The urge to be out on the open road doesn't always falter with age. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), Generation X and Baby Boomers make up the bulk of recreational vehicle owners in the U.S. A 2019 report from the association predicted 79 million 55- to 74-year-olds will own an RV by 2025. Those lucky seniors with motor homes and post-retirement schedules have the freedom to hop into their campers and go on a road trip whenever they please, any time of year. Even in the winter. Cold-weather RV trips may take a little more planning, but there are plenty of warm destinations to choose from within driving distance.
Gulf State Park: Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park offers seniors the opportunity to explore Alabama’s Gulf Coast from a spacious, modern campground or comfortable cabin. Located a little over a mile from the white-sand beaches themselves, Gulf State Park Campground comprises nearly 500 padded campsites with full hookups, picnic tables, and pedestal grill tops. In addition to the beaches off-property, the campground features tennis and pickle ball courts, a swimming pool, a nature center with regular programming, and access to the area's 28 miles of hiking trails. The Branyon Backcountry Trail is good for a walk or bike ride; Lake Shelby is perfect for an a.m. fishing session; and the Refuge Golf Club is conducive to putting rounds.
Senior travelers receive a 15 percent discount from November to February. With average temperatures in the 60s and high 50s Fahrenheit, it’s a bit chillier than some warm-weather destinations. Nevertheless, it’s still a hip spot in the winter, so make reservations in advance.
Henderson Beach State Park: Destin, Florida
Take a trip to Florida’s Emerald Coast on the Gulf of Mexico and you’ll find white-sand beaches, emerald water, and a state park where you can camp among the dunes. Henderson Beach State Park, near the town of Destin, includes boardwalk access to the beach and a nature trail that winds through coastal scrub habitat. It’s close enough to Destin to hop over to shops and restaurants from your camper while still being secluded enough to offer visitors respite from the vacation chaos of Florida's tourist-centric Panhandle. The campground offers full hookups for RVers, as well as grills, picnic tables, dump stations, and showers. December through February see mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s, but that doesn't keep golfers from the green. In fact, Destin's golf resorts often offer off-season discounts. Seniors also receive 50 percent off the base fee for camping in Henderson Beach State Park.
Point Mugu State Park: Malibu, California
For those who appreciate the mountains as much as the coast, Point Mugu State Park provides a healthy dose of both. Located off the iconic Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, Point Mugu is packed with bluffs, trails (70 miles of them, in fact), coves, caves, and brilliant ocean vistas. A few favorite walking routes include Danielson Road and the trails in Sycamore Canyon, where the campground is. The drive-up campground is perched at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, offering beach access, coin showers, fire rings, picnic tables, and flush toilets. What makes this area special during winter is the gray whales that pass by Malibu on their commute between Mexico and the Arctic. An estimated 20,000 whales take part in this 10,000-mile migration every winter and again in spring.
Road Trip Tips for Seniors
Travel styles change with age and what you found you were willing to put up with as a youngster—drop toilets, noisy nights, the "roughing it" parts of camping—you may not want to tolerate as a senior. Before booking a campsite, make sure it has all the facilities you prefer and consider these tips:
- Marathon days of travel can leave you too tired to enjoy your destination. Driving for too long can also be unsafe, so break up the journey with many stops at roadside attractions and maybe even other campgrounds. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has properties all over the country, sometimes even in the smallest towns.
- Before you leave for your trip, make a record of your daily medications, emergency contacts, physician, insurance, and allergy information. You can do this easily using the My Medications app from the American Medical Association. In the event of an accident or illness, first responders or traveling companions will have life-saving information at their fingertips.
- If you’re planning to hike (or take day trips to museums and other attractions), pack a lightweight cross-body bag or backpack with interior compartments for your essentials. It will keep the weight off your shoulders and allow for better balance while walking.
Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. Joe has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years and greatly enjoys exploring the outdoors. He is also actively involved in numerous campground associations, including RVIA's Go RVing committee, as well as travel industry associations.