Backpacking is a great way to travel the world and learn more about the people and places you visit. With rising accommodation costs a considerable drain on a holiday budget, it often means ending up with a short, expensive holiday, and not enough time to really explore your destination. Cut down on accommodation costs and you can stay longer and see more. This strategy is particularly suited to both younger and older travellers, who may not have to rush back to a job or who don’t have family commitments.
So, the ubiquitous, typically young backpacker has some hot competition for space in their favourite hostels. First, there are the flashpackers, independent travellers with means, who will splash out on everything except accommodation. These people might travel light, but generally take accessories such as a Blackberry for constant communication, an ipod for entertainment, a digital camera, and most have a GPS system on their mobile phone to ensure they don’t get lost.
Then there’s the greypackers, older folk who have been there, done cruise ships, guided coach tours, and the like, and who are fit enough to travel the way they did many years ago. Some of these are “grey nomads” used to venturing north for the winter pulling their caravans, or driving their motorhomes, and who decide to try a holiday without these ‘impediments’. And then there are those who choose save on the high costs associated with this form of travel – to take advantage of cheap airfares and budget accommodation – so they can travel to more exotic, distant destinations.
Hostels and budget accommodations everywhere are waking up to the fact that their customers are not all just out of school and enjoying a gap year adventure on a shoestring. In fact, many of their guests are well off, will spend up on good food and side trips, but don’t like wasting money on a level of accommodation that they don’t require for their travels. And these people often enjoy the camaraderie and travel-tip swapping that makes a backpacker lodge so useful. Consequently, accommodation owners are setting aside quieter rooms and living areas for older travellers, including seniors, who don’t necessarily want to party into the late hours.
The trend for older generation travellers – the empty nesters and single retirees – to prefer budget accommodation is good for all. Young people can benefit from the knowledge of the usually very experienced travellers, and older people can get an infusion of youthful enthusiasm.
So, check out Kiwi Accommodation and NZ Backpacker for local places to stay. Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, a great forum for travel advice and tips, has lots of chat from older travellers, although there is obviously no age at which you become an ‘older’ traveller. Since we’re all as young as we feel, and are doing our best to stay fit and healthy, we will have plenty of time and opportunity to visit the world’s many incredible destinations.
Article by Rod Ritchie