper. You can even toss in a line from one of the many fishing piers.

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