Dear Savvy Senior
Can you write a column on U.S. travel discounts for seniors? My husband and I are approaching retirement and love to travel but have a limited budget.
— Discount Travelers
Everybody loves a bargain but in today’s tight economy, senior discount travel deals that have real value are getting harder to find. Here are some tips to help you find the best deals.
When it comes to senior travel bargains, an important point to keep in mind is that the “senior discount” may not always be the best deal. Always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available. With that said, here’s a breakdown of the different senior travel discounts that are available today and where you can find them.
AARP discounts: If you’re a member of AARP, various travel discounts are available on hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. To find them see aarp.org/travel or expedia-aarp.com, or call 800-675-4318.
Airlines: Southwest (southwest.com, 800-435-9792) has the best senior fare program, offering discounts on walk-up fares to passengers 65 and older. American (aa.com, 800-433-7300), Continental (continental.com, 800-523-3273), U.S. Airways (usairways.com, 800-428-4322) also offer limited senior fares to passengers 65-plus to selected destinations.
Car rentals: Most car rental companies offer 5 to 25 percent discounts to customers who belong to 50-and-older organizations like AARP. Good discounts are also available to AAA (aaa.com) members. To shop around for the best rental car deals use travel aggregator sites like orbitz.com or kayak.com.
Hotels: Most hotels in the U.S. offer senior discounts usually ranging from 10 to 30. Age eligibility will vary by hotel, usually starting at age 50, 55, 60 or 62. Hyatt (hyatt.com, 888-591-1234) offers the biggest hotel discounts – up to 50 percent off to seniors age 62 and older.
Cruising: If you’re interested in taking a cruise, there are lots of bargains available regardless of age. To find them use cruisecompete.com (800-797-4635), which can give you the lowest prices for the dates and ports you specify. In addition, some cruise lines offer seniors discounts on select cruises to passengers 55 and older. The best way to find these is to contact a travel agent (see cruising.org to find an agent who specializes in cruises), or check with a few cruise brokers like vacationstogo.com (800-338-4962), cruise411.com (899-553-7090), or ecruises.com (800-223-6868).
National Parks: One of the best travel deals available is the “America The Beautiful – Senior Pass” (www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm). This is a lifetime pass that will let you, plus three other adults and any number of children traveling in your vehicle into national parks, forests, recreation areas and monument grounds. It’s available to those 62 or older, and you can get it at one of the federal recreation sites for a one-time fee of $10, and it never expires.
Entertainment: In most cities, seniors over 60 qualify for reduced admission to theaters, museums, and other attractions. Be sure you ask!
Savvy Tips: For an $8 annual fee, you can find thousands of discounts at seniordiscounts.com. Or go to Amazon.com and order a copy of the 2009 – 2010 book, “Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can’t Get Unless You’re Over 50” (McGraw-Hill).
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.