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What Is Elderhostel?
Elderhostel is a non-profit organization inspired by the youth hostel movement in Europe. Two Americans decided that American seniors should have opportunities for educational travel at affordable costs. The group began in 1975 at five colleges in New Hampshire. They used empty college dormitories to house participants and offered varies educational programs.
By 1980, there were 20,000 members traveling and learning through programs in all states and some Canadian provinces. International offerings started in 1981 and by 2009 covered 90 countries plus ships.
From bare-bones college dormitory housing, Elderhostel participants now stay in comfortable but affordable housing in hotels and other venues. Typical annual numbers of travelers exceed 160,000 per year. The program is now called Exploritas.
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How Does Elderhostel Work?
You can get a free catalog by requesting it from the Elderhostel (Exploritas) Web page (See Additional Resources) or calling (800) 454-5768. Individual opportunities vary in cost depending on location, length and educational programs. You can sign up through the information in the catalog or directly online. Prices vary from under $600 exclusive of travel, generally lasting a week or less, to international study of several weeks.
To give you an example of the range of opportunities, you can spend five nights enjoying a Victorian Christmas at Biltmore Estate in North Carolina for $571 per person double occupancy. This includes five breakfasts and lunches and four dinners. The educational travel opportunities involve learning about the Vanderbilt family, the architecture of Biltmore Estate, lectures on the history of Christmas and visits to Lake Junaluska along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the expensive range, a 2010 trip to Florence for 13 nights to learn about “Classic Tuscany and the Treasures of Florence" costs $3,220 per person. This includes 12 breakfasts, 9 lunches, and 12 dinners. The visit covers guided tours of Tuscan villages, a concert, and lectures by an art professor at the Duomo Museum in Florence.
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Categories of Travel and Learning
Search out opportunities online by large geographic area: USA, Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, Canada, Europe, and the Americas and Antarctica. You can browse for study programs by interest area, such as American Studies, Cultural and Fine Arts, Food and Wine, Natural History, Philosophy and Religion, or Social Studies. Elderhostel includes events targeted to specific skills such as Computers and Technology, Cooking and Cuisine, Health and Fitness, and Performing Arts. There are opportunities to travel and learn by train, by ship, and in outdoor activities like Birding, Bicycling, Golf, or Winter Sports.
All of the Elderhostel programs feature learning activities with unique access to places and areas of the world that are seldom available through the traditional travel agencies and at costs typically lower than any large group rate. Each program has a rating by activity level so you know what may be required physically before enrolling. There are even grandparent programs where you and your grandchildren can share in the experience.