Today’s travel bug has never been stronger!
Travel agents: Yes, they still exist — and they’re still important!
After 23 years in the travel business, Alan Rosen says, “I believe in planning that bucket list trip now!”
Rosen, owner of Sand and C Travel in Boynton Beach, has seen life’s unpredictability thwart travel dreams too many times. “If you have the resources, I say don’t wait.”
Rosen’s senior clientele’s favorite vacation option is the cruise: “It’s nice and easy — and no flying.”
West Palm Beach travel agent Phyllis Horodner of Travel Leaders of the Palm Beaches agrees: “Cruising is great because the ship is your hotel. I like group tours. There’s a little bit of hand-holding and it’s nice to have a backup if something does go wrong,” she said.
Horodner says a travel agent can handle complicated issues like rebooking a cancelled flight for you. “We know the tricks of the trade.”
Hosted trips are becoming more popular for European vacations, she said. They’re less organized than a group tour, so you have more free time to spend as you prefer, but each city has a dedicated host who will help you navigate like a local.
There are times in life to hire a professional. Travel agents have read the fine print at the bottom of all those contracts and they know the quagmires and pitfalls. “You don’t pay a dime for our expertise — but we work for you,” Horodner said. Travel agents do charge fees for airfares but for all other bookings, they’re getting compensated by the cruise line or the tour operator.
Horodner still loves her work — even after 41 years: “It’s very gratifying when someone comes back aglow, and says, ‘I had the time of my life.’”
Traveling in ‘packs’ — is it right for you?
Travel groups are for seniors who don’t want to travel alone and who want to leave some of the planning to someone else. It’s also a great way to make new friends and meet people with similar interests.
Travel clubs use the power of membership to get better deals. Many travel clubs charge an annual membership fee, which buys access to members-only publications, information, discounts and online travel content.
Some groups are based upon a common interest, like the popular RV owners’ groups. There are also cruising groups, train enthusiasts, safari lovers, art aficionados, music buffs, and sports fanatics who follow their favorite teams. Try Facebook or Meet Up to find a group of like-minded travelers.
Women-only travel groups are growing in popularity. One club, Thelma & Louise, is planning four women-only trips now: France Food and Wine, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Madrid and Andalucía, and Across Canada by Train. Visit thelmaandlouise.com or check out another women’s travel group at travelhags.com.
Senior travel groups with a purpose are growing as well. These groups do more than just sight-see. Are you looking for a seriously scholarly trip? Check out the National Geographic. Its trips are pricey but they’re also spectacular. For more learning tours, try www.roadscholar.com
On volun-tours, travelers get down and dirty with the local people, helping build schools or working on other humanitarian projects. Check out metowe.com
Word of caution: Beware the travel club scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Travel clubs charging high fees or clubs that are pressuring you to commit are most likely frauds. If you do join, do pay your fees with a credit card so you can dispute them if needed.
Know yourself! It helps ensure you’ll have great trip!
Before planning a trip, ask yourself five vital questions. Your answers should inform your planning:
- What do I love?
- How active am I?
- What level of accommodations do I want or need?
- What organization(s) am I a member of? (For instance, AARP and AAA memberships come with travel discounts and deals.)
- Am I a flexible person?
Everybody loves a bargain — and you can find ‘em on land, air and sea!
Here are a few affordably priced suggestions based on method of transportation:
Ride the rails: Amtrak is offering $25 off some of its most popular trips — Rails to the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park Getaway and the Northern Rail Experience. Book by May 31. The trip boards in Los Angeles travels through the picturesque American Southwest to Williams, Ariz., then on to the Grand Canyon, where you’ll spend a full day exploring it. The five-day trip includes two nights’ hotel accommodations and two nights onboard Amtrak, as well as one breakfast and one dinner on board. Tickets: $799, less your $25 discount with code. 800-268-7252; www.amtrakvacations.com
Rollin’ on the river: First, be sure you read the deal’s fine print so you know exactly what’s included. River cruising, much like ocean cruising, offers unlimited dining options, including beer and wine at lunch and dinner. Right now, you can save $2,000 per couple on select 2019 Avalon Waterways European river cruises. Booking is required by June 5 for travel in 2019. (There’s an association airfare promo you need to ask about.) Restrictions and full cancellation penalties apply.
One option: The Danube River Cruise travels the famous river from the Golden City of Prague to Budapest, passing through Linz, Matuhausen, Grein, Spitz and Vienna. The 12-day excursion offers vacationers the chance to taste locally produced cheese, drink beer brewed by Trappist monks, hike the blue Danube trails for spectacular views, and marvel at local architecture. Near Mauthausen, visitors to World War II’s largest concentration camp take a moment to reflect on the ravages of war in this beautiful land.
Rates run from $4,002 for staterooms, $5,151 for panorama suites and $6,201 for the Royal Suite aboard the Avalon Impression, a 443-foot ship. There are two floors of panorama suites, 200-square-foot rooms with wall-to-wall windows that transform the room into an open-air balcony. The Royal Suite is 300 square feet with a larger bath, separate toilet. Deluxe staterooms have small windows and a private bath and shower. Avalon Waterways, www.avalonwaterways.com or 877-797-8791.
Cruisin’ on summer afternoon: Summer & Beyond Sale from Celebrity Cruises: The first and second guest get extra perks on board, including a premium beverage package, unlimited Wi-Fi, prepaid tips, and $150 on-board credit when they book Suite Class accommodations.
Princess Cruises is offering a credit of up to $500 per person if you meet booking requirements before June 19.
Online, Princess is offering a Summer 2018 Sale offering up to 40 percent off on 16 different cruises, including a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise with three ports, with rates starting at $449 for an interior stateroom to $2,739 for a suite (per person). A third and fourth guest sharing the suite can save 50 percent on their fares. The cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale, so it doesn’t get much easier than that. Other deals include several Alaskan cruises, Mediterranean cruises, Northern Europe cruises, even a cruise in Japan. Visit www.princess.com or call 800-774-6237.
Safe travels should also mean INSURED travels
“The most important advice I give is to buy travel insurance,” Rosen said. It’s so important, Rosen asks his clients to sign a waiver if they refuse travel insurance. He advises you have both the emergency medical and evacuation insurance in addition to cancellation insurance.
Horodner recommends you buy your travel insurance early. “If you do, the company is more likely to waive the restriction for pre-existing conditions.” Without that pre-existing condition waiver, even a simple medication change can be interpreted as a pre-existing condition.
Travel insurance isn’t cheap, unless you use it, then it can see like a bargain. Premiums may run as high as 10 to 15 percent for a younger person in good health, and as much as 15 to 20 percent for an older adult, Rosen said. If it seems like a lot, consider how much you’re spending on the vacation.
“Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Rosen said.
Tips to make your vacation dollars travel far
- Stick to your budget — but splurge on something truly special.
- Ask for discounts. (Some carriers already offer them: Southwest Airlines offers senior fares on most flights for travelers age 65 and older; British Airways offers round-trip senior travel discounts of $65 in economy and premium economy for travelers 50 and older; Amtrak offers 10 percent discounts to senior travelers for coach travel on most trains.)
- Travel during off-peak times.
- Ask about last-minute deals. (However, experts say airline ticket prices are at their lowest about 52 days before your travel date.)
- Consider alternative lodging — perhaps staying with friends or using private rentals companies such as Airbnb (airbnb.com) and VRBO (vrbo.com) or doing home-swapping via websites such as homeexchange.com or lovehomeswap.com.
Ready to explore? Forbes helps you navigate the globe
Forbes recently offered 27 Best Budget Travel Destinations for 2018. Here are some highlights:
1) Barcelona, Spain, for visiting Europe on a budget. You’ll find some of the best museums in the world, old world architecture, and a glorious beach. Barcelona is one of the more affordable cities in Europe and flight prices are down 20 percent for the first half of 2018 over last year.
2) Off-the-beaten-path bargain: Montenegro and Namibia. Forbes praised Montenegro’s “incredibly eclectic architectural styles” and its “hot springs, mud spas and hidden beaches.” Longing for privacy? Many of the beaches are only accessible boat. In Africa, Forbes singled out Namibia, a West Africa country it called “a traveler’s paradise because it offers adventure, beautiful landscape and untouched nature.” Its most awe-inspiring features are the “oldest sand dunes in the world” which stretch all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
3) Top U.S. location: Moab, Utah. There are few places where you can explore the splendor of two stunning natural areas, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, so easily. Forbes recommends Moab, for its proximity to the parks, and for lodging, they recommend “glamping” (i.e., luxury camping with a touch of glamour) at Moab Under Canvas, where you’ll have private en-suite bathrooms with toilets, sinks and hot showers.
Under Canvas has camps in all the parks you want to visit: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Zio, the Great Smokey Mountains and Mount Rushmore. Visit undercanvas.com or call 406-412-3545.