Expert tips for travel deals
Affordable travel – isn’t it what we’re all after?
With more time and a little more money, we on the easy side of 50 have a lot of travelling to catch up on. So many cities, so many countries! However, we soon discover travel doesn’t come cheap. A lame loonie and overseas prices that look like someone’s idea of a joke can certainly put a crimp on travel ambitions.
But affordable travel is possible-without sacrificing comfort. The 50-plus travel market represents a huge opportunity for the travel industry. It’s not a chance they’re about to pass up.
You just have to know where to look. So we went looking.
We spoke to experienced travellers, to travel writers and to travel industry people. We asked them: “What tips would you give your dad or mom when it comes to affordable travel?”
We got a lot of answers. And we heard big six themes over and over again:
1) See Canada First:
It’s the only place where the loonie is accepted at par everywhere. And with charter airlines competing for our buck, seeing Canada – from the dramatic Juan de Fuca Strait off Vancouver Island to the whale-spouting Bay of Bulls in Newfoundland – has tbe one of the best deals out there.
It’s the biggest asset of the 50-plus years, says travel writer Pam Hobbs, author of Free to Travel (Random House, 1994).
“We have the time to research the best deals – whether that’s searching the Internet, reading guide books or phoning foreign travel bureaus.”
3) Travel Agents:
In this age of the Internet, some people think travel agents are as dead as the dodo. Not so.
“If you’re not particularly adept at using the Internet, a good travel agent can be worth their weight in gold,” says Jennifer Hillard of the Consumers Association of Canada.
“Don’t be shy about using their services. Spend some time letting them know your priorities – and your age,” she says. An experienced travel agent can pull up a dozen deals on the screen and pick one that suits your special requirements.
For instance: You want to spend 17 days driving around Europe by car. Then you check car rentals. Yikes! A spirited little Renault costs about $70 a day, including taxes and insurance.
Gilbert Bullock, a travel counsellor with Saunders Travel, in Toronto is representative of the thousands of travel agents across the country who know their stuff . He came up with a better answer.
Both Renault and Peugeot offer an irresistible lease-buy back deal. You pick up a brand new car in any one of a number of European cities (although it’s cheapest to pick it up in France), drop it off at another city if you like, and the cost works out to $47 a day – less if you keep it longer. All it takes to find such deals is a little careful research.
(In Europe, by the way, a car with automatic transmission costs nearly twice as much to rent as a manual, so brush up on your gear-changing skills before going.)
4) Join, join, join:
Sounds like a hymn, but it’s the byword for older travellers seeking the best deals. As a member of CARP, you already know about the special concessions advertised in every issue of CARPNews FiftyPlus – everything from cruises to travel insurance.
And, as a member you can make use of the services provided by the organization’s official travel partner, CARP Travel (telephone 1-877-246-2277 or www.carptravel.com )
You can also get more bargains by joining CARP’s equivalent organization, in the U.S., the American Association of Older Persons (AARP) at www.aarp.org.
And don’t forget the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), not only for roadside emergency help but for its route and destination assistance, car rental, travel insurance and other member privileges.
5) Pay now, laugh later:
Because foreigners tend to snicker at our dollar, pay for as much as you can – car rentals, hotels, rail passes, etc. – prior to your departure. You’ll be glad you did.
6) Show your age:
Age discounts are becoming more widespread and liberal – often starting at 50 or 55. So be sure to carry your CARP membership card or other age ID, and ask for breaks wherever you go.
Next week: Part 2- Where to find good travel information.