What Makes a Great Empty Nest Destination? Here are our Suggestions!

What makes a great empty nest vacation?

With the children raised and off on their own, many of the obstacles that hindered our ability to travel extensively have disappeared, but there may be some new challenges.

The key for us empty nesters is to decide what we are seeking when we travel, then match the destination to our desires.

If we plan ahead for our levels of comfort, cost, and activity level, checking most anything off the old bucket list becomes possible.

Roughing It – Without Roughing It

Biking The Grand Canyon

Just because we might not get excited at the prospect of roughing it like a Boy Scout anymore doesn’t mean nature’s wonders have to be off our list.

There are plenty of spectacular offerings in the great outdoors that are easy to visit.

At the top of that list are many of our National Parks.

Flying over the rim of the Grand Canyon in a helicopter!
Flying over the rim of The Grand Canyon in a helicopter.

We aren’t talking about sleeping on the ground in a pup tent either, a number of our most famous parks have fantastic lodges. Yellowstone, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park all have incredible historic hotels set right in the heart of breathtaking scenery.

Buffalo at beautiful Yellowstone National Park
Buffalo at Yellowstone National Park.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

These offer all the modern amenities in a perfect combination of rustic and elegant.

Most also offer shuttle bus service to all of the iconic attractions that are as reliable as Old Faithful.

The Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park can even be reached by train. After all, Mother Nature prefers her visitors bright eyed and bushy tailed, not worn out from driving.

Quite a few State Parks also offer accommodations, some on a par with their national big brothers, such as Starved Rock in Illinois, or Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee.

Cruising in Hong Kong
Sailing out of Hong Kong

Cruises can be another great way to travel in style and see places you’ve always dreamed about.

It’s like bringing your hotel with you while seeing a glacier in Alaska, sailing the Mediterranean, visiting The Great Wall of China, or cruising the great rivers of Europe.

If it’s near the water you can see it on a boat, and avoid all of the hassles of packing and unpacking along the way.

Safety at Sea: What the newest ships are implementing

Cruising through Budapest at night! Spectacular!
Cruising through Budapest at night! Spectacular!

Hint: It is best to avoid booking during Spring Break if you want a little peace and quiet by the pool. We made that mistake a few years ago. But the libation-soaked scholars turned out to be good for a little comic relief from time to time!

Size DOES Matter
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Smaller cities that have a ton of attractions within a central location make for great getaways.

Two of the oldest settlements in America fall into that category, Santa Fe, New Mexico and St. Augustine, Florida.

Both have restored historic downtown areas that are easy to walk around and packed with great shopping, eating, and some of the oldest structures in the country.

Savannah, Georgia
Downtown Savannah, Georgia
Shrimp and Grits and fried okra in Charleston, South Carolina
Shrimp and grits with fried okra in Charleston


For Southern charm, the Lowcountry cities of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina are unmatched.

The Spanish moss-draped trees along the boulevards and squares, restored waterfronts, and classic colonial homes can be magical, with much of the allure of New Orleans… minus the happy hedonistic insanity.

For northern exposure, give Corning, New York or Newport, Rhode Island a visit.

View of Salzburg, Austria from the castle
Salzburg, Austria
Ornate guild signs in Salzburg
Ornate guild signs in Salzburg

With its easy walk-through old town, Salzburg in Austria is heralded as one of the best-preserved city centers in Europe.

Once inside the walls the baroque architecture and ornate guild signs are mesmerizing, and The Sound of Music is all around… in more ways than one.

Be sure to ride the cable car up to Hohensalzburg Castle for the best possible view overlooking Mozart’s hometown.

Sunset in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Sunset in Puerto Penasco, Mexico

An hour south of the U.S. border and a million mental miles away is Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.  No wonder this quaint fishing village has become so popular with snow birds. Relax on the shores of the Sea of Cortez for a fraction of the cost of most Mexican resorts.

All of these small-ish burgs have a full spectrum of food and lodging choices and best of all, because they are not big metropolitan centers, these towns can be pretty easy on the savings account.

Need a Bigger Adventure?

Beautiful Prague, Czech Republic

Prague in the Czech Republic is the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire and one of the world’s great cities, yet the old center is small enough to easily navigate on foot.

Rounding every corner is like stepping into a new page of a classic story book.

We almost expected a damsel in distress or a knight in shining armor at every turn. To ensure a return visit (and you’ll want one), rub the statue of St. John on the Charles Bridge.

Kayaking with Icebergs in Newfoundland
Kayaking with humpback whales and icebergs in Newfoundland.

We thought we might just spend a few days in Newfoundland.

Good thing we asked around before we went, because everyone who had been there said it takes at least two weeks to even scratch the surface.

Luckily we are empty nesters and had the time to truly explore the natural beauty and fantastic people of the island. Don’t forget to ask a local about getting “Screeched In” to become an honorary Newfoundlander.


Veronica snorkels with a sea turtle on Lady Elliot Island, Queensland, Australia, GypsyNester.com

If Australia is on your bucket list, look no further than Queensland. Beautiful beaches, glamorous seaside foodie towns and all the fabulous marsupials you could ever want to see are there for the experiencing!

Oh, and Great. Barrier Reef. It doesn’t get more bucket list than that!

The laidback, “no worries” atmosphere of Queensland allows us empty nesters to relax — or adventure — at our own pace.

Costa Rica

View from Parador Resort and Spa, Costa Rica

If you are a nature lover and appreciate ecotourism, Costa Rica is your ultimate destination.

Costa Rica has embraced ecotourism, understanding the need to keep their beautiful beaches, national parks and treasured wildlife as pristine as possible. Plus they have tons of monkeys, and we love monkeys.

If all the ecotourism talk conjures up visions of carrying a backpack through the jungle, sleeping in tents, and living off of nuts and wild papayas, we can relate.

But there’s luxury to be found, too. We soaked in hot springs on the slopes of an active volcano, and even had a massage while watching monkeys swing through the trees at the most eco-friendly hotel we’ve ever stayed. Can’t do that in many places!

The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland will create memories that will stay in your heart forever – the views from the edge of the world are spectacular!

Headquarter in the little town of Dingle – for Victorian quaintness, and a foodie experience you’ll never forget!

A Nod to Voluntourism

Volunteering in Africa

Volunteer vacations are a great way to see the world, help others, and grow together as a couple.

Many US National Parks have volunteer programs that offer fabulous benefits, like free lodging.

There are also opportunities abroad, like teaching English to schoolchildren in Africa, that many empty nesters find very fulfilling – including us!

By combining volunteering and tourism, you get a unique, hands-on experience that connects you to the places you visit in very powerful ways.

With the offspring grown and flown, it’s the perfect time to spread our wings, pick a place, pack those bags, and leave the nest completely empty for a while.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an empty nest vacation? Which of these are on your bucket list? Do you have destinations to share?

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25 thoughts on “What Makes a Great Empty Nest Destination? Here are our Suggestions!”

  1. Thanks for this awesome post very nicely written, i am very delighted while i am reading this post.

  2. Love your take on traveling that fits your needs! 🙂 Why rough it out when you want and can afford the little extras that make the trip all the more comfortable and fun

  3. Well living as I do in South Africa (albeit NOT in an empty nest!)I would have to add this amazing country to your list. There is SO much to see and do here, I can’t believe everyone doesn’t come here on holiday. Although I guess it is quite a long way from America which I assume is your main audience.
    Otherwise, pre-kids, I had amazing holidays in: Belize, Peru, Singapore/Malaysia, Jordan/Egypt/Israel/Palestine, Thailand/Cambodia, and road-tips in the States (two on the west coast and one on the east). I could thoroughly recommend all of those!

  4. Great list! We have been renting cars and driving for years and find the odd little towns with great charm to be the very best. The people are sometimes a little surprised to have tourists, but will welcome you with open arms once they know you’re sincere.

    1. Thanks Duane. We have found that too. Having lived most of our lives in tourist areas (Nashville, St Croix) we learned that the locals can get fed uo with all of the visitors. Don’t see that off the beaten path.

  5. Love that shot of the buffalo at Yellowstone! I’m all about glamping. I’m just much happier when my “roughing it” involves a little bit of comfort and a hot shower daily.

  6. My wife and I would love to travel like this, but it doesn’t possible with the limited income we would have if we sold everything and started traveling. I have a small and I mean small military medical benefit I receive each month and that would be all we had to live on. Just not sure how much it cost to travel like this.

    1. Well Mark, there are a number of ways to travel cheaply. Our first year in our motorhome we figured it out ad it didn’t cost any more than living in a house or apartment. For other trips, great deals are sometimes available if your travel times are flexible. We suggest starting out small. Just try a short trip somewhere close to home, see how it goes, then go from there. What ever you are comfortable with.

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