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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

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The Hungarian Parliament Building, illuminated at night. Photo by Clark Norton

The Hungarian Parliament Building, illuminated at night. Photo by Clark Norton

I see a lot of Top Ten travel lists of this and that, often filed away and forgettable. But a friend just sent me a particularly interesting compilation of Top Ten travel lists — ranging from the world’s best nightlife destinations to best culture and history to cheapest and most expensive places to visit — as voted on by 7,000 travelers who took part in a recent survey by

Now it’s true that most people using, a site where you can book hostels and inexpensive hotels/inns/guesthouses around the world, are probably much younger than the typical baby boomer demographic. But I was struck by, well, how much I agreed with the findings of the survey – though perhaps for different reasons in some cases.

Whether that means I’m still a 20-year-old backpacker at heart, or the hostel dwellers are more sophisticated travelers than many might imagine, or that all travelers are, in the end, looking for pretty much the same things — or all three — I can’t say.

I should add that hostels are also beginning to court the baby boomer and family markets, with many offering private rooms with bath, and with some even falling into the luxury category. So maybe some of the voters are in the baby boomer demographic after all.

Pilsner Urquell is the Czech Republic's most famous export. Photo by Clark Norton.

Pilsner Urquell is the Czech Republic’s most famous export. Photo by Clark Norton.

Regardless, the results are worth taking a look at, pondering, and perhaps spurring all of us to add to some items to our life lists.

The survey covered the following topics:

* The world’s best nightlife destinations

* The world’s best food destinations

* The world’s best outdoor adventures destinations

* The world’s best culture and history destinations

* The world’s most romantic destinations

* The world’s best beach destinations

* The world’s most expensive destinations

* The world’s cheapest destinations

* The world’s best destinations overall

* and, Where travelers want to go most in 2015.

We’ll take a look at each list in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.  The comments are my own, written from a baby boomer’s perspective.

Here are the world’s best nightlife destinations, according to the survey. I should note that my idea of nightlife these days often consists of crawling into bed by 10 pm and checking my email, but over the years I’ve enjoyed staying up late and taking in a nightspot or two in all but the last pair on this list:

Amsterdam, Netherlands — I love Amsterdam, but it’s more a daytime thing than nighttime now, going for walks along the canals and visiting the excellent art museums. Many young people love to roam the infamous Red Light District and haunt the cannabis-smoke-filled coffeeshops, as legal pot and hash houses (note: not the corned beef variety) are known here, but I prefer to turn in earlier and take advantage of the huge breakfasts that most Amsterdam lodgings serve. (In my 20s, I would stay out so late that I often missed the breakfasts, which were served until 10 am. That will never happen again.)  But Amsterdam certainly remains one of the world capitals for nightlife.

London, UK — My wife and I and another couple once ended up at the London Playboy Club, and it was a bust (no pun intended). It wasn’t our idea, since London does, indeed, have a plethora of great nightspots. So I’m OK with this one, too.

Barcelona, Spain — Day or night, one of my favorite cities. No dispute here.

Berlin, Germany — I was last in Berlin right before the fall of the Wall, attending a boys’ choir concert (my son sang a solo version of “Shenandoah”) in what was then West Berlin. Unforgettable, but I definitely need to go back.

Oddly, North Korea didn't make the cut. Photo from Huffington Post.

Oddly, North Korea didn’t make the cut. Photo from Huffington Post.

Budapest, Hungary — Yes, absolutely. Take a dinner cruise on the Danube to see the palaces, churches, bridges and other buildings lit up at night: the splendid Hungarian Parliament Building is the star of the show. Then hit one of the oddly hip ruin bars, fashioned from previously abandoned or “ruined” spaces.

New York City, USA — The city that never sleeps and my residence for several years. In summer, there’s nothing like sitting at a sidewalk cafe or restaurant in the relative cool of the evening and watching the passing parade of humanity stroll by. I realize this may not be everyone’s idea of hot nightlife, but I highly recommend it: you’ll see every type of person you can imagine, even on the Upper East Side — great entertainment for the price of a drink or meal. Or, of course, you could go to a world-class concert or nightclub. It’s all there

Prague, Czech Republic — The Czechs brew the world’s best beer. They invented pilsner, make the original Budweiser (far, far better than the American version), and drink more beer per capita than any other country. So all you have to do is find a bar or beer hall and join the Czechs in their nightly quest to gulp down their yearly average of 40 gallons per year, for every man, woman and child. I’m guessing the children and a lot of the women don’t meet their quota, so you can only imagine how much the men imbibe. Join them as they sing along to accordion music, etc.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio would actually be first on my list. Any city that would get me to try the samba has to rank number one.

Koh Phangan, Thailand (also spelled Koh Pha Ngan) — Never been there, but Lonely Planet describes it as an island “synonymous with the wild and massive Full Moon Party on Hat Rin,” at which point I stopped reading. Bangkok has plenty wild enough nightlife for me.

Krakow, Poland – Sorry to say I’ve also missed Krakow in my travels so far. For those of you who have been there, please consider leaving a comment about the crackling Krakow nightlife.

So, what’s missing? Las Vegas is a notable omission, but there probably aren’t that many hostels there, so the survey respondents might not flock to Vegas. And all the lists are somewhat Euro-centric, probably because Europe has more hostels than anywhere else. Overall, though, I think this list is pretty much on the mark. Or are there other glaring omissions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next in this series: The world’s best food destinations.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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