Senior citizens and students share something: they are part of two demographic groups that are courted and catered to with discounts for traveling, movie and theater tickets and countless other purchases. In most cities, people over age 60 qualify for reduced admission to theaters, museums, and other attractions as well as discounted fares on public transportation. When in doubt, wherever you're staying, ask about special senior rates. Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL; www.amtrak.com) and Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com), for example, both offer discounts for seniors. Carry your Medicare Card or other Senior ID when traveling in order to take advantage of these opportunities.
Some of the major (and budget) airlines are no longer offering special senior discounts, but a few still do. American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) offers discounts on select domestic routes for those 65 and up. Unsurprisingly, Continental Airlines (tel. 800/532-3273; www.continental.com), one of the few that still serves meals as part of your ticket price, offers senior fares to select destinations for travelers 65 and older; make sure you select the senior category when you book. Southwest Airlines, too, offers special senior fares (tel. 800/I-FLY-SWA; www.southwest.com) to passengers 65 years of age and older; senior fares are also fully refundable. Virgin Atlantic Airlines (tel. 800/862-8621; www.virgin-atlantic.com) offers 10 percent off advance purchase fares for those sixty and older. United Airlines has its Silver Wings Plus (tel. 800/720-1765; www.silverwingsplus.com) Club for those 55 and older. Yearly membership costs $25 and a hefty $240 for preferred members, and includes travel credits, double miles on mileage plus partners, and discounted fares.
Many hotels and motels also offer seniors discounts, including the Choice Hotels (tel. 877/424-6423; www.choicehotels.com) chain (Clarion Hotel; Quality and Sleep Inns; Econo Lodge; Main Stay, Comfort and Cambria Suites, among others), which gives 10 percent off their published rates to anyone between 50-59 (ask for the Mature Traveler rate), and between 20-30 percent off anyone 60 and older (request the 60+ rate), provided you book your room through their nationwide toll-free reservations number. Many other national chains offer senior discounts too; inquire upon booking.
Members of AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049 (tel. 888/OUR-AARP; www.aarp.org), get discounts on hotels, airfares, and car rentals. AARP offers members a wide range of benefits, including AARP The Magazine and a monthly newsletter, AARP Bulletin. Anyone over 50 can join; yearly membership costs $12.50 and includes your spouse or partner. AARP members, for example, receive low hotel rates but a free continental breakfast and free local calls at most locations of Choice Hotels properties.
The Alliance for Retired Americans 815 16th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20006 (tel. 800/333-7212; www.retiredamericans.org) offers a weekly newsletter and discounts on hotel rates and auto rentals. Annual dues are $10 for non-union retirees; any retired union member receives automatic membership.
The U.S. National Parks Service (tel. 888/GO-PARKS; www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm) has a Golden Age Passport offer that gives seniors 62 years and older who are citizens or permanent U.S. residents lifetime admission and discount pass, for $10. Other than free entry, the pass grants a 50 percent discount on federal-use fees charged for such facilities as camping, swimming, parking, boat launching, and tours.
Agencies/Operators Elderhostel (tel. 800/454-5768; www.elderhostel.com), which has been in business since 1975, operates all types of tours around the world and is committed to providing learning adventures for people 55 and older.
Those with a more adventurous, active spirit might find a compelling option with Eldertreks (tel. 800/741-7956; www.eldertreks.com), a 20-year-old company that leads trips all around the world for those over the age of 50. You can search by region, and then by land or sea, and each trip's description includes price, length, and activity level.
Grand Circle Travel (tel. 800/959-0405; www.gct.com) offers trips to Americans over 50 to destinations around the world, including Africa, South America and Asia. The company also leads river and ocean cruises, escorted tours, adventure travel, and provides a roommate matching service for single travelers.
SAGA Holidays (tel. 800/343-0273; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.saga.co.uk), based in the U.K., offers inclusive tours and ocean and river cruises for those 50 and older. Note: The toll-free 800 number listed here is for residents of the U.S. and Canada to reserve on the company's three cruises.
In Canada, Sears Travel (tel. 866-FLY-SEARS; www.searstravel.ca) operates as a travel agency, except one that accepts your Sears card. New Outlook, which replaces a prior publication called Mature Outlook (tel. 800/265-3675; www.newoutlook.ca/?searsBrand=core), is a quarterly magazine with articles on travel, health, wellness and gardening. Joining the New Outlook club, which costs $24.99 for a yearly membership and is open to people 50 and up, makes you eligible for all kinds of discounts, including VIP rates at Choice Hotels.
Seniors Home Exchange (www.seniorshomeexchange.com) advertises itself as the only home exchange company exclusively catering to people 50 and older. You can either opt for a vacation exchange of your home or choose to serve as a host for those who want to vacation in your area. Membership costs $79 for a three-year listing or $100 lifetime. At press time more than 2200 exchanges in 41 countries were available.
Travel Companions Exchange (email: email@example.com; www.travelcompanionsexchange.com) is currently on hiatus, but the company offers single travelers age 45 and up the opportunity to find compatible travel companions. Bookmark it for future use.
- 101 Tips for the Mature Traveler is available for free from Grand Circle Travel, 347 Congress St., Suite 3A, Boston, MA 02210 (tel. 800/248-3737; www.gct.com), along with the company's catalog.
- Grand Times (www.grandtimes.com) is an online portal for those who are over fifty.
- The Seasoned Traveler: A Guide for Baby Boomers and Beyond (Globe Pequot, 2005) written by veteran broadcaster and journalist George Bauer, is a companion book for the public television series of the same name. The book ($14.95) and three seasons of the program on DVD (priced at $24.95 a piece) are available at the show's web site at www.theseasonedtraveler.com.
- Also check out your newsstand for the quarterly magazine Travel 50 & Beyond (tel. 713/974-6903; www.travel50andbeyond.com), established in 1990; the company also publishes a magazine called Where To Retire (www.wheretoretire.com), accessible through the same phone number.
- The 2005-2006 version of Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can't Get Unless You're Over 50 is written by Joan Ratner Heilman and published by McGraw-Hill. It's available for $14.95 in paperback from bookstores and Amazon.com.
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