Those milestone birthdays can add up to major savings
By Irene S. Levine for Next Avenue
The next time you travel, ask about a “senior discount.” You may discover there are fabulous perks to reaching those milestone birthdays. Many hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, entertainment venues and big-box stores offer age-related discounts, although they’re often not publicized.
It’s no wonder travel companies seek opportunities to woo older travelers. U.S. News & World Report recently reported that boomers control 70 percent of all disposable income in the United States. Moreover, older travelers are likely to have more time to travel. A report by AARP found that boomer travelers anticipate taking four or five trips a year.
Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or abroad, here are some tips for finding age-related discounts to whittle down the costs of your next vacation:
Check websites and make calls
When planning a trip, check the sites of the travel-related companies you’re considering using. Many have special pages with information about age-related discounts (often called “senior discounts”) available through a search or a pop-up box that let you insert your age when booking to obtain a lower rate.
If you can’t find a written discount policy online (sometimes it isn’t there and sometimes it’s simply hard to find), call and ask if you are eligible for a price break due to your age. Some airlines, for example, only offer such discounts on the phone, not online.
Ask a travel agent
Finding age-related discounts can be challenging and time-consuming. And because these offers change (and disappear) frequently, websites compiling them and travel guides aren’t always accurate or up-to-date.
With the complexity of do-it-yourself trip planning and booking, many midlife travelers are once again using travel agents. Experienced travel advisers often know about specific discounts and are able to compare them to other promotions.
Read the fine print
My optimistic husband always says that “older is better” and that certainly is the case when it comes to age-related discounts. Determine whether you meet the eligibility age for a senior discount. These vary widely, with some discounts available to those age 50, 55, 59, 60, 62, 65 and over.
Be sure to read the policies for securing the discount, too. You may be required to ask for the lower rate at the time of booking or purchase. The discounts may have blackout dates or only be available on certain days of the week. Hotel rooms offers may be on a space-available basis, with only a limited number of rooms at the special rate.
Moreover, age-related discounts usually can’t be combined with other promotions.
Consider joining AARP
The AARP Member Travel Benefits website is a web portal cataloging an extensive number of member discounts that AARP has negotiated with hotel chains, car rental companies, cruise lines, tour and rail operators, restaurants, entertainment venues and more — typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent.
AARP also offers a Member Advantages Offer Finder app for iPhone, iPad or Android devices that enable travelers to find nearby offers and discounts, and to download a digital version of their AARP identification cards.
To join AARP, you need to be age 50 or older and pay an annual membership fee of $16 per year.
Carry your ID cards
Although you may not be required to produce proof of age to get a discount, come prepared with a valid driver’s license, photo ID or Medicare or AARP card. Some offers require signing up for a free senior membership ahead of time.
Even when senior discounts are available, don’t necessarily assume that they’re the best deal you can get from the purveyor. For example, a “two for one” cruise deal may be cheaper than booking a discounted senior fare.
Also, older travelers often have the advantage of being able to travel during shoulder seasons, when airfare and hotel rates are lower than the senior rates, or they can rearrange the timing of their trips to take advantage of special deals.
Most importantly: Since there is a certain randomness to the availability of these discounts, don’t be embarrassed to ask for one.
Even within national chains, individual stores may have different policies. When my friend was packing for a trip to the west coast, she discovered she could purchase designer jeans at a TJ Maxx in Delray Beach, Fla., with a 10 percent senior discount, available throughout that particular store on Mondays. Keep your ears open and ask budget-conscious friends about their finds.
Don’t know what to ask for? Check out the following examples of age-related travel discounts available in spring 2016. This list is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive, and some may no longer be available.
- At Hyatt properties, those 62-plus save up to 50 percent on the Hyatt Daily Rate at participating hotels and resorts in the continental U.S. and Canada.
- On a space available basis, Marriott International offers discounts of 15 percent and more to those 62-plus at over 4,000 properties worldwide.
- At Wyndham Hotel Group Hotels, guests 60-plus can request senior discounts of up to 10 percent off the Best Available Rate.
- Guests 59-plus can take advantage of a 10 percent senior discount at the 425 Red Roof Inn locations across the U.S. The senior rate option is listed on the booking page.
- In Spain, Paradores Hotels offers Golden Days Promotion discounts on rooms (10 percent) and breakfast (30 percent) to those 55-plus.
Along with other perks and amenities, most U.S. airlines, car rental firms and bus companies have done away with senior discounts, but there are a few available:
- Southwest Senior Fares for those 65-plus, available on both domestic and international flights, offer the advantage of being fully refundable.
- According to the Delta Air Lines site, senior discounts are available “in certain markets” with additional information available only by phone.
- Although there are some exceptions, Amtrak travelers 62-plus are eligible to receive a 15 percent discount on the lowest available rail fare. On cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada, a 10 percent discount for those 60-plus applies.
- Those 65-plus can apply for a Reduced-Fare MetroCard for half-price fares on MTA subways and buses in New York City, but, as with many other local transportation systems, including BART in San Francisco, they may need to file an application in advance.
- Hertz offers a special 50 Plus Car Rental Deal discount code to renters 50-plus.
- Greyhound Bus Lines offers a 5 percent discount to those 62-plus on passenger fares to a network of more than 3,800 destinations on their own buses and participating connecting bus companies.
Some restaurant chains offer senior discounts, but these are highly variable. They may be on certain days of the week, vary by location within the same chain, or be limited to certain senior menus. A few examples:
- At some franchised restaurants, like Applebee’s, discount decisions are made locally.
- IHOP offers a menu that is specially “proportioned and priced” for those 55-plus.
- Old Country Buffet has a 60-plus club membership with discounts and complimentary extras.
Attractions and entertainment deals
- U.S. citizens over age 62 can buy a lifetime Senior Pass for $20 that includes entry to the 59 national parks and more than more than 2,000 other recreational facilities managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority honors the Senior Pass for entrance or camping discounts.
- Many museums offer age-related discounts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art offer discounted admissions for those 65-plus, as does the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for those 62-plus.
- Admissions at the Minnesota Zoo are discounted for those 62-plus.
- On Wednesdays, Station Casinos offer “My Generation” deals on dining, gaming, movies, bowling and more ”Young and Fun Day” with up to 20 percent off spa and salon services and 25 percent discounts on certain shows, and more for those 55-plus.
- Those 65-plus get discounts at the Mob Museum and Neon Museum in Las Vegas.
- At AMC Theatres, discounted tickets are available to patrons 60-plus.