QUESTION: With COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions being lifted, are there new or extended travel discounts for seniors?
ANSWER: While 2020 was a profoundly down year for travel, the good news is senior rewards and discounts are available as tourism and leisure industries rebound. With a little planning and appropriate precautions, seniors should be able to travel in relative safety while enjoying targeted savings in 2021.
While the Centers for Disease Control still advises against extended travel unless fully vaccinated, more and more limitations on domestic commercial carriers and large entertainment venues are being relaxed. Likewise, restrictions on some international destinations are easing prompting more tourists to head to these exotic locations and trendy sites.
When planning, consider researching the best senior travel and entertainment discounts through organizations such as AARP or Association of Mature American Citizens. Membership usually is the key to securing discounts at various venues, restaurants and services.
“Every dollar saved can really add up,” says Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot shopping and trends expert.
To find specific travel discounts, check with airlines, cruise lines, hotels or other tourism companies. For example, certain hotel chains offer discounted rates to seniors; however, you’ll have to ask for them specifically.
“Sometimes you can book directly on the hotel’s website to receive (senior discount) rates, but other times you might have to book through a third party like AARP,” according to Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com.
Discounts include Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which offers AARP members a 10 percent discount; Hampton Inn & Suites has a 10 percent discount off the best available rate for individuals older than 65 when booked online; and Red Roof Inn gives a 20 percent discount for AMAC members with code.
After suspending operations because of the pandemic, some cruise lines are reopening and most require a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. Collette Cruise Tours grants AARP members $50 off per person on cruise tours; AMAC members can save between $50 and $100 per person; and Carnival Cruises offers senior fares to those more than 55 on select cruises, just as examples. Contact the specific cruise line for more information and restrictions.
Some airlines also request proof of a current negative COVID-19 test before boarding as well as certain countries that require a quarantine period upon arrival. British Airways gives AARP members $65 off economy and premium economy, or $200 off business class fares on round-trip transatlantic tickets purchased online to specific destinations. Again, suggest contacting the individual airline for more details when planning your trip.
If your travel plans take you outside the U.S., the CDC website has a comprehensive map showing COVID-19 risk levels in countries around the world. By clicking on each country, it will show any entrance requirements, such as a negative COVID-19 test or in-bound quarantine period after arrival. The CDC information is continually updated to keep the traveling public informed in order to make educated decisions.
Of course, wearing face coverings and keeping socially distant are generally considered appropriate precautions and may be required on public transportation and in airports or other terminals.
The CDC also recommends adults 65 and older received both doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines prior to any travel away from their homes. Both vaccines have a 94 percent efficacy to reduced risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
All these safeguards are necessary because the risk for severe illness because of COVID-19 increases with age and older adults are at the highest risk.
Michael Bateman is a retiree who previously worked in marketing and corporate communications.