Whether you’re setting out on your own or embarking on travel with aging parents, it always pays to investigate any discounts that could cut costs during your trip. Travel expenses add up quickly, and even 10% off a hotel stay can make a difference!
Unfortunately, senior travel discounts are inconsistently applied, so they can be particularly tricky to find. For example, some travel operators offer deals for people age 50 and up, whereas some use 70 as the cutoff. Some service providers give seniors a 10% discount, others offer 50% off, and still others offer no discounts at all (lame!).
Here’s the most important advice I can give you regarding senior travel discounts: Speak up!
When you book a flight, schedule a tour, visit a museum, rent a car, eat in a restaurant—whatever you’re doing, always ask about senior discounts. The number of companies and organizations that offer senior discounts will surprise you. Many of them don’t advertise these special rates at all, so that’s why speaking up is always worth it.
To make things a little easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of the senior travel discounts I’ve found during the course of my own planning for trips with Mom. Unfortunately, quite a few travel service providers don’t mention their discounts online (maybe because the rates fluctuate), but I’ve provided phone numbers so you can call them directly and investigate on your own.
Note: In some cases “senior fares” are equal to or more expensive than regular fares. (The “explanation” often given for this practice is that the senior fare is fully changeable and refundable.) So always be sure to compare discounted rates to regular ones.
I’ll give you the good news first: special hotel rates for seniors far outweigh any special airline rates! Most large hotel chains offer senior discounts that you can find online or by calling the property where you wish to stay. Plenty of small hotels and B&Bs, too, have special rates for seniors. All you have to do is ask!
Hyatt: Participating Hyatt hotels give seniors up to 50% off the Hyatt Daily Rate. In the reservations box on the main page, click on “Special Rates,” then select “Senior/AARP.” (1-800-233-1234)
Best Western: AARP members and anyone 55 and older get at least a 10% discount on hotel reservations, plus early check-in, late checkout, and sometimes extra perks (such as a continental breakfast or hotel room upgrade). (1-800-780-7234)
Hilton: Most Hilton properties (e.g., Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn) offer AARP rates or senior rates for guests 65 or older. Take advantage of these discounts by making reservations directly on Hilton’s website: on the “Find a hotel” tab, after you enter your destination and dates, click on “Add special rate codes” and check the box next to “Senior” or “AARP” (or both boxes, if applicable). (1-800-445-8667)
Although finding airfare discounts takes some extra work, it can be worth the effort. Many airlines that offer senior discounts don’t publish those lower rates online—you have to call the airline and ask about them. Some airlines (such as Virgin America and Jet Blue) state that they offer low fares to all their passengers and therefore do not have special fares for seniors. Only a small number of airlines (including United and Southwest) make it easy to book senior fares online.
United Airlines and US Airways: These carriers offer discounted fares to some destinations for people age 65 and older. When booking online for either airline, click on “Advanced search” on the main reservation page, then indicate that the ticket is for a senior. (1-800-864-8331)
Southwest Airlines: This airline offers discounted fares to some destinations to people age 65 and older. In the reservation search box on the home page, select the number of passengers who are seniors. (1-800-435-9792)
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines: Both airlines offer discounted fares to some destinations for travelers age 65 and older. Call their reservation lines for information. (American: 1-800-433-7300; Delta: 800-221-1212)
Amtrak: Amtrak gives 15% off its lowest rate on most trains to passengers 62 and older. Just indicate the number of seniors when booking tickets online.
AARP: Available to people age 50 and over, AARP membership provides discounts (up to 50%) on airfare, rail fare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages, and more. Members pay a low annual fee and can easily search for discounted trips on the organization’s website.
USGS: Anyone 62 or older can buy the senior version of the America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. This one-time $10 investment grants a lifetime of free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including any site managed by the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation.
It’s not always easy to find travel discounts for seniors, but this list should give you a good start. Even small discounts add up—and ease the strain that travel puts on our wallets! So the next time you plan any travel with aging parents, be sure to do your homework on senior discounts first.
Have you benefited from any of the discounts listed here? Do you know of any senior travel discounts that I haven’t mentioned? Please share your stories and suggestions in the comments!