Setting aside the usual aging stereotypes, it’s clear that women over 60 love to travel. We love to explore the world and find new adventures. We love embracing new cultures and meeting new people.
But, this raises an interesting question. What is our favorite way to travel? Do the majority of us like to fly to exotic destinations? Or, would most of us prefer to travel by train?
To get a better idea of our travel preferences, I recently asked the community whether they preferred to travel by train or by plane. Perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority (66%) of baby boomers said that they preferred to get to their destination by train.
Since so many women in our community love to travel by train, I thought that it would be fun to interview a travel expert to find out about the best train journeys for women our age. So, I reached out to Mark Smith, one of the top train travel experts in the world, to get his opinion.
Mark is the definitive expert on traveling by train. He runs a website called The Man in Seat 61, which helps people to plan their train trips, purchase tickets and find discounts. I hope that you find our conversation inspirational and useful. Please watch the interview and join the conversation below.
Why is Train Travel So Appealing?
According to Mark, plane travel is expedient, but, it has lost its charm and humanity. For starters, flying can be a stressful experience. In addition, the only conversations you tend to hear about when it comes to peoples’ flights is whether they were on time, how long it took to get through the security line and how much leg room there was (or wasn’t!)
For Mark, trains offer a completely different kind of experience. The second you start talking with him about train travel, you see his face light up. When he says that train travel is not only comfortable, but, also life changing, you really believe him.
This is why I was so excited to hear about Mark’s recommendations for train trips for older women. Here are his top 5 recommendations, each of which combines the comfort that women like us want with the adventure that we crave.
Amtrak Coast to Coast (United States)
Mark’s first recommendation may come as a surprise to some travelers. After all, Amtrak doesn’t have the rock-solid reputation of some of its European counterparts. That said, Mark points out that the Amtrak coast to coast trips are one of the best ways to see the United States.
Over the course of 3 days, Amtrak takes its passengers on a 3,000-mile journey, from New York to San Francisco, via Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.
During our interview, he almost goes into a trance as he describes passing the flatlands of Nebraska, crossing the Mississippi River and scaling the Rockies. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean!
Best of all, starting at $300, the California Zephyr is one of the cheapest great train journeys in the world. Get started on the Amtrak site.
The Northern Explorer (New Zealand)
Another of Mark’s favorite train journeys is the Northern Explorer, which features an all-day journey from Auckland to Wellington, in New Zealand. Along the way, you will experience a rainbow of scenic views, including volcanoes, rainforests, farms and coastlines. Then, you can take a ferry from Wellington to the South Island. Get inspired on the Rail New Zealand website.
Toronto to Vancouver (Canada)
Just like the United States, Canada is a vast and beautiful country. That said, you can still cross the entire country, by train, in 4 amazing days. Mark says that one of his favorite routes in the world is the Rocky Mountaineer.
This train travels the original transcontinental route of the Canadian Pacific. You will be hard pressed to find a more spectacular view of the Rockies on either side of the border. You can find out more on the official Canada Rail website.
Bernina Express (Switzerland)
Mark’s first great European train adventure is the Bernina Express, which travels from Zurich, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, to Lugano, in the Italian-speaking part of the country. As someone who lives in Switzerland, I can only say that you can’t imagine how beautiful it is here. You simply have to see the majestic mountains and alpine scenery for yourself.
The Bernina express uses narrow gauge tracks that allow it to go over the Bernina pass in the Alps. Find our more on the Rhaetian Railway site.
I personally would also recommend the journey on Glacier Express, the slowest express train in the world.
Caledonian Sleeper (Scotland, United Kingdom)
The second European train trip that Mark offers is the Caledonian Sleeper, which travels from London, England to Fort William, Scotland. He says it is absolutely breathtaking! Beyond the amazing views, the Caledonian Sleeper also offers one of the best lounge cars on any train.
According to Mark – and I’ll have to take his word on this – the selection of Scottish whiskey varieties is unparalleled. In the morning, you arrive right at the foot of Ben Nevis, which is Britain’s tallest mountain. Find our more on the Caledonian Sleeper website.
Personally, I love all kinds of travel – from cruises to train trips to flights to exotic places. That said, there will always be a special place in my heart for trains. In my experience, the conversations are warmer and the atmosphere more relaxed. It is also one of the few forms of travel where the journey really is as important as the destination.
If you could take any of the train trips listed in this article, which one would you choose and why? Let’s get a conversation started!