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Top websites for senior travelers

Lots of online sites offer alluring travel deals for seniors. But most of them also cater to travelers of any age; senior deals are just part of a larger mix. A reader recently asked about more focused sites: “Are there any websites or travel deals that truly target senior population?”

The short answer is “yes, but…” The “but” is there because “target” can be somewhat ambiguous. Some sites offer services specifically tailored to senior travelers, some feature senior discounts on products designed for travelers of any age, and some are information sites that link seniors to other sites where they can actually buy travel services. Here are a few sites typical of each group.

Tours designed for seniors

A few operators design travel experiences specific to what they believe senior travelers seek—experiences that differ from those aimed at any-age travelers:

  • Elderhostel is the 800-pound gorilla of senior tour operators. It has been renowned for years for programs that blend travel with lifelong education. Because many of Elderhostel’s domestic trips employ off-season college and university accommodations, they can be among the least expensive travel options you’ll find anywhere. Overseas trips tend to show less of a cost advantage over regular tours, but the educational options are unmatched. Elderhostel is available to seniors age 55 or over; no enrollment fee.
  • Eldertreks is one of several operators that organize “soft adventure” tours for seniors. Of course, “soft” is relative: Not recommended if you’re really out of shape.
  • Grand Circle Travel is one of the relatively few tour operators that design their itineraries and facilities to cater specifically to senior travelers. It operates a broad spectrum of tours, including escorted tours in most of the world, river cruises, small-ship cruises, and adventure tours.
  • Vantage Deluxe World Travel is another tour operator providing a wide range of tours and cruises designed for senior travelers. For solo seniors, Vantage promises the “lowest single supplements on the market.”
  • Although it does not promote tours designed specifically for seniors, Grand European Tours operates “the most leisurely paces” among European tour and cruise programs. That’s one of the reasons that travel and senior writers often recommend it.

Quite a few online agencies offer senior programs that more narrowly target limited interest groups. Two examples:

  • SWT Tours operates a limited schedule of domestic and European tours aimed at senior women age 50 or over. Unlike most similar organizations, pricing is generally based on single occupancy—a boon for solo seniors.
  • Seniors Home Exchange bills itself as “the only home exchange exclusively for the over-50 age group.” The theory seems to be that seniors would rather live in other seniors’ homes and have their own occupied by other seniors.

Some senior travel sites establish a minimum age requirement, or at least a guideline, typically at 50 or 55. On others, however, the age threshold is pretty nonspecific. Also keep in mind that tour packages aimed at all ages tend to appeal disproportionately to senior travelers. Many seniors will be perfectly happy on an any-age tour or cruise.

Senior travel deals

AARP, of course, features a wide range of travel deals targeted to—if not specifically designed for—senior travelers. The AARP website lists tours from six large tour operators, as well as specials from airlines (a very few), cruise lines, vacation rental agencies, and individual attractions. And through its Travelocity-based Passport website, AARP steers members to a wide range of travel products—some at discounted prices, others not.

As far as I can tell, AARP’s focus is almost entirely on featuring discounts and other promotions rather than any services designed specifically for senior travelers. Keep in mind, too, that AARP is in the travel business for a profit, and it probably receives some sort of compensation from just about any travel supplier it features.

As I’ve often noted, senior discounts are generally on the wane. Lots of hotels and other travel suppliers—plus Southwest Airlines—offer senior discounts, but they’ve been shrinking. Still, you’ll see plenty of travel ads that target seniors.

Senior information sources

As a senior traveler, you have lot of online information targeted to your interests. The best place to start, of course, is SmarterTravel.com’s own extensive Senior section. I regularly report on the senior travel scene, our deal-finders smoke out attractive promotions, we provide links to a variety of suppliers interested in serving seniors, and you can sign up for a monthly newsletter.

Here are a few other information sites you might find helpful:

  • Grand Travel is the travel component of Grand Times, an information website that focuses on activities with and for grandchildren.
  • Suite 101, a broad-based senior site, also maintains a useful travel page with a combination of feature reports and links.
  • Senior Something, a wide-ranging site for senior information, has a page of links to a handful of travel sites that cater to senior travelers.

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