How Seniors Can Vacation on a Budget

June 20, 2019

There is nothing more my kids look forward to than a vacation, especially if we are going to the beach. However, vacationing can be a very expensive experience! One year we decided to stay in a condominium in Ocean City, Maryland for a week. The condo alone was pricey, and then we added in the meals out, miniature golf trips, ice cream cones on the boardwalk, souvenirs and shopping trips and we had doubled our budget! It’s always a great experience with wonderful memories, but financially, it can be a major burden. That’s when my husband and I decided to take mini-vacations and did some research on budget traveling and tips to cut back on expenses. We didn’t want our kids to miss out on a summer vacation, but we still needed to pay our bills!

Here are several tips for seniors traveling from SmarterTravel.com. Seniors can really cut back on expenses by following these steps.

  1. Ask for special rates- Discounts are not always advertised, but they do exist, especially for seniors. Many hotels offer up to 15 percent off for those 62 or older.
  2. Take advantage of AARP programs- AARP members have access to savings and discounts on all types of travel including cruises, car rentals, vacation packages, hotels, activities and restaurants.
  3. Travel during off peak times- Visiting destinations during the fall or winter can make a big difference. Seniors can take advantage of low season discounts since they are typically retired.
  4. Try train travel- It’s a much cheaper alternative, especially for seniors who can save 15 percent or more on most fares.
  5. Protect your investment- Travel Insurance is recommended, especially for those who may get sick and need to cancel at the last minute, or could encounter medical difficulties while traveling. Purchase insurance from a trusted company and ask your travel agent if you aren’t sure where to start.
  6. Travel with friends or family- If you travel in a group, you can save significant money if you share a vacation rental home over booking a hotel room. There are also group discounts available.

AARP has provided a list of travel discounts just for seniors. Some of the more popular ones are listed below:

  1. American Airlines- Discounts for those 65 and older
  2. Amtrak- 15 percent discount for those 62 and older
  3. Avis Rent a Car- AARP discount for 50 and older
  4. Best Western- AARP discount of 10 percent
  5. British Airways- Discounts offered to 50 and older
  6. Budget Rent-A-Car- AARP discount
  7. Carnival Cruise- Exclusive discount for those 55 and older
  8. Choice Hotels- 60-plus can save up to 10 percent
  9. Comfort Inn- AARP discount of 10 percent
  10. Days Inn- AARP discount of 10 percent
  11. Hertz- Those 50 and older can save up to 20 percent
  12. Hilton Hotels- AARP discount of 5 percent
  13. Liberty Travel- AARP discount saves $150 a person
  14. Marriott- 62 and older can receive 15 percent discount
  15. Motel 6- Can receive 15 percent discount if 60 and older
  16. Sheraton Hotels- AARP discounts of 5 to 15 percent
  17. Southwest Airlines- Various discounts for those 65 and older
  18. Super 8- AARP discount of 10 percent
  19. Royal Caribbean- 55 and older receive discounts
  20. United Airlines- Various discounts for those 65 and older

BudgetTravel.com is a great resource for traveling on a budget. If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or traveling across the country to visit relatives, there are many ways you can cut back on expenses. Here are some of the many tips BudgetTravel.com has shared.

  1. Find a reasonably priced hotel room- You don’t want to stay somewhere where you don’t feel safe or isn’t clean, but don’t choose the first hotel you find. Take your time looking at all the hotels and prices online and also consider staying in a hotel not directly in the city you are visiting. When my sister and I were kids, my Dad took us to Disney World. However, we didn’t stay at a hotel in the resort. We stayed at a nice hotel about 30 minutes away and drove in each day. That was a great way to save money. Also, don’t always reserve a hotel room online. Those looking for a better price should call the hotel and ask questions. Often times calling the hotel can get you a cheaper price than an online rate.
  2. Do your research before buying a plane ticket- It is recommended that you follow all major airlines on social media, sign up for their rewards programs and sign up for their free e-newsletters to get the inside track on any deals or lower priced flights. If you plan your trip far enough in advance, you can regularly check the airline websites to see if prices have changed. Flying during the summer is always more expensive, so you may want to consider a late summer or early fall trip for lower priced tickets, if possible.
  3. Pick up your rental car early- BudgetTravel.com says to book the smallest rental car possible and pick up as early in the day as you can because the early bird gets the free upgrade. At 8 a.m., most customers won’t have returned their cars yet and it’s likely that the lowest priced compact cars will be out of stock. The rental agency is then obligated to give you an available car at the same price, which can be a much larger vehicle.
  4. If you are going on a cruise, book early or book late- You will get the best price on a cruise if you book at least 6 months in advance. Also, once you get down to the final weeks before a cruise, they may be scrambling to fill any empty rooms and offer a good deal on a room.
  5. Learn more about hidden fees- Make sure your resort is all-inclusive or expect fees for certain things, such as pool towels. Read carefully about which meals and drinks are covered in an all-inclusive resort and which may be an out of pocket expense.
  6. Look at homes for larger groups traveling- A rental home can save you money in the long run. Even though it may cost $200 a night, they have plenty of room for larger groups and a kitchen, which will save you money on meals.
  7. Try public transportation- When visiting a city, use their public transportation systems to cut costs on gas and rental cars. Try the light rail or bus to get you around and some cities have trollies and water taxis available for sight-seeing.
  8. Many sight-seeing locations are free- If you are heading to a museum, they often have free visiting hours during the week. You can research their website to discover the best time to go.
  9. Look for package deals- Often times, when you book an airline and hotel, you can get a package deal with lower rates on airfare and hotels. If you look at a package deal and then try to book the airfare and hotel separately, you will definitely see the difference! The package deal will be significantly less.
  10. Pack carefully to save money on baggage when flying- Roll your clothes to save space in your suitcase and wear your heaviest layer on the plane. Also limit the pairs of shoes you pack to save space.
  11. Senior Discounts are plentiful- Travelers 55 and older can usually get discounts at a variety of locations including restaurants, hotels, cruises and other tourist attractions.

If you are open to trying new things, there are some fun sights to see on a budget. US News and World Report came up with a list of affordable summer vacations with lots of free activities and attractions.

  1. Yellowstone- Campsites start at $15.00 a night and entrance fee to the park is $35.00 per vehicle. Or you can walk in for just $20.00.
  2. Bar Harbor- Summer is the best time to visit! The town offers a variety of free attractions including outdoor movies and tours of local breweries. You can visit Acadia National Park or sit by Frenchman Bay.
  3. Grand Canyon- Campsites are just $18.00 a night in the warmer months. Entrance fee is $35.00 a vehicle. If you pack your own food, it’s an excellent way to save.
  4. Niagara Falls- Consider purchasing a bundled pass, which includes guided tours and a boat ride. Booking in advance will help to cut costs.
  5. Williamsburg, VA- This is a must for history buffs on a budget.

You can read the rest of the list of affordable summer vacations here: https://travel.usnews.com/rankings/best-cheap-summer-vacations/

Another way to save money is to pack lighter and smarter. If you are flying, you can pack a carryon bag and avoid checking luggage. If you are driving, saving space in the car can make a difference in both comfort and efficiency. TravelandLeisure.com has a number of tips to help you pack for your vacation the right way.

  1. Try using color coded packing cubes for saving space and organization.
  2. Pack by outfit so you can plan how many outfits you will need.
  3. Lay everything out first to determine which items you can eliminate
  4. Choose a soft sided bag to pack, which allows for more space and flexibility
  5. Cut back on the pairs of shoes you are packing. Try to choose something that can be worn with many outfits throughout the trip.
  6. Pack plastic grocery bags for any items that may get wet such as bathing suits.
  7. Pack sample sized toiletries that you can throw away easily.
  8. Roll your clothes instead of folding to fit more in the bag.
  9. Put jewelry in individual snack sized baggies to prevent tangling of multiple necklaces or bracelets.

Some other items to consider packing may be very helpful and unexpectedly needed. Those items include:

  1. Hand sanitizer
  2. First aid kit
  3. Thermometer
  4. Allergy medicine
  5. Wet wipes
  6. Sleeping medication
  7. Eye drops
  8. Insect repellent
  9. Hydrocortisone cream
  10. Motion sickness pills
  11. Stomach medicine
  12. Small sewing kit
  13. Earplugs
  14. Stain remover
  15. Tissues
  16. Personal mini mirror
  17. Tweezers
  18. Eye mask
  19. Hat or visor
  20. Rain parka

The whole idea behind vacationing is to relax. Travel experts recommend packing over a few days, so it’s less stressful and not last minute, which can cause anxiety and stress.

Another option for many is a “Staycation.” This is where you plan a vacation-like experience while staying at home. At RiverWoods and Normandie Ridge Senior Living Communities, there are a number of summer events and attractions for the entire family. At RiverWoods, there is the Slifer House Summer Concert Series, the fireworks celebration on campus on Saturday June 29t featuring live music and free refreshments at RidgeCrest, and the Car Show on September 21. At Normandie Ridge, you can email Dave.Bell@AlbrightCare.org for an upcoming list of events. You can also always enjoy taking a swim in our indoor pools at both Normandie Ridge and RiverWoods. Visit our website to learn more about all of the amenities and programs offered to our residents.