Skipping Countries With Senior Discounts
One of the first senior travel mistakes is committed with ease. Most of us don't plan our trips according to the discounts a given destination might offer us.
But in the case of senior travel, it's always a good idea to check out countries that offer travel discounts to older guests.
Italy, for example, offers a Silver Card (Carta d'Argento) good for discounts on many Italian trains. The initial cost is ~€30 Euros ($40), and it's free for anyone 75 years of age or older.
In Spain, a similar Gold Card (Tarjeta Dorada) is good for train ticket discounts and costs only ~€5.15 ($6.75).
Both of these cards are available to travelers 60 years of age or older.
Did you know that National Park entry fees in Canada are discounted 25 percent for visitors at least 65 years old?
It's less likely you'll make this mistake in Australia, where it's common practice for clerks to ask a person's age as a way to ensure the discounts are granted to everyone who deserves them.
We don't know about you, but we wouldn't mind someone asking our age if it leads to savings.
Overly Ambitious Itineraries
One of the surest ways to foil plans for a great budget trip is to pack too much travel into a short amount of time.
Don't let a travel agent or younger travel companions talk you into one of those "nine countries in seven days" itineraries. It's not good for your health, and it definitely won't enhance your travel experience.
One problem is the constant moving and repacking, which is stressful for travelers of all ages but especially difficult for some seniors. This doesn't mean you need to sit by the pool for your entire trip. Just be smart about scheduling too much for each day.
One tip: consider hub travel, which utilizes a central hotel base and creates shorter day trips. You'll be able to negotiate better room rates and take advantage of those transportation discounts offered in many countries for senior travelers.
Missing Travel Club Discounts
You might not be a joiner, but consider making exceptions when it comes to senior travel. There are a number of organizations that offer members significant discounts on hotels, airfares, ground transportation and dining. Some of these clubs are open only to seniors.
One of the better-known options is the AARP, which focuses its programs on the needs of people 50 and older. Another group to consider is Generation America, which offers breaks on hotel costs, RV rentals and car rentals. Members of American Seniors are eligible for discounts on hotels, car rentals and roadside assistance plans.
It pays to examine the lobbying activities of any group you might join. Some budget travelers avoid specific memberships. They disagree with the lobbying stands the organizations take in Washington and elsewhere.
But if you're happy with other aspects of membership, joining the club and cashing in on discounts can create significant savings during your next trip.
Failing to Secure Health Insurance
The cost of health insurance these days leads many travelers to believe that they should be covered in all situations and in all locations. The idea of buying even more health insurance for a trip isn't too popular.
But the unfortunate reality is that most health insurance plans do not cover you if you leave the country, or seek treatment outside an approved network of care providers. Should your network not be present in your intended destination, the resulting bills could be staggering.
Although many seniors object on principle, in practice it isn't all that expensive to secure health coverage as part of a larger travel insurance policy.
Failing to Ask for a Discount
Perhaps the most common of all senior travel mistakes is also the most simple: failure to inquire about possible discounts at the point of purchase.
It should be a standard question that is asked instinctively at every hotel desk or ticket window: "Do you offer any discounts for senior adults?"
Many middle-aged travelers fail to realize that "senior" discounts can begin as early as age 50. They are often among the group most unlikely to ask the question. But beginning at age 60, the array of discounts expands tremendously.
Don't pay more than is absolutely necessary for any travel product, no matter how small the charge. Those small discounts add up quickly.
Ask the question.
Making Assumptions About RV travel
Some seniors are easily sold on RV travel. They hear about the freedom it affords, and the ability to travel at one's own pace. Throwing away train schedules and bypassing airport security lines are both attractive possibilities.
But it is potentially costly to skip consideration of the pros and cons of RV travel. What is right for one senior traveler might not have much appeal in your life.
It's best to secure a short term rental for your own RV test drive before making any substantial financial commitments. Find out if you are well-suited to the requirements, which include a fair amount of cooking, cleaning and even some maintenance.
Missing Summer Travel Programs
Senior summer programs can add significant value to your trip, but many eligible travelers don't investigate these opportunities.
Some don't know they exist. Others assume they involve high cost.
While some of the programs will be out of reach for budget travelers, it still pays to check into what might be available that's related to your intended destination and your interests.
For example, Road Scholar offers educational programs in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Antarctica, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. Tour costs usually include accommodations, lectures and field trips, and sometimes meals.
Considering Only Guided Tours
Senior travel mistakes are often rooted in assumptions. A common assumption is that after a certain age, guided group tours are the safest and easiest means for exploring a given region.
Frequently, that assumption doesn't prove true. Many times the group tours come at a significantly higher price than what can be accomplished through independent travel. You must decide if the added cost is worthwhile, based on your own mobility and comfort levels as a traveler.
If you opt for a tour, be sure the tour offers excellent value. Certain excursions are best done with people of similar interests.
But you might find it better to pace your own trip, make your own arrangements and make new friends. It pays to ask these questions before serious travel planning begins.