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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Senior Travel on a Budget

More older adults are traveling than ever. We’ve got ways to stretch your dollars whether you’re staying close to home or hopping a flight overseas. 

Americans love to travel, and that’s truer after the pandemic than at any time in history. A recent AARP survey found that the typical annual travel budget is $8,400 - up almost $2,000 from a year ago. Still, we are all looking for good deals, whether we are staying stateside or taking advantage of a strong dollar to go overseas. 

Seniors are often on a fixed income, so they really need to watch where every greenback is going. There are plenty of tricks to keeping more of them in your pocket (maybe enough to take another trip!). A few are specific to older folks, but a lot of them come from our knowledge of how to travel hack at any age. 

Airfare for Seniors

Start looking for cheap plane tickets on flight deal websites like Travel Pirates or Airfarewatchdog. Search budget carriers on Momondo or Skyscanner, but remember that these sometimes require booking through a third party. It’s wise to get travel insurance if you go down this route. But no matter where you’ve looked, check out Google Flights to see if you can save money by flying into Paris instead of Berlin, for example. Finally, go to the airline’s website to see if you can get a better deal by booking with them directly. When you’ve found the best deal from all the sites you’ve checked, book it.

National Park Service Senior Pass  

There may be no better deal for older Americans than the $80 lifetime pass to national parks and federal recreational sites. Everybody in your car at per-vehicle areas, or you and up to three companions, get free day admission to more than 2,000 recreation sites. Even better, you can camp for half price at any of these venues. (Bring an air mattress or treat yourself to a cabin if you want to live it up). 

Credit Card Rewards

Don’t forget to book everything with a travel credit card. You can get some amazing perks, including lounge access, TSA Pre and other recognition allowances, and points for airlines and hotels, to name a few. There are lots of places to check out the best travel credit cards online. 

You want to look for a card with a good sign-up bonus that doesn’t require you to spend a fortune. Then, decide if you want a card connected to a single airline or hotel, or one with points that transfer easily to a variety of airlines and venues. Maybe you’re after some sweet cash back. Just make sure that you pay off your balance every month, or you’ll defeat the purpose of using credit cards.

Take the Train

If you’re staying in the US, take a look at Amtrak rail service. Amtrak covers some interesting country with more than 500 destinations, and you can get a private room on many routes. Amtrak offers a 15% discount for seniors if you book with them online. 

Never did a backpack trip in your youth, or want to relive the one you had decades ago? Across the pond, seniors get a 10% discount on a Eurail train pass that operates in 33 countries. Better yet, you can easily hook up with walking tours through Eurail at many stops.

Hotels? Hostels! And More …

We are not knocking a stay at a fancy hotel, but if you want to spend less, try a hostel. That’s right, many hostels cater to people of any age. Just be sure to check reviews to see if the place has a party vibe or not. Some allow you to book a private room, or one with limited roommates. You’ll meet other adventurous people and share travel stories. For tips and suggestions, check out this blog for people over 30 staying in hostels.

Not quite willing to go the hostel route? Try an AirBnB or VRBO. These are destinations that the owner is renting out, usually by the night. Go as fancy or as low-key as you like. Choose a place on the bus or train route to make travel a snap.

Tours and Groups

Small group travel companies such as Intrepid Travel offer personalized trips and don’t charge an extra arm and leg for singles. The Freebird Club offers members, who must be 50 and over, a stay in their home or apartment and some social interaction as well. Operating the world over, it’s a unique chance to meet like-minded people who are also older adults. 

Another tried and true option is Road Scholar. This group concentrates on offering learning opportunities paired with travel at reasonable rates. They also have special deals for solo travelers. 

Wherever you’re going, it pays to try something a little different than what you’ve done before. Why not try a few days in a hostel next time you’re in Europe? Use the train instead of renting a car, or do a self-guided tour instead of being chaperoned. You’re more likely to meet locals … and have the time of your life!