Question: Now that I’m retired, I would like to travel more. What kinds of discounts are available to seniors?
Answer: One of the great benefits of retirement is the luxury of time. Many seniors have flexible schedules and, therefore, have more opportunities to save money by taking advantage of off-season vacation discounts as well as last-minute travel deals.
First, plan ahead. If you can choose off-peak times, you can realize enough savings on airlines and hotels. Most business travelers book their airline flights for Monday through Friday, so leisure travelers who can choose to fly on Saturdays or Sundays often can find discounted prices.
For last-minute deals on weekend flights, Tuesday afternoons prior to your travel weekend usually are the best time to look for bargains. That’s when airlines typically discount fares for the coming weekend, according to a recent travel article in USA Today.
Also, airlines are more likely to have sales at certain times of the year, such as immediately after New Year’s Day or in early fall. During these periods, most people aren’t taking vacations and airlines are eager to drum up business.
If you need to travel on specific dates, booking flights several months in advance of your departure date can pay dividends with cheaper tickets, but not always. Airline tickets often are available at low prices seven weeks in advance on short flights or 18 weeks or more before some longer flights, according to the USA Today article. You should check airline and travel websites as part of your pricing research.
Next, you’ll probably want a discount on a hotel room. Most major hotel chains offer senior discounts; however, you’ll probably have to ask when making your reservation. Specifically ask for the best available rate for the nights you want. Also, you should ask if senior discounts apply to that rate or if the hotel offers special rates for members of organizations such as AAA or AARP, according to tripsavvy.com.
A cruise ship vacation is another popular option. Since seniors represent a sizable market – about 20 percent of all U.S.-based passengers – cruise companies usually offer incentives and discounts to lure senior travelers onboard. While some discounts are continually offered, others are restricted to certain dates or cruises.
Of course, there are numerous travel websites offering discounts on airfares, cruises, hotels, rental cars and entire vacation packages. These online services will automatically search hundreds of individual websites for your desired travel dates and accommodations with a single click. Expedia and Priceline are two of the most popular of these sites and have more than 95 percent of the online travel marketplace, according to Review.com.
Whether you use an all-in-one discount travel service or search individual airline, hotel or cruise line sites, make sure you’re buying from businesses you know and trust. Ask family and friends about the companies they use and like, then check with the Better Business Bureau or state consumer protection agency.
For further protection, suggest independently confirming by phone all online arrangements with the airline, hotel or other services. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission recommends paying by credit card versus cash or check. That way if you don’t get what you paid for, you might be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. The FTC also suggests not giving your credit card account number to any business until you’ve verified its reputation.
Enjoying travel during retirement can be less costly by using available discounts, just be sure to use reputable services and companies.
Michael Bateman is a retiree who previously worked in marketing and corporate communications.