Senior Discounts, Travel Clubs, and Hotels
The facts about all of the discounts available to seniors today
As for the airlines, many of the major airlines no longer give any type of discounts to seniors. Those that do (and a good number of the discount carriers do) confine their senior-citizen airfare discounts to 10 percent. In fairness, they also make the 10 percent discount available to the senior's flight companion, even a younger one; and some of them also sell senior travel booklets for an average of $625 that contain four flight coupons, each good for a one-way trip on that airline's route structure within the United States. Using the coupons enables a senior to reduce the price of a one-way ticket to $137 ($548 divided by four) or at most, $156 ($625 divided by four). Seniors 62 years of age and older are entitled to buy them, and any airline reservationist will supply the details of how to do so.
But such programs are often overtaken by events-especially, the "airfare sales" that airlines are now conducting on a frequency of at least once-and sometimes more often than that-a month. When these sales are announced, fares are frequently available for less than the sum that seniors have paid for their coupon booklets.
Clearly, unless the airlines now devise new programs keyed to the levels of, and kept below, their own "sales" fares, they must--in my view--brace for outcries of protest from the seniors who purchased their fixed-price coupon booklets or year-long passes.
Here are three airlines with more enticing deals for seniors:
Virgin Atlantic: AARP members receive 10 percent off advance purchase fares, economy class only, to certain destinations in the UK. Be sure to ask about current sale fares: Virgin will offer 5 percent off already discounted flights, which may be cheaper than the AARP fare alone. (phone: 800/862-8621). Web site: virgin-atlantic.com/.
United Airlines: United's "Silver Wings Plus" program, for ages 55 and up, offers discounted fares, bonus miles, and discounts on hotels and cruises. A two year membership costs $75, and a lifetime membership costs $225. United also offers club members savings on cruise lines and car rentals, along with a 50 percent room rate discount at Westin, Sheraton and the Luxury Collection hotels. For Silver Wings Plus, call 800/720-1765. Visit silverwingsplus.com/ for more information and to sign up for the program.
US Airways: An AARP discount is available for domestic flights (within the continental US), flights to Canada, and selected routes to the Caribbean. The discount averages 10-30 percent off published fares. Phone 866/886-2277 or visit usairways.com/
While oldsters shouldn't expect any special treatment at tollbooths, they do get a break from the biggie ground transport companies: Amtrak (800/USA-RAIL or amtrak.com/) and Greyhound (800/231-2222 or greyhound.com/). The first offers the 62 and older traveler discounts of 15% of all Amtrak tickets, except for the coveted first class tickets on the auto train, the sleeper car, and weekday Acela and Metroliners. Check first to see what general discounts Amtrak is offering before cashing in the senior trip. While Greyhound does not have a senior discount program as Amtrak does, it offers 5 percent off unrestricted passenger fares and periodically throws sales for the over 55-crowd.
One of the best national discount offers for seniors is the "Golden Passport" program of the U.S. National Park Service. For a one-time fee of just $10, seniors are given the passport, which allows them free entrance into any National Park for life. The passports do not need to be renewed, and they will also cover the entrance fees of anyone traveling in the car with that senior (so put granny in the front seat!). Along with free entry, passport-holders are given a 50 percent discount on such in-park facility charges as camping fees, tours, fishing licenses and more. Full information is available online at nps.gov/fees_passes.htm. Seniors need to apply for the passport in person when they arrive at any National Park that charges entrance fees (some don't).