Editor’s Note: As the pandemic evolves, travel rules can shift at a moment's notice. Be sure to read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before you book, and again before you travel.
It seems the moment you turn 55, mail begins to arrive with 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 plenty of other sources for saving. NEA members have access to lots of exclusive travel deals, so be sure to maintain your membership into retirement.
Start your travel planning by checking to see what special discounts NEA members can get on hotels, resorts, cruises, guided tours, car rentals and airfare through NEA Travel. You’ll find many of the top travel companies in all of those categories.
Hotels, motels and other accommodations
Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott extend senior discounts averaging 10% to 15%. 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 elsewhere 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.
Planes: Some airlines do offer senior discounts, but you may need to make your reservation over the phone rather than online. United offers them on certain flights, but as with hotels, the senior deal may not be as good as a sale fare, so compare before committing.
Air France offers a Senior Pass, which costs about $70 per year. The pass is available for seniors 65 years and older. With the pass, you get up to a 30% discount on flights in metropolitan France, lower fees on changes and refunds, and one checked bag.
Trains: Amtrak offers customers 65 and older a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare though there are several exceptions, such as the Acela and the Auto Train. VIA Rail Canada and other international railways also give senior discounts.
Automobiles: NEA members of any age benefit from car rental discounts through NEA Travel. 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, but they don’t offer senior discounts.
Public Transportation: While public transportation (particularly buses and subways) is inexpensive overall, senior rates can be 50% or more off the regular adult fare. Even better: SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) 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 drain your battery, having a prepaid roadside assistance plan offers peace of mind. Many insurance companies, automobile clubs and automobile manufacturers offer this service and senior discounts are available. AARP, for example, offers 20% off Allstate Roadside assistance plans to its members.
Cruises and group tours
NEA Travel is your go-to resource for cruise discounts on cruise lines as well as discounts on guided tours. Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean and other lines also offer senior discounts on select sailings, if you’re flexible with travel dates. Plus, there are companies such as Starr Tours (formerly Seniortours Vacations) that cater specifically to this age bracket.
Attractions, activities and entertainment
You’re nearly certain to get an age-based discount on numerous attractions around the nation. 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 admit seniors 62 or older 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 $20 you’ll have access to all 410+ National Parks Service sites for a year, or lifetime access for $80. Admission to festivals and other special events usually are 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. Some casinos, such as the M Resort Spa & Casino in Las Vegas, have 50-and-over “players clubs” that discount dining, spa and salon. They also often offer special pricing on tournaments and drawings, where you can win free playing money. Also, take advantage of your NEA discount on resort packages.
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.
You also can hunt for additional deals on Restaurant.com certificates through the NEA Discount Marketplace. Get cash back on your purchase!
Discounts for former employees
Already retired? Where you or your spouse once worked also may 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 or your spouse ever 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% to 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.
Always check the NEA Travel Program first to see what deals you can find to make sure you’re always getting the best price to stretch your vacation dollars.