Travel and leisure, a benefit of retirement

May 25, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

One of the benefits of retirement is more time for travel and leisure. The travel industry has seized on that, offering discounts and special vacation packages for travelers 50 and older.

"Many airlines and tour companies offer discounts for seniors," said Susan Plumley, a senior travel agent in AAA's Hagerstown office.

Specifically, AARP members can get a range of vacation deals, she said.

AARP offers a wealth of information on travel tips, destinations and discounts - including its own "Passport" program, with discounts on airfare, hotels, cruises and car rentals.

Economical packages designed specifically for retirement-age travelers also are available, and travel agents say that's the best way to ensure a trouble-free trip.

At AAA, "we recommend escorted package tours," Plumley said, because "everything's handled for them."

Individual travel agencies sometimes offer their own travel programs for travelers older than 50.

Richards World Travel in Hagerstown offers "Travel Happiness," geared toward senior travel with a local group and escort, according to Vice President Karen Moulton.


"It's carefree travel," Moulton said.

"They don't have to worry about their luggage or getting through the airport," she said, because the escorts shepherd them through the trip from start to finish.

"We want their whole vacation experience to be carefree," Moulton said.

The average group size for these trips is 28, she said, although some tours can handle up to 47. The groups are designed to be "small enough to get together and become a family," she said.

Trips generally last 10 to 12 days, but can be longer - as Moulton noted, retirees "don't have to worry about going back to work."

As Moulton was speaking, she said, her agency had a group of seniors cruising through the Panama Canal.

Cruises are particularly popular among older travelers, she said, because cruise ships provide so many services and can accommodate passengers with health issues. "There, you're pampered," Moulton said. "There really isn't any health concern."

The ships can accommodate wheelchairs and are equipped with cabins designed for passengers with disabilities, she added.

"A land tour might be different; it's more fast-paced. Cruises are more relaxed," she said.

The first step in making sure the trip is a pleasant one is to ask an expert for advice, Plumley said.

"First and foremost, consult an agent for suggestions," she said.

If the trip is outside the country, get information on the climate, language and culture.

"Invest in a good guidebook," she said.

If there are medical concerns, some research on available medical facilities is in order.

Travel agents can arrange accommodations for wheelchairs, guide dogs and special seating, Plumley said.

She advised travelers to get checkups before leaving, update their vaccinations and advise their travel agents of any dietary or medical needs.

"Medications should be in a carry-on (bag) and in their original packaging," she said.

As a practical matter, Plumley suggested investing in "good suitcases on wheels."

Another practical matter is safety.

"Thieves and pickpockets consider (senior citizens) easy targets," Plumley said.

She offered several suggestions for staying safe when traveling:

Don't travel at night.

Don't wear expensive jewelry.

Carry traveler's checks, passports, etc. under clothing - invest in a money belt.

AAA also offers seniors a special traffic-safety program designed to keep them mobile as long as possible, she said.

More info

Travel options abound for seniors, with special packages offered for just about anywhere.

While many prefer cruises because of their relaxed pace, they can still reach exotic destinations from the deck of a ship, according to Karen Moulton of Richards World Travel.

Trips to the Caribbean abound and some depart from Baltimore, she said, but travelers are also going to Alaska or Hawaii, New England and Canada.

Landlubbers have options, too. "A lot of people are going to the Canyonland and to national parks," she said.

Travelers can spend about as much or as little as they like, she added.

"On cruises there are varied price ranges," she said. "With cruise ships going out of Baltimore, a couple on a fixed income can do a nice cruise to Bermuda in spring or fall for about $1,500 a couple."

If they prefer to stay on land, a bus trip - perhaps to Williamsburg or the Southwest - could be an option as well, she said.

With the number of vacation packages available, money doesn't have to be an object. While Elderhostel offers trips to foreign countries that cost a few thousand dollars, the organization also offers a group of excursions priced at $600 or less.

Here are a few Web sites that can help you plan:



Elderhostel -

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