Around the World: The Spin On Senior Travel
Seniors, aged 50 and older, seem to have an unquenchable thirst for travel. In fact, the travel industry estimates indicate that seniors account for approximately 80 percent of leisure travel spending. They venture forth from home more frequently, go farther away and stay longer than people in other age groups.
There are, according to the research, several key reasons for the popularity of trip taking among seniors, and they‘re not hard to figure out. Basically, a larger percentage of people who are 50 and older have more discretionary income than younger folks and, since many are retired or semi-retired from their professional careers and no longer have
children living at home or still in school, they have more discretionary time and more flexible schedules. Additionally, many people who’ve squelched their travel dreams for years and years, see their senior years as the opportunity to fulfill them--and they do so with gusto, great enthusiasm, appreciation and a wonderful sense of adventure—which makes them great travelers.
All of which means that the travel industry sees seniors as a prime market and actively courts their patronage with a wide range of encouraging incentives for group and individual travel, including discounted travel costs, special interest itineraries, special packages and events programs.
Some senior travel discounts kick in when you become 50, but others may not apply until you’ve reached 60, 62, 65 or older. Some require membership in a senior citizens organization, while others are yours just for the asking. Some discounts are unlimited, others have scheduling and other restrictions.
If you’re a senior--or know one who’s up for travel adventure around the globe or nearer to home--single out and take advantage of the available discounts. This is the time to venture forth and claim your adventures. Know, too, that the benefits of senior travel are often extended to companion travelers, even if they might be too young to qualify for them were they traveling on their own. And, that’s a very good incentive for intergenerational travel, whether it’s initiated by grandparents or the kids.
But, as with most good things, there are a couple of pitfalls that you’ve got to watch out for. Just because you have the discretionary income doesn’t mean you want to blow it in one place. So be sure to look and ask for the senior discounts, and make sure they’re legit and that when you book, you get a guarantee of your rate and just what’s included in it. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there, and they do target seniors who let their guard down.
Another thing is that the wide ranging array of opportunities for special senior discounts and bargain packages can be overwhelmingly confusing. But don’t be daunted by it. Just take a methodical approach to sorting out the offers and deciding which one is for you.
It’s best to begin with one of your dream destinations. Be it the Big Apple, Big Sur or Barcelona, you‘ll be able to find enticing deals that will enable you to fulfill the dream of traveling there to see the sights and do all the things that most interest you.
Go on line and do some research on the Internet, browsing discount travel sites such the well-established Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz platforms, and look at the Websites of dedicated special interest travel associations that cater especially to seniors, including the wonderful Elderhostel (http://www.elderhostel.org), which features trips with strong continuing education components, and Transitions Abroad (http://www.transitionsabroad.com), which focuses on volunteerism and intercultural exchange. Selecting a trip with one of these special interest organizations gives you a good chance to travel with others who are like-minded and likely to become friends for life.
Another search option--and it’s a very popular one--is for cruises. Discount fare sites like CruiseOnly.com, cruise cheap.com and cruiseforseniors.com provide the key to a huge selection of ships of different sizes, with different ambient styles and price points, and plying the seas all around the globe. Once you find a cruise ship and itinerary that appeal to you, check with the cruise line on the Web and by phone to see whether it’s offering an even lower ticket price. Cruising is always a good choice for seniors who want convenience--you visit several destinations but only have to unpack once and, because the fare includes food as well as cabin, costs can be more predictable.
But, again, the number of sites can seem daunting at first. If so, just work your way through them one by one. You’ll find that you can tell pretty quickly which are offering travel opportunities that match your destination and activity preferences, and meet your budget needs. When you find one you like, sign up for its newsletter--which will list last minute deals that may be right for you, especially if you’re flexible about travel dates.
Not all available senior travel discounts are shown on the Web, so don’t rely exclusively on it. Comb the travel sections of your local newspapers for ads offering senior discounts. Consult with a travel agent about special deals. Ask friends.
Once you’ve whittled your trip choices down to a manageable number, you’ve got some further research to do to determine your preferred circumstances and best value. Do you require a five star hotel, or will opting for a three star free up some money for splurge dining? Do you prefer to schedule your travel during winter in order to escape from the cold, or are you willing to pack up and go at the drop of a hat?
When you’ve selected a few bests for serious consideration, further check the Internet, visiting travel message boards, to see what fellow travelers are saying about the tours, tour operators, hotels, cruise lines, bus companies and other elements that must function well to make your upcoming trip a success.
Then comes the booking. Be sure to tell booking agents you’re a senior and want all possible discounts--including lower fares and hotel rates, as well as coupons for meals, sightseeing tours and other extras. Don’t be embarrassed about being persistent, asking if that’s the “best available discounted price?” and “are there any additional discounts on that?” If you don’t ask--and keep asking--for discounts, the agents will quote and charge you the full price. If you keep asking, you may get discounts that are even deeper--or extra--than those that are advertised. And always compare the senior discount to other discounts that may be offered simultaneously--and take whichever is cheaper.
Fares, hotel rates tour prices and other travel costs are volatile, so be sure to get a written guarantee showing what your selected package--whether organized by a tour operator or developed by yourself--includes, and at what price. Always pay by major credit card, which affords you a measure of security should anything go wrong or in case there’s a dispute about extra charges that you’ve not agreed to.
When booking and traveling make sure you have your passport, driver’s license or other official photo ID with your proof of age with you, as well as your AAA and other travel organization membership cards for other possible discount offers. Don’t be surprised, frustrated or embarrassed if you’re asked for proof that you’re a senior citizen. produce it to prove that you qualify for the discount. Just consider that to be a compliment. And bon voyage!