For seniors looking to see the world through travel, it does not necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. Many airlines, hotels, and attractions offer a variety of incentives for senior travelers. To find the travel deals, you may need to do a little homework up front.
Discounts are getting harder to find, so travelers have to plan out the process, A good source of information is “The Encyclopedia of Cheap Travel.” by Terrance Zepke,
Your homework includes mapping out your itinerary and making out a budget. Most seniors don’t have unlimited funds so make out a spreadsheet to track everything you spend on trips. Your long-term retirement plan should be consistent with the amount of money you have and will have, and to do as much travel as you can while you’re still healthy and able to enjoy the travel.
If that’s your goal, here are a few ideas.
Your Age Is Your Ticket To Good Deals
Some senior discounts can start with age 50 but most are from age 62 to 65. When you travel be sure and ask for any senior discounts offered. Don’t be afraid to tell them your age and show your AAA and AARP membership card. Although the discount may not be advertised, many hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages and restaurants offer a senior discount through AAA and AARP membership.
Some Airlines still offer senior discounts but most have cut back or eliminated their programs. The best way to find if an airline offers a senior discount is to go directly to their website and do a search on ” senior fares”. The web site should list any discounted fares available.
Many hotel chains offer senior discount programs. Among the most generous are the 50 percent cut at Starwood Hotels (including Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotels and Westin Hotels and Resorts) and the 40 percent discount available through the Hilton Senior Travel Honors Program, which requires a $55 per year membership fee.
Travel Web Sites Are Not Always The Best
The major travel web sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and Orbitz are the same as any other travel agency. They are there to provide a service and there is almost always a charge for that service. In some cases even though these web sites may be owned or in partnership with the major airlines, you can many times find a cheaper fare by going directly to the airline or hotel web site. The more you can make reservations yourself, the better off you are. Also, remember that many of the travel web sites have limited or no refunds when canceling a hotel reservation. However, most hotel web sites will allow you to cancel with 72 hours notice. If you have the money and want the convenience, you can use the travel web sites. Otherwise, try making your reservations directly.
Group Tours Also Present Savings
Because you are getting a group rate, group tours through tour companies, alumni associations, church and retirement community travel groups and other programs present a great travel savings opportunity as well as a good social opportunity for seniors.
One opportunity is through Elderhostel. Elderhostel provides 8,000 learning adventures in all 50 states and more than 90 countries abroad. They offer in-depth and behind-the-scenes learning experiences for almost every interest and ability including history, culture, nature, music, outdoor activities such as walking and biking, individual skills, crafts, and study cruises. Part of its attraction is the inclusion of a learning component in each of its travel programs. The programs are created in collaboration with educational institutions, museums, performing arts centers, national parks and other facilities.
Seniors can join several U.S. and Canadian programs for less than $600. Eldershostel offers a limited number of need-based scholarships for credits of up to $800 for U.S. and Canadian travel. The online application form asks for information about household income and special financial or medical circumstances. These are partial scholarships: Recipients have to pay least $100 toward the cost of their chosen program. Transportation to your destination is included only on trips outside the United States and Canada. Everything else is all-inclusive.
You can find more information about this program at http://www.elderhostel.org/
Another idea to save on lodging would be to exchange your home with other vacationers. There are several programs that let you exchange your home and eliminate the cost of lodging and maybe even upgrade the type of lodging you have.
Intervac International Home Exchange offers an inexpensive and unique way to travel the world. Intervac started home exchange in the early 1950’s and offers its members a multi-language, real-time database of over 20,000 home exchange listings. You can see what they have to offer at http://www.intervac.com/
Another network is through The Home Exchange Network. An annual membership is required for $99.95. This exchange includes over 20,000 listings in a number of different countries. You can find more information about this home exchange network at http://www.HomeExchange.com.