Bob Pringle, a retired technology entrepreneur from West Chester, Pa., had grand plans for this summer before the pandemic hit—a northern European cruise starting in Copenhagen, a ring, and a proposal.
Instead of a European proposal to remember, the 59-year-old Pringle created a proposal fit for a pandemic. He tucked the ring at the bottom of a gift bag that had Covid-19 survival supplies: sanitizing wipes, paper towels, gloves, and toilet paper. Given the contents, his girlfriend, Maureen, took hours to open it until he finally insisted.
“If you don’t have a sense of humor about quarantine, you’ll go insane,” Pringle said. (She said yes to the proposal.)
Normally, travel is the top dream of retirees. The 19th Annual TransAmerica Retirement Survey found that 67% of American workers want to travel in retirement, surpassing the 57% who cited spending time with family. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed many retirees’ travel plans, forcing them to adapt on the fly.
For some, it may be too late to follow through on their dreams delayed given the uncertain timeline of the pandemic. For others, the pandemic has merely put on hold the big dreams or created the chance to craft new plans. In any case, one thing is clear: Seniors are adjusting to the coronavirus era and accepting that some plans may never come to fruition.
“Things that drove people to create their bucket lists will return. The hopes, dreams, all those feelings will come back,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics. “We expect to see significant pent-up demand. The enduring legacy of this pandemic isn’t fear, it’s gratitude, I think. Something was taken away and then given back. Travel and bucket lists are delayed but not lost.”
Karen Lozier, a retired saleswoman for Agilent from Acton, Mass., was just getting set to start traveling when the pandemic hit.
Lozier, 65, had a three-week road trip from Maine to Florida to see friends canceled. That, she thinks, can be done in the future when the virus threat eases.
But her bucket list trip—a stay in Mallorca at a friend’s house and sailing for a week—may never be replicated. “Everyone’s got a story or a trip that got canceled,” Lozier said. “But it’s hard when you’re older and you’re not sure if these opportunities will come up again.”
Beyond rescheduling delayed travel plans, seniors now also have to grapple with a host of safety concerns and restrictions that will require consideration. Many countries have banned U.S. travelers during the pandemic—including China, New Zealand, and South Africa. The European Union has also banned U.S. travelers, but some places such as Costa Rica, Kenya, and many Caribbean islands are accepting U.S. visitors. Cruise operators have largely been sidelined since the pandemic struck, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been skeptical of safety plans to resume sailings.
Las Vegas retirees Candace and Bill Knobloch had the trip of a lifetime planned for this summer—flying first class to Europe, a chauffeured tour of several Italian cities, followed by a Mediterranean cruise.
“For me, my bucket list dreams go back to university days,” said Bill, 83, a former pilot. “It was always in my plans to someday go to Florence, Venice, and northern Italy to actually see the history come alive for me.”
The pandemic has quashed that dream, perhaps for good.
The Knoblochs had to cancel their travel plans after the pandemic struck, and they’re doubtful they’ll get a chance to follow through. “The pandemic has allowed us to appreciate what we do have. But we’re very apprehensive,” said Candace, 67, a former flight attendant. “In our lifetime, I’m not sure when we’ll ever be able to do anything like this again.”
At least they’re not out the thousands of dollars they had paid for their trip. “Thankfully Candace insisted on travel insurance. It paid off dramatically,” Bill said.
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