Does lazing around the pool and eating and drinking to your heart’s content sound like the ideal vacation? Not for a growing number of health-minded baby boomers who, as they age, are changing the meaning of “R&R.”

Boomers who are no longer satisfied with just any trip to the beach are turning leisure time into fitness time with active vacations.

You don’t have to be a “super jock” to sign up for an active vacation. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re seeking fitness, adventure or both.

For the more adventurous, there are rock climbing, kayaking and whitewater rafting trips. For those who want to whip themselves into shape, there are fitness boot camps. And yoga retreats beckon those who want to decompress.

Not to mention golf vacations, horseback-riding expeditions, cycling trips through the French countryside, hiking vacations through the Swiss Alps, or walking tours of Roman ruins, famous battlefields and other historic sites.

Not only will your body get a workout during your vacation, so will your mind. Active and adventure-type vacations often are educational and informative. They can stimulate your imagination and creativity and make you think or dream

While the active and adventure vacation concept isn’t new, selling it to baby boomers is. In the past, these vacations have appealed mostly to younger 20- to 30-somethings. Today, the boomer market is growing fast, according to Janet Seaman, executive director of the American Association for Active Lifestyles and Fitness.

“Living healthy is permeating people’s lives. It’s not just about being a weekend warrior, but about building health-promoting habits into our daily lives,” Seaman said. “You don’t take a vacation from fitness, just as you don’t take a vacation from life.”

Another draw is that usually all the arrangements are made for you in advance. Not only is it easy, “it saves people a lot of time, which is a big commodity these days,” said Seaman.

Furthermore, many baby boomers have already taken trips outside the United States, so they’re looking for something more than just a trip to yet another European museum or cruise.

Lynnette Seward, a certified personal trainer who offers fitness vacations for people 50 and older in New Mexico, tailors her program to meet individual needs, with guests participating individually or as a couple.

Her adventure vacations usually include seven -nights’ lodging in a private cottage with a kitchen, as well as fitness and meal-planning sessions. When vacationers aren’t training, they’re studying program materials, relaxing, hiking or sightseeing.

Some companies organize trips by age or level of difficulty, but others don’t. You also should prepare yourself before your trip. If you bought new hiking shoes for an adventure, for instance, break them in before you leave. If you’re going on a bike trip, start training six weeks in advance, recommends Seaman.

When planning your active getaway do research before booking your trip. Look into the costs because these types of vacations could get quite expensive. Some upscale fitness resorts or spas charge more than $4,000 for a week’s stay.

You might have to search a little harder for more affordable active vacations, but they’re out there. For instance, Elderhostel programs have cheaper packages organized around certain themes, according to Seaman.

Also, before booking a trip, find out what you’re getting for your money and what might cost extra.

Once on site make sure the staff conducting the activities you signed up for has the right professional credentials or licenses. For instance, if you’re taking a wilderness or scuba diving trip, you want professional leaders who know what they’re doing.

If you’ve found a vacation on a Web site or read about it somewhere, call or e-mail the establishment with questions such as, how long has the operation been in business? What are the facilities like? And what do you have to pay up front?

It’s also very important to find out in advance what restrictions the facility has. Are there televisions, radios, or telephones? If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, does the facility serve alcohol? Can you bring your pet?

If you’re considering a fitness vacation, think about your physical condition and other requirements you may have. Ask yourself, will this vacation allow me to return rested and relaxed? Am I likely to bring home happy memories? Will I be able to afford another vacation next year, or will this one break the bank? Is this really the right time to take this kind of trip?

Like any vacation, an active vacation is what you make it. Explore your options, do your homework, make a decision and then go for it.

filed under: