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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

Clark Norton

Travel Copywriter

Woodstock Memorial at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Richie Havens' name appears first. Photo by Clark Norton

Woodstock Memorial at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Photo by Clark Norton

This weekend marks the 44th anniversary of 1969’s Woodstock Festival, one of the iconic events of the 1960s, when hundreds of thousands of mostly then-young baby boomers poured onto Max Yasgur’s Farm near the small town of Bethel in the Sullivan County Catskills, New York.

(As I’ve written about previously in this blog, the festival was moved from Woodstock, NY, to Bethel, some 60 miles west, due to various snafus.)

And as always happens on this anniversary weekend, thousands of folks high on music, nostalgia and perhaps a few other things descend on  Bethel to honor the memory of the festival, which marked the height of the peace and love era. Many camp out around Hector’s Inn in Bethel, where volunteers are dishing out free meals to the tie-dyed visitors, or at what’s now called… Continue reading

Stan Bahnsen in his New York Yankee pitching heyday

Stan Bahnsen in his New York Yankee pitching heyday

Hey, baby boomer baseball fans: Anybody remember former stars like Frank Howard, Ferguson Jenkins, Tommy Davis and Ken Griffey, Sr.?

Of course you do. And MSC Cruises has figured out a way for you to meet them on their long-running series of Baseball Greats Cruises, now in their ninth year.

Organized and hosted by ex-Yankees pitcher Stan Bahnsen, the Baseball Greats Cruises run from November to April or May each year, forming a kind of high seas hot stove league.

Passengers get to mix and mingle with the greats, who mostly vary for each cruise — 17 different players, along with Bahnsen, will appear during five cruises between November 2013 and May 2014.

Highlights include autograph sessions, baseball trivia, pitching contests, baseball skills clinics, storytelling, question  and answer sessions, and bonuses like blooper films and baseball movies.  Passengers… Continue reading

What boomers want most when they travel?

What boomers want most when they travel?

I haven’t seen the full study, but the online market research firm Lab42 has released this tantalizing tidbit from a recent survey of 500 “social savvy” baby boomers — that is, who use social media — who plan to take a vacation in 2013:

Forty one percent of those surveyed said they were willing to spend more money to “stay more comfortably” in their lodgings at the expense of other aspects of the trip — presumably things like restaurants, transportation, sightseeing and other activities.

This compares to just one-quarter of those surveyed who said they would spend less on accommodations in order to spend more on other aspects of the trip, and a third who said they gave no consideration to the cost of overnight accommodations.

If I ran a luxury resort or hotel, this would have to be good news.

First, I… Continue reading

Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave.

Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave

I hope that by now most travel agents realize the power of baby boomers in the travel market, but if not, I hope they’ll listen to these words from Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave (which has tracked boomer trends for decades), as he addressed a group of agents at a recent conference:

Baby boomers, Dychtwald told the agents, as reported in this piece from Travel Weekly, are the catalyst of “an entirely new era” for the travel industry.

Boomers have the money to travel, they want to travel, and they increasingly have the time to travel, as more and more reach retirement age, Dychtwald said. They bring their families along on their trips, too.

And boomers are looking for something different when they hit the road.

“There is an appetite for newness,” Dychtwald told the agents, “for different experiences that… Continue reading

Baby boomer women exult after conquering Haleakala volcano on Maui, by bike.

Baby boomer women exult after conquering Haleakala volcano on Maui, by bike. Photo courtesy of

When it comes to vacation spending decisions in America, it seems, women rule. Especially baby boomer women.

Women definitely have the wealth. Those age 50 and older have a net worth of $19 trillion, and control more than three-quarters of the financial wealth in the U.S., according to a Mass Mutual Financial Group report. In turn, these same women spend 2 1/2 times that of the average American.

According to statistics from the she-conomy blog, written by Stephanie Holland of Holland and Holland Advertising, women in general account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases in the U.S. — and 92 percent of vacation spending.

To repeat: women spend more than nine out of ten vacation dollars.

That means that marketers should pay serious attention to women travelers.  But many women say… Continue reading

I don’t think it had happened to me more than once before in decades of eating in restaurants, but it happened twice in the past three days during my vacation at the Jersey Shore:

A server carrying a tray of drinks to my table spilled some of them onto my lap.

Ocean City, NJ -- great resort town, but prepare to get wet

Ocean City, NJ — great resort town, but prepare to get wet

In the first instance, at dinner, the spills were a glass of water and a glass of wine — thankfully white wine.

In the second case, at breakfast in a different restaurant, it was a glass of water.

Both restaurants were casual but nice places, with medium-range prices.

In both cases, the servers apologized profusely, and everyone at the tables — including me — assured them that no real harm was done.

Certainly, it could have been worse:

At dinner I was wearing jeans and a polo… Continue reading

An aerial ad flies over the Ocean City, NJ, beach.

An aerial ad flies over the Ocean City, NJ, beach. Photo by Clark Norton

Ever since my family and I have been coming to the Jersey Shore in summer — off and on for more than 30 years — I’ve spent a few minutes each beach day staring up at the sky as small planes tow intriguing banners with messages advertising various places to eat, drink and otherwise spend your money.

Such as: “$1 beer every Monday night at Captain Bob’s Brew Dock!”

Or: “Try Luigi’s for the Best Lasagna in South Jersey!”

Or: “Empty Your Wallet at the Trump Palace in Atlantic City!”

Well, I made that last one up, though it would constitute truth in advertising.

I’ve often wondered, though, just how much effectiveness such ads have — do they really rake in enough customers that it pays for Luigi to hire a small plane for, say, a… Continue reading

Bicycling is great exercise for baby boomers, who may find running to be too hard on the knees, surfing too fraught with teenagers, golf too pricey and frustrating, and hula-hooping just all-around too embarrassing.

With cycling, though, it’s easy to just hop on a bike and take off. Of course, it’s good to have someplace safe to ride.

Bicycles are much in evidence around Ocean City, NJ. Photo by Clark Norton

Bicycles are much in evidence around Ocean City, NJ. Photo by Clark Norton

Ocean City, New Jersey, on the lower stretches of the Jersey Shore south of Atlantic City, knows how to make cycling safe and appealing, which helps keep people out of cars and improve physical fitness and air quality as well. Its longtime slogan “America’s Greatest Family Resort” is morphing into “America’s Greenest Family Resort.”

A bike lane (and walking/jogging lane) runs along the south side of the beautiful new bridge that connects Ocean City to Somers Point on the… Continue reading


The MS Europa 2. Photo from Hapag-LLoyd.

The MS Europa 2. Photo from Hapag-LLoyd.

I’m onboard the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s new luxury cruise ship, sailing from Sicily to Sardinia in the western Mediterranean.

One of the afternoon offerings onboard is a meat seminar featuring Wolfgang Otto, one of three German brothers who recognized a need in Germany and decided to fill it: supplying Germany’s finest Michelin-rated restaurants with top-quality beef and pork.

Otto admitted to me and the other baby boomers onboard that just eight years ago he knew very little about meat, yet today his family’s company, Otto Gourmet, is regarded as the top beef and pork purveyor in Germany. Kobe cattle and Iberico pig are two of the products they distribute to both top restaurants and private customers.

For enlightenment on the subject, he and his brothers first turned to a Nebraska rancher, Dan Morgan, who taught them the finer points of how to… Continue reading

Valletta, Malta – I’m in the capital of Malta before embarking on the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s new luxury cruise ship, for  a cruise through the Western Mediterranean.

Malta is home to forts and remnants of the Knights of St. John, but nary a falcon in sight.

Malta is home to forts and remnants of the Knights of St. John, but nary a falcon in sight. Photo by Clark Norton

Valletta is a beautiful walled city, once home to the Knights of St. John — originally formed during the Crusades to bring Christianity back to the Holy Land — who fled here from the island of Rhodes in the 1500s.

When the knights arrived here, they paid a fief to the Spanish king of one falcon per year in order to occupy the island; eventually, the payment evolved into a golden falcon. No one knows what happened to the golden falcons, but the mystery formed the basis of the Dashiell Hammett novel The Maltese Falcon, later made into a… Continue reading

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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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