It seems the moment you turn 55, mail begins to arrive for special offers reserved for “seniors.” After the initial shock and denial wears off, embrace the opportunity to save serious money—especially on travel. Senior discounts and deals abound on travel-related purchases. And if they’re not advertised, you should always ask. While everyone knows about AARP, there are other sources for saving.
While NEA members can get 20% off their stay at Red Roof Inns other chains also offer discounts. Best Western, Choice Hotels and Marriott extend senior discounts averaging 10 to 15%, while Hyatt's discount rate fluctuates. The fine print may be buried on the company’s website, so search for the name of the brand with “senior discount” or "senior rate" to find the information faster.
Buyer beware, though. You may find lower sale rates, however, since senior discounts are often taken off the hotel’s “rack rate”—the highest, published rate.
No matter what mode of transportation you prefer, always look for senior discounts when traveling by plane, train or car.
Airlines: Some airlines do offer senior discounts, but you may need to make your reservation over the phone rather than online. Southwest, United and Air France all offer them on certain flights. As with hotels, the senior deal may not be as good as a sale fare, so compare before committing.
Trains: Although there are several exceptions, such as the Acela and the Auto Train, Amtrak offers customers 65 and older a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare. VIA Rail Canada and other international railways also give senior discounts.
Automobiles: NEA members of any age benefit from car rental discounts through Alamo, Dollar, Enterprise, National and Hertz. But if you don’t want to drive once you reach your destination, try a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft. These services are generally cheaper than taxis. While public transportation (particularly buses and subways) is inexpensive overall, senior rates can be 50% or more off the regular adult fare. SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority), for example, lets anyone 65 years or older ride free on its buses, trolleys and subway.
Roadside Assistance: If you lock yourself out of your car on a road trip, get a flat tire or dead battery, having a prepaid roadside assistance plan offers peace of mind. This is a service offered by some insurance companies, automobile clubs and automobile manufacturers. Senior discounts are available. The Allstate Motor Club, for example, offers 10% off membership for those 55 or older.
Cruises and group tours
You probably already know that NEA Vacations is your conduit to cruise discounts on cruise lines. Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean and other lines also offer senior discounts on select sailings, if you’re flexible with travel dates. You can also take advantage of another NEA member perk: discounts on group tour vacations through Trafalgar.
Plus, there are companies such as Starr Tours (formerly Seniortours Vacations) that cater specifically to this age bracket.
Attractions, activities and entertainment
This is where you’re nearly certain to get an age-based discount. Museums, performing arts venues, theme parks, movie theaters and other attractions will likely sell you a ticket for 15 to 20% less. Even public parks that charge entrance fees let seniors 62 or older in for a lower price. You have to plan ahead to order the U.S. National Parks Service’s Senior Pass (formerly the Golden Age Passport), but for $80 you’ll have lifetime access to all 410+ National Parks Service sites. Admission to festivals and other special events are usually discounted for older patrons.
While staying at a resort, ask if any of the amenities, such as the spa, golf course or restaurant, offer a senior discount. There are casinos, such as the M Resort Spa & Casino in Las Vegas, with more than 50 “players clubs” that discount dining and spa and salon services. They also often offer special pricing on tournaments and drawings.
The early bird special has become synonymous with senior citizens, but discounts ranging from 10 to 15% are available to seniors any time of the day at many nationwide chains. Try Applebee’s, Chili’s or Boston Market. Because these are often franchises, the terms may differ by location. Sometimes lower prices are offered through special menus. IHOP, Carrows and Denny’s all offer senior menus with smaller-portioned dishes.
Discounts for former employment or education
Retired? Where you or your spouse once worked may also qualify you for travel discounts. In many states, such as California, Kentucky and Nevada, organizations for retired educators offer money-saving membership perks.
If you were in the military, discounted rates are offered almost everywhere. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) offers hotels and car rental savings averaging 10–20%. There are also associations for retirees from many municipalities, police and firefighting forces. University alumni organizations can also be a source of membership-based discounts.
Other discount resources
When you sign up to join membership websites such as SeniorDiscounts.com, you’re entitled to lower rates in several travel categories, including rental cars. Check your local senior citizens or community center for local or regional special offers, too.