April 2, 2012

Retirement Vacation Ideas Galore: Get Packing !

A part of a satisfying retirement for many of us is an active travel schedule. Depending upon our budget and personal desires, that could mean cruises, trips to Europe, and a few weeks in Hawaii. It might mean a long weekend in Durango, The Olympic National Forest, The Shenandoah Valley, or a B&B in Bar Harbor, Maine. It might mean checking into a hotel in a small town like Patagonia, three hours away from the dog, responsibilities, and routine.

A few comments left on an earlier post asked me to investigate some travel options for us to ponder. I've located a few lists of places to visit and explore, some more expense than others, and the majority are within the continental U.S. so potentially doable by the bulk of the readers of this blog.

I know there are a lot of readers of this blog live in other countries: England, India, Canada, and Australia lead the list. For you folks, I'd ask a favor: leave a comment below with some of the most interesting and out-of-the way spots to visit in your country. Other readers who live there might find a great weekend getaway idea, or a longer excursion.

So, are you ready to hit the road (or the skies, the seas, or the rails)?

This first site is from a fellow who collects vacation ideas. Some people collect stamps, quilts,  antique radios, old movie posters, or even tea spoons. peter Shannon collects ideas for trips. His lists are extensive and fascinating. The first section includes 10 trips, some of which are overseas. He describes what makes each such a memorable experience.

Just below that is a seemingly endless list of vacation ideas grouped by location or type. Romantic vacations, those for the adventurous among us, unique places, seasonal trips, trips grouped by states or regions...the choices are all there. This link is one you should bookmark for all those times when the urge to explore hits: 1001 Vacation Ideas.


Another idea is to put together your own trip based around a theme. My wife and I like to drive portions of old Route 66. The famous "Mother Road" is still quite accessible in several places along its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Old style motels, caf├ęs, and general stores that once bustled with travelers remain open for those who like to visit an important part of our past. Books that allow you to trace the route and provide specific, mile-by-mile recaps of what used to be there are loads of fun.

Betty and I have plans to visit all the National Parks, by region. Besides being a tremendous road trip, it will feed her photographic need for years. You can specialize on national monuments, state parks, or anything that can be labeled. How about all the places with picnic facilities that overlook a lake or stream within 150 miles of your home? Do you like to read? How about a trip that visits the best independent bookstores in your home state or region of the country? Any hobby or passion can form the basis of a trip that you will remember forever.

The web sites above are fabulous resources. But, the best idea generator lies between your ears. Take anything you like and build a vacation around that idea, hobby, or passion. And, of course, planning that trip is at least half the fun!

Get packing.


46 comments:

  1. It's funny. I am not big on travel. I don't like being away from my studio and my art for too long......I usually bring a sketch book with me when I do go though so my art stays fed.

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    1. Honestly, I am finding I am happier with shorter trips. Packing up for a 2 week vacation, making all the arrangements, and then dealing with everything that has piled up when we get home is not as attractive to me as it once was. I like the 2-3 day quick getaways with maybe one longer trip sometime during the year.

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  2. Long vacations are a necessity for us with grandkids in London, son in Africa. We saw him a year ago November and traveled through SA (Capetown and the little Karoo (wine country) were spectacular). Then Vic Falls, Chobe Game park. We'd NEVER have seen the things we did or done anything this exotic were it not for his being there. And with him there and making arrangements, it's not as expensive as you might think. In 2004 we visited him in Peace Corps in Mali, spent two nights in Timbuktu; sorry to see the Tuareg rebels recently took it. To see photos and news of strife in a place you visited is just disconcerting.

    Well, we're all excited about planning a June/July sojourn to see him now in Tanzania for two weeks, followed by a visit to grandkids for a week on way home. These long exotic trips are hard (30 hours wheels up to landing in Tanzania - ugh) but so very memorable not only for the locale but to be able to spend the quality time with our son. I like shorter trips too, but right now between the kids locales and difficulty arranging for care of mother in law who lives with us, long trips will be the order of the day.

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    1. If I were in your situation, Allan, I would probably have a very different response. With all of my immediate family here in Phoenix the only reason for Betty and me to travel long distances is purely for the experiences. We do want to go back to Europe to see Paris, Amsterdam, and London (again). That may be our only extended trip outside of the U.S. that we still want to take.

      I know you don't have a choice in the matter, but I would have a hard time with my children and grandkids scattered all over the world. I can readily admit it would be tough to only see them once a year or so.

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  4. Visiting all 56 National Parks is on my bucket list. We've been to 18 so far, and have trips planned to get to another 12 in the next two years, hiking sticks and camera in hand.

    Each of the National Parks we've been to thus far are utterly fabulous and/or beautiful in their own unique ways. And the adventures we've had in visiting them! We have been spied on by a wild goat in US Virgin Islands National Park, walked oh-so-carefully around an alligator blocking a hiking trail in Evergreen National Park, slept in long pants secured by rubber bands over thick socks to avoid being bit by tiny scorpion in Death Valley National Park, rock climbed (now THAT was a thrill!) and kayaked in Acadia National Park, and listened to a bear pawing at a log outside of our trailer in Yosemite National Park.

    Summer of 2013 will find us knocking off five National Parks in N. California, Oregon and Washington as part of an 8-week RV'ing trip. In the summer of 2014 we plan to cover the National Parks in Wyoming and the Dakotas, and in the fall of 2014 the National Parks in Arizona and New Mexico.

    Getting to the remote National Parks in the interior of Alaska will be the biggest challenge . . . we're hoping to visit them as part of a multi trailer caravan in the summer of 2015 some friends are just now beginning to plan out.

    I start to get antsy if I'm home to many weekends in a row! I must get it from my father, who turns 77 this year - he's in the midst of preparations for an eight week spring season trip to tour northeast Canada on his motorcycle.

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    1. You ARE serious about the National Parks goal..looking ahead 3 years! The ones we have visited fit your description..all different and all fascinating in their own way. We have clicked off many in the west, but need to get back east to tackle the ones we missed in all the years of growing up there.

      77 and an 8 week motorcycle trip...that is impressive. Go Dad!

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    2. OW! 77 going for 8 weeks on a motorcycle. That is amazing.
      I'd like to sign up for that 2015 camper trailer tour of Alaska. Sounds excellent. Love Alaska!

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    3. All while towing a small motorcycle-sized trailer that pops up into a full sized camping tent no less. Yep, eight weeks on a motorcycle AND in a tent. He makes his morning coffee on a small backpacking sized single burner stove, then his breakfast on same before closing down and hitting the road. He is truly, truly amazing and I can only hope some of it rubs off on, and stays with me, as well.

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  5. When my husband retires next year, we are getting an RV and hitting the road but I also would like to do shorter trips. His idea for retirement is "doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it" including picking up and traveling on the spur of the moment. However, for me, when I have to make the arrangements for things to be taken care of at home and also get ready for each trip, I can't really do spur of the moment and longer trips do take more planning.

    One longer trip we'll have to make though is to go to Oregon to spend time with my parents, who are in their 80's.

    One thing we are doing that is exciting is going on a cruise to Belize and Honduras for our 25th anniversary. I've been to Europe when I was in the Navy but haven't been to Central America.

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    1. I'm beginning to feel like the only retired person without an RV. Betty and I have discussed renting one for a 10 day stay in San Diego at some point this summer just to see how we (and the puppy) do in such a confined space.

      I know people who absolutely love Belize and Costa Rica and wouldn't mind retiring there. Sounds like an exciting trip.

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    2. Keep us posted on that! Some of your Southern California readers just might like to take you and your wife to lunch should they happen to be in residency when you are in San Diego . . . :-)

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    3. Joan - Belize seems to be the "it" destination currently! We know so many folk that have either just been, or are planning to go soon.

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  6. Travel seems to center around children last year and next. I figured out that we purchased 14 plane tickets from April to April! I am seeing a travel trailer in our near future.
    Does anyone travel with pets? Our two are the major expense when we travel (kenneling).
    Has anyone traveled by road to Central/ South America?
    Rome is on the docket for next April (with side jaunts to several Italian cities and Germany). We are waiting to see if Europe can get itself together by next year. Of course our quarterly trips to see children/ grandchild continues....

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    1. Janette, according to a 2007 article in USA Today (and I doubt much has changed since) over half of RVers do . . . http://traveltips.usatoday.com/tips-rv-travel-pet-15634.html

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    2. 14 plane tickets? You probably have enough frequent flier miles to go anywhere you want.

      A major factor in getting an RV for us would be the ability to travel with a pet. Kenneling is expensive, it can be dangerous to your pet's health, and it's hard on the animal. We have a friend who is a dog sitter but I wouldn't want to go that route for a long trip.

      You will love Italy. Rome is crowded, loud, and the Romans are rude..they will knock you right off the sidewalk. But, the historical nature of the city makes it a must-see. Venice is incredible, Florence is stunning, and Tuscany is to die for.

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  7. Good article, Bob - thanks. My wife is less and less inclined to take any vacations that involve flying, since she sees what happens to me with my frequent flying for work (cancelled flights, delays, getting home after midnight, etc). She wants trips that are closer and ones we can do on the Harleys whenever possible, be they overnights or otherwise. A suggestion for people that would like something interesting, especially if you like history - try to visit a number of Civil War battlefields. You can start (or end depending on your preference) in PA with Gettysburg, down to MD and Antietam, through VA and their myriad of sites, and end in TN with huge battle sites such as Shiloh and Chickamauga on the AL border. Most have no admission charge and you'll be brought to tears hearing the stories of how brother fought (sometimes literally) brother to make this country a true union.

    I also like your suggestion of the Route 66 ride, Bob. That is one of my wife's dreams to do on the motorcycles.

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    1. Whenever I begin to think air travel is OK, I pull out my million miler card from Delta or American Airlines and remember how much of my life was spent in small metal tubes or in over-crowded terminals on hard chairs. It cures that desire instantly.

      Civil War battlefields would be a great trip. I'm not a big civil war buff, but the countryside is so pretty that visits would be tremendous. Not civil war, obviously, but when I was growing up my family lived for a time within sight of Valley Forge. We could see it from our backyard. Just thinking about what happened there 200 years earlier made one stop and think about all the sacrifices.

      Route 66 is still drivable and enjoyable in several sections in several states. The book, Route 66 Across Arizona, by Richard and Sherry Mangum, is our bible. The details and insight make the trip across northern Arizona so memorable. They have plotted out every single mile with pictures and hidden facts. It is a ball.

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  8. What great resources, Bob! Naturally, I'm not so inclined to vacation living in paradise as I do. I would like to explore my own island more and occasionally like to pop over to the other side of the island.

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    1. The Big island has so much to enjoy, you could have a tremendous time just checking it out in detail. For those who haven't had the chance to visit, Hilo is a fascinating part of old Hawaii. The old downtown, the Tsunami Museum, and the park along the sea are beautiful and not overrun by tourists. South of town is the awe-inspiring Volcano National Park with lava flowing into the sea.

      Waimea is a quaint, small ranching town with a peaceful feel to it.

      Kailua-Kona is the center of tourism but still nothing like the mob scenes at Lahaina or Honolulu. South of town the areas around Captain Cook have tremendous bays for snorkeling and diving.

      Add in all the history and archaeological sites and the Big island could keep anyone busy for years, even you Sandra!

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  9. Like Sandra, I live where I would want to vacation! However, like many people, I tend to overlook the great places in my own back yard, so to speak. I've lived in Oregon for 20 years, and I still haven't been to Crater Lake. I'm going this summer for sure!

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    1. A few years ago I finished writing a travel book about Arizona that helped us find all the hidden corners of the state. I based the book on the abbreviation of Arizona: AZ. I picked 26 places in the state, one for each letter of the alphabet, and visited them all. Betty took pictures, while I researched and wrote about the place or thing. We avoided most of the well-known destinations and concentrated on the small or out-of-the-way locales. By the time we were done I had an alphabetical travel guide of the state from A to Z.

      The project allowed us to visit places and seen hidden treasures that many life-long residents of the state had not been to, or in some cases, even heard of.

      Any state offers the same opportunities. Galen, you could make a list of places in Oregon, starting with A and ending in Z, visit them all, and write about it.

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  10. We have a house at the beach which is a dream come true but it also means we forgo vacations for long stretches of time. I've been exploring the possibilities of house swapping with someone in Italy, perhaps. Have you looked into that?
    Great resources you've given here!
    b

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    1. I haven't looked into house swapping but Syd at Retirement-A Full Time Job blog does house swapping all over the world. Linda at A Bag Lady in Waiting blog just finished doing a house swap in Ecuador.

      Both would be good resources to contact.

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    2. Barbara, we've exchanged homes a dozen times now and each and every experience has been great. There are a bunch of sites to find matches, my favorite is homeexchange.com. Here are some tips: http://retiredsyd.typepad.com/retirement_a_fulltime_job/2011/11/home-exchange-for-beginners.html

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  11. I'm a bit late in commenting on your recent post about travel. You asked for readers in other countries to provide recommendations. Canada is very accessible for people from the US and offers a variety of experiences. Your readers can easily arrive by motorcycle, car of RV -- or by plane, bus or train.
    Some of my favourite Canadian travel experiences:
    1. Newfoundland -- one of Canada's two island provinces with strong coastal fishing traditions. Best accessed by plane but there is ferry service if you want your vehicle with you. The island is large -- driving across takes a couple of days. Bonus -- the people are extraordinary -- the island music is unique -- and, best of all, you might get to watch icebergs drifting along the coast.
    2. Prince Edward Island -- the 2nd island province in Canada -- much smaller than Nfld with red sand beaches and excellent lobster.
    3. Driving the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island (Cape Breton is part of the province of Nova Scotia) is a unique experience. You'll be reminded of the highlands in Scotland. Breath-taking but beware the black flies if you camp!
    4. Montreal and Quebec City -- both are full of history. You'll be surrounded by french culture -- the European influence is evident in both cities. Although both cities are primarily french speaking, I never have any difficulty as an anglophone.
    5. The Canadian side of the 5 great lakes is a very long car/RV trip but how many of us can say that we went swimming in each of those 5 great bodies of water? There are many small cities and small towns scattered along the lakes -- some great eating spots; lots of summer theatre and many opportunities to rent a cottage and kick back.
    6. Yellowknife in the NW Territories -- it truly is a prospector's town. If you visit during the summer equinox, you can play in a golf tournament that starts at midnight and goes through the night because the sun does not set. It's a weird experience to walk through the streets in the middle of the night yet have natural bright light. Hotels are equipped with darkening curtains as sleep aids.
    7. Banff National Park in Alberta -- a perfect spot for a 2nd honeymoon especially is you spring for a couple of nights at Chateau Lake Louise.
    8. Jasper National Park (also in Alberta) is a bit further north. For me, it is the most beautiful of Canada's national parks -- especially Emerald Lake which is truly the colour of an emerald.
    9. In British columbia, a visit to see the Canadian Rockies, a side trip to the Okanagan valley, taking time for a British tea experience at the Empress hotel in Victoria, and, best of all, the cruise from Vancouver to Alaska.

    My most recent travel experience was spending a couple of weeks last month exploring the plantation homes in Charleston SC and Savannah, Georgia -- a trip that gave me a glimpse of the beautiful culture in that part of your great country.

    Be well, Jeanette

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    1. Jeanette, your answer was well worth waiting for. What a tremendous overview of places and things in Canada.

      I admit I have spent too little time in your country, except for Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Montreal and liked them all. I have always wanted to visit Quebec City and feel like I was in France. Friends of ours took a cruise out of Boston that stopped in Newfoundland and found it charming.

      You have given me a whole new list of places to visit in an RV (when I get one!)

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    2. Sigh . . . Canada is so, so on our list of places to visit in our RV. It sounds like we'll need a good three to four months to do so, possibly breaking in into two visits over two different summers - western Canada one summer, eastern Canada the next.(And Bob, now you see why we are planning out our trips several years in advance . . . there are just so many wonderful places to see, and only so many good weather months in any given year to do so!)

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    3. This post may have been a mistake....my travel bug is now in full attack and my interest in trying RV travel has never been higher...too bad it is hitting when gas is $4 a gallon.

      Jeanette's detailed response is great...I admit Canada is pretty much unknown to me, until now. There are some fabulous places to see.

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    4. I'm from Ontario and it is a beautiful province to visit but I agree with putting Newfoundland as number 1. Our family took a tent trailer and camped our way across Canada to get out east and came back through Maine, Vermont, and New York state. One of the best trips we ever took. Newfoundland is a hidden gem as far as I'm concerned and more people need to experience it (including more Canadians).

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    5. It is 4,100 from Phoenix to Newfoundland! Kathy's comment is meant for everyone east of the Mississippi or Winnipeg.

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  12. My husband spent early adult years with the Ford Foundation, living in different countries in Africa. I've never been with him to Africa, so we decided before we got any older, we would take a trip to -- Uganda. Still in the planning stages, a little further along than beginning. We have friends there who will take off time to be with us. And then a local travel agency to provide guides for mini-safari's to two national park areas. Air travel has proven to be a stumbling block. The flights take so long, with too many days of travel to and from, and all appear so expensive. Usually for exotic trips we go with a group, but we are leaning towards putting this one together with the help of friends. I love to travel, but arthritis in neck and shoulders proves challenging on these long flights.

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    1. Some friends of ours just returned from a trip to the Holy Land..almost 15 hours of flying time from Phoenix. I'm not sure I could do that. I would guess getting to Uganda is even more difficult. I simply can't sit for that long on a cramped plane.

      It sounds like something you and hubby would really like to do, so I hope it works out for you. If you do go at some point, please stop back here with a report. If you have some interesting stories and photos I'll even write a blog post about it!

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  13. Thanks for the links, Bob, they have some great ideas. I'm about 2 years away from "full" retirement, and travel is definitely on my agenda. I have several different entries on my bucket list that involve travel - all the Texas state parks, all the US states - and I may add all the national parks as well. I am definitely bookmarking this post and all the informative replies. I really like your idea of doing an A-Z list within your state - Texas is so large that I will probably have to break it into regions.

    If you're ever in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area, give me a shout. I can play tour guide as well as host.

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    1. Arizona doesn't have any place or thing with the letter "Z." I had to get creative and write about the "Zonies," the less-than-flattering nickname Southern Californians give to Arizona residents who invade San Diego to get away from the heat every summer.

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    2. Bob, personally I love our neighbors to the east, and actually consider 'Zonies" a flattering term due to their knowledge of how to get out of the heat. Ever been to Phoeniz in summer...usually known for 100 days of over 100 degree heat in a row. Anyway, we welcome the "Zonies" as friends and neighbors to our City of San Diego!

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    3. We are heading out of town for most of this summer. After 30 years in Phoenix we have finally 1) proven we can survive summer here and 2) decided we are tired of doing so!

      Both my daughters lived in San Diego for a time so we became very familiar with the area. There is few places in the country more beautiful, especially from June-September.

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  14. Hi Bob!

    Love that your loving retirement life. I'm quite far from the age of retirement at 25 but I personally feel that I shouldn't wait until I retire to go a-packing as I always fear that 1) I may not live that long or 2) I may be too sick to travel then. So I try to enjoy life and travel when I can albeit still responsibly. I'm originally from the Philippines. If ever you do decide to go on vacation there, check Palawan, Batanes, Boracay, just to name a few. It's a lovely country and we Filipinos are known to be warm and hospitable.

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    1. Knowing when to spend money on travel even though it may not be in the current budget is important. You have identified on of the key reasons: health. None of us has any idea when something will make travel difficult or impossible.

      My sister-in-law is from the Philippines. She says the same thing about her country and its people.

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  15. Bob, how I wish that I could get packing. Maybe someday that will be possible for me since it is a retirement dream. Route 66 is one of my favorites too. Keep up the good work of living and writing about retirement.

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    1. Driving old Route 66 is a kick (get it?). There are enough traces left of what it was during its glory times to make it a fascinating experience. Arizona has some of the longest stretches of the road still in good shape.

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  16. Thanks for the share! My wife and I recently took the grandkids for a long weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio. I know what you are thinking, taking the grandkids to a water park are you crazy? Well granted at the beginning of the trip I was thinking that myself, but I soon realized it was going to be nothing like I had envisioned. The kids went off and road the slides and lazy river all day while my wife and I hung out, had lunch, and even went in the hot tub. Now how does that sound?

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  17. I can still recall the moment when I first got my tourist guide license, WOW!! I knew that is the moment where I'll got the chance to expose myself in many places with lots of new friends! It really widened your eye sights when you got the chance to know more people and places around the world.

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  18. Thank you Bob! I will remember your words keenly in 15+ years when I reach my retirement age. Great advice for my parents meanwhile!

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    1. There are enough great ideas here, Jess, that you could plan lots of vacations while you are still working!

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  19. In your retirement you want to relax. I think a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is just ideal. You get great service, stop at the most beautiful locations and plenty of evening entertainment on board. And Cruise travel seems to really have dropped down quite a bit in price over the past couple of years.

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