A New View

By Tom Roebuck

May 15, 2009 5 min read


See the world without spending all of your savings

Tom Roebuck

Creators News Service

Retirement is the reward for a job well done. After years of putting in long hours at work, it's time to let someone else toil in the trenches, so pack your bags for some well-deserved getaways. With a little poking around, anyone can find fun trips that won't deplete your savings.

An easy option if you want a trip where you'll see the sights is to contact one of the many tour companies that cater to a more mature traveler. With one call they can help choose a destination, accommodations and activities, and meals are often included. Traveling with a group also saves money, and meeting new friends is part of the fun.

"You see promotions for seniors. They're targeting seniors as an audience," said Ed Perkins, a travel expert and contributing editor for smartertravel.com. "If you're going on a group tour, presumably you'll be happier if everyone else on the tour is also a senior. Accommodations are made so there's more time to get on and off the bus. They might not want to see so many things during the day, and not stay at hotels where you have to climb three flights of stairs."

Some senior tours may travel at a slower pace, but there are companies, such as Eldertreks, that specialize in soft-adventure trips for those looking for something a little more exotic. Perkins said one of the biggest and most successful outfits is Elderhostel, which caters to seniors who want to learn while they travel.

"In most cases you are actually housed in a university dormitory during an off-season time, and you combine classes with local sightseeing. But it's really adult education in very pleasant surroundings," he said. "That's been very popular among seniors, but it does have that educational overtone, and, quite frankly, some seniors would rather go to Vegas."

For those who would rather hit the tables in Sin City or the golf courses in Myrtle Beach, you can still find good deals without traveling with a large tour group. But it will require using something quite a few seniors still stay away from: a computer. Booking flights, hotel rooms and rental cars is almost impossible without accessing the Internet.

"Most airlines offer their best fares only online, and some airlines only sell their fares online," said George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com. "The sad fact is that a lot of the best fares are online, so people have to get comfortable with the computer."

"I'm facing that with my contemporaries," Perkins said. "I'm 79 years old. I see it around. ... There are three options for seniors who say, 'I don't get online.' Either get a life and get with it, get your grandson to do it or get to a good travel agent."

Most airlines still accept reservations over the phone, but comparing departure times and prices between different carriers will be next to impossible. Many of the major hotel brands offer discounts for those 65 and older -- typically 15 to 20 percent off their standard rate, but you can usually find a better deal online.

"For example, on a hotel, you can almost always get a significantly better rate if you go through Priceline or Hotwire than with any senior discount," Perkins said.

Sadly, the days of senior discounts at the airlines have gone. None of the major carriers offer them anymore, but Southwest Airlines does offer travelers 65 and older a nice benefit.

"Southwest's senior discounts are not their cheapest fares, but they're totally unrestricted and fully refundable. So if you book ahead of time on Southwest you can do a lot better on their regular fares. But if you want to go someplace the day after tomorrow, the senior deal is probably going to be by far the best," Perkins said.

So if you're over 65 and itching to take a cheap vacation right away, log on to Southwest, take advantage of their senior benefit and head to Las Vegas.

"It's cheap once you get there," Hobica said. "Especially now. They're giving the place away."

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