Top Holiday Destinations for Retirees in 2023

Forget your family's home — these are the best destinations for the holidays.

Wat Arun and cruise ship in twilight time, Bangkok, Thailand.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The holidays are approaching, and for many retirees, that means hosting a celebration at home or visiting relatives. 

But the reality is, the holidays aren’t just a good time to catch up with loved ones. It’s also a prime opportunity for travel — the kind of travel you actually want to do (no offense to your cousin-in-law’s suburb!).

So, whether you’re in need of a prime destination to ring in the holidays or simply want to celebrate in a different way this year, consider these five hotspots from all over the world. Not only are they uniquely suited for winter travel, but they’re also well-suited for older travelers.

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Visit Carmel, California

There’s a reason the California coastline has people rhapsodizing about it: This iconic stretch of land has absolutely gorgeous bluffs and beaches, one of the many reasons why people retire to California. But Carmel proves the towns sitting on that coastline are just as beautiful as the nature surrounding them. 

Carmel, with its quaint cottages, art galleries, and cobbled streets, is like something lifted from a storybook. It’s particularly stunning during the holidays, as the main plaza is strewn with tinsel and twinkling lights, with a massive Christmas tree and live music playing throughout the day. Go shopping, dine al fresco, and walk the beaches during the holiday season.

Take a cruise through southeast Asia

Most people crave sunnier weather during the winter, which is why southeast Asia is such an ideal destination. You can bet it’ll be warm — very warm — here even in December. A cruise is a perfect way to experience what Thailand and Vietnam, two of the most beautiful countries, have to offer. 

You’ll get to avoid the hassle of crowds and commuting while you sail through rivers and seas to check out sweeping cliffs, religious temples, and white sand beaches. On New Year's Eve, you may even get to see hundreds of lanterns set off into the sky to mark the holiday.

Get into the Christmas spirit in Helsinki, Finland

A Christmas market in Helsinki.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What better place to celebrate Christmas than right by where Santa Claus (allegedly) lives? No, Helsinki isn’t the official hometown of Santa — that honor belongs to another Finnish city, Rovaniemi — but Helsinki certainly exudes Christmas spirit. 

There are numerous holiday markets to peruse and decorations all over the city. When you get tired of shopping, visit one of the many spas around Helsinki to relax. You can even travel out of the city to get a chance at seeing a wintry bucket list item for most people: the Northern Lights.

Tackle the holiday markets in Prague

Helsinki is far from the only city in Europe with a bustling holiday market scene. Prague in the Czech Republic is particularly renowned for its holiday markets, especially the one in the iconic Old Town Square. You’ll feel like you walked right into a fairytale as you explore this stunningly beautiful medieval square, which even features a centuries-old astronomical clock. 

Try the sweet street desserts as you look at all the goods on offer at the stalls (Prague is also remarkably cheap, adding to the shopping appeal.) It’s particularly lovely at night, with the numerous Christmas trees all lit up.

Relax in the Florida Keys

But some holidays should be spent in a state of blissful relaxation. That’s exactly what you’ll find in the Florida Keys: tranquil communities, white sand beaches dotted with palm trees, and a wealth of chill activities, like boat rides, golf, and museums. 

December is a particularly good time to visit this series of small, gorgeous islands, as you avoid the intense heat of summer and the unpredictability of hurricane season many retirees in Florida face. Instead, you get to enjoy the perfect weather others in your family likely won’t experience on Christmas. Plus, the food scene here is particularly good – definitely indulge in conch fritters and key lime pie!

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Becca van Sambeck
Contributing Writer

Becca van Sambeck is a writer and editor with experience in many fields, including travel, entertainment, business, education, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in outlets like NBC, Oxygen, Bravo, the University of Southern California, Elite Daily, CafeMom, Travel For Teens, and more. She currently resides in New York City.