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Dear Savvy Senior,
What types of senior discounts are available to older travelers? My husband and I are approaching retirement and love to travel, but love to save money too.
There is actually a wide variety of travel discounts available to older travelers – usually starting at either age 50, 55, 60, 62 or 65.
But, you first need to be aware that when it comes to senior travel bargains, the “senior discount” may not always be the best deal. Hotels, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions from time to time that may be a lower rate than what the senior discount is. Always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available.
With that said, here’s a breakdown of some different senior travel discounts that are available today.
Club memberships: If you’re a member of AARP, there are dozens of travel discounts available on hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. To find them, see discounts.aarp.org/travel or call 800-675-4318. Annual AARP membership fees are $16 or less if you join for multiple years.
If you don’t like AARP, there are alternative organizations you can join like the Seniors Coalition or the American Seniors Association that offer discounts on hotels and rental cars.
Airlines: Southwest Airlines has the best senior fare program in the U.S., offering discounts to passengers 65 and older. American, United and Delta offer some senior fares too but they are extremely limited.
Trains: Amtrak provides a 15 percent discount to travelers 62 and older, and a 10 percent discount to passengers over age 60 on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
Bus travel: Greyhound offers a 5 percent discount on unrestricted fares to seniors over 62. Peter Pan, which serves the Northeast region of the U.S., offers the same deal. Trailways, a privately owned bus company also provides senior discounts but they vary by location. And, most local bus lines and public transportation offer discounted senior passes.
Car rentals: Most car rental companies offer 5 to 25 percent discounts to customers who belong to 50-and-older organizations like AARP. Discounts are also available to AAA 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 ranging between 10 and 30 percent off. Age eligibility will vary by hotel. Hyatt offers one of the biggest discounts, up to 50 percent off, to guests 62 and older.
Cruises: Most cruise lines offer special deals to AARP members. But, if you’re not a member, discounts on some cruise lines (like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean) are also available to passengers 55 and older. The best way to find these is to contact a travel agent, or check with the cruise line you’re interested in.
Restaurants: Senior discounts are fairly common at mom-and-pop and family-style restaurants, as well as fast food establishments. The discounts will range from free coffee, to drinks, to discounts off your total order. Chains known for their senior discounts or specials include Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Church’s Chicken, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, IHOP, Subway and Wendy’s.
Entertainment: Most movie theaters, plays, ballets, symphonies, museums, zoos, aquariums, golf courses and even ski slopes provide reduced admission to seniors over 60 or 65. If you’re over 62, you’re also eligible for the popular “America The Beautiful Senior Pass,” which provides a lifetime entry to 2,000 national parks and recreation sites. You can obtain this pass in person at one of the federal recreation sites for $10, or through the mail (see store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.html) for $20.
To look for other travel discounts see seniordiscounts.com, a great website that lets you search by location and category for free.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.