Dear Savvy Senior: What are some of the best travel discounts available to seniors? My husband and I are about to retire and are interested in traveling more but live on a tight budget. — Frugal Travelers
Dear Frugal: There are literally hundreds of different travel-related discounts available to older travelers that can add up to save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip. To qualify, you’ll need to meet the age requirement, which varies by business. Some discounts may be available as soon as you turn 50, but most don’t kick in until you turn 55, 60, 62 or 65. Here’s a rundown of top travel discounts, along with some extra tips to help you save.
Ways to Save
The first thing to know is that most businesses don’t advertise them, but many give senior discounts just for the asking, so don’t be shy.
You also need to be aware that when it comes to senior travel bargains, the “senior discount,” if available, may not always be the best deal. Hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions that may be a lower rate than a senior discount. Before you book, always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available.
Another way you can save is to be flexible when you travel. Last-minute travel deals can offer huge savings, as does traveling during off-season or off-peak times, and avoiding holidays.
Club memberships can also garner you a wide variety of travel bargains. AARP, for example has dozens of travel discounts available on hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages and more — see AARP.org/benefits-discounts. The American Automobile Association (AAA.com) is another membership club that provides some great travel discounts to members at any age.
Types of discounts
Here are of some of the best senior travel discounts available in 2022.
>> Airline: British Airways offers AARP members $65 off economy travel and $200 off business club travel. American, Delta and United also offer senior fares to passengers 65 and older in certain markets, but those are extremely limited. And JetBlue offers 5% discounts for retired military and veterans that are enrolled in Veterans Advantage.
>> Train: Amtrak provides a 10% discount to travelers 65-plus, and a 10% discount to passengers over age 60 on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
>> Rental car: Avis and Budget provide AARP members up to 30% off at participating locations. Hertz offers up to 20% off to 50-plus travelers. And Thrifty and Sixt provides 5% off to those 50 and older.
>> Hotels: Certain hotel chains offer discounted rates for seniors, usually 10% to 15% off; those may vary by location. Some popular hotels that offer these discounts include Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, IHG Hotels, Marriott, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Red Roof and Wyndham Hotels.
>> Restaurants: Many restaurant chains offer senior discounts ranging from free drinks and senior menus to discounts off a total order, but they may be available only on certain days of the week or at certain locations. Some popular options include Applebee’s, Denny’s, IHOP, Chili’s and McDonald’s.
>> Cruises: Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines offer discount rates on select cruises to cruisers 55 and up. And Grand European Travel offers AARP members up to $100 savings per person on river cruises. Call before booking to inquire.
>> Entertainment and attractions: Most museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theaters, public golf courses and even ski slopes provide reduced admission to seniors over 60 or 65. And for those 62 or older, one of the best deals available is the America the Beautiful Senior Pass ($20 for an annual senior pass; $80, lifetime pass), which provides admittance to more than 2,000 national parks and recreation sites.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.