Ultimate senior travel guide
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Who says being a senior means you can’t still travel like you’re young? If you’re older and looking to make the most out of your travels, there are plenty of ways to have an adventure – in comfort and style – without breaking the bank!
Whether you prefer to RV around the U.S. or fly extravagantly across the world, you can travel well for pennies on the dollar by making the most of miles, points, and cash back from the best rewards cards for beginners, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. These are all great picks for seniors, who often have healthy, well-established credit scores.
Some cards offer senior-friendly perks like airport lounge access and early boarding, and the rewards you earn can easily offset the cost of flights, hotels and more.
With a bit of strategy and planning ahead, you can travel safely and affordably and achieve your dreams. I’ll share some top tips for seniors looking to get away – no matter your age or travel style!
How do you like to travel?
The first question for any traveler is typically the toughest: What type of vacation is next on my list?
But for our more mature readers, you might want to consider whether you prefer skydiving in a remote location, exploring our national parks, or relaxing on the beach close to home. It’s really up to you!
Another consideration for any adventurer is how active they want to be. Do you love hiking, waterfalls, and breaking a sweat, or does your ideal vacation involve being pampered by the pool and saving your cardio for after you return home? And do you have any medical conditions to keep in mind?
No matter your preferences, here are a few senior-friendly vacations that you might enjoy – and tips to help keep your costs under control!
RV trips: For active seniors
If you’d rather avoid flying, consider a road trip or RV vacation to explore the continent. For folks in the U.S., there are 59 national parks that boast incredible scenery and some of the most astounding nature you might ever witness. And although the more famous parks (Yosemite, Glacier, the Grand Canyon) get most of the publicity, the other parks are quite spectacular too.
And if you’re still active and wanting to spend your vacation strengthening your legs, many national parks offer some of the U.S.’s very best hikes. I climbed Half Dome in Yosemite in July of 2008 and still consider it to be one of my favorite vacations of all time.
For seniors, visiting national parks is very affordable. A lifetime senior pass (for folks 62+) costs $80 plus a $10 handling fee. Or you can pick up an annual pass for just $20.
A road trip can also be incredibly cost-effective, especially for those who opt to utilize an RV (Recreational Vehicle) to combine their transportation and overnight accommodation. Renting an RV can be a fun adventure, and is perfect if you prefer a slower and more relaxing travel environment.
If you decide to take an RV vacation, the RV rental will likely be the heftiest part of your vacation budget. So we recommend that you use any available discounts to reduce the cost of your RV rental. Associations like AAA and AARP often provide discounted rates, so be sure to mention these over the phone or select the check box when searching for RV rentals online. You might also save money on rental cars or hotels if you’re a government employee, so it never hurts to ask ahead or do your own research.
Note: No matter your age, you can join AARP. It can come in handy for rental savings, discounts on dining, and more!
Although it’s hard to redeem credit card rewards points directly for an RV rental, you can always use bank points that work as a statement credit for travel to help offset your purchase. For example, you can book your RV rental directly at Cruise America or through another RV rental company, and then use miles from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to “erase” the purchase.
Keep in mind, you typically can’t save on rental insurance for your RV by using one of the best cards for car rentals (unlike when renting a normal car). But choosing the right card to pay for fuel can earn you valuable points or cash back. Here’s a list of our favorite cards for gas purchases.
You can also redeem points for gas gift cards if you hold Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi Thank You points — but I don’t recommend using your points in this way because it won’t provide the most value. If you’re looking to offset gas purchases, consider applying for a cash back credit card. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a welcome bonus of a 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first 6 months of card membership. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Some RVs even provide refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves that you can use to save on food and beverage costs throughout your trip. But for the occasional dinner out, don’t forget to pay with a credit card that earns bonus points on dining. My favorite dining credit card is currently the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card which earns an unlimited 4% cash back on dining, and earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Be sure to plan out your trip in advance so you know about available rest stops, gas stations, and RV parking areas. You’ll also want to be sure to pack necessary medications and figure out whether you’ll have access to medical care (in case you’re driving long distances!)
With AAA or a premier AARP membership, you’ll get free tools to plan your road trip route, along with roadside assistance. But if you’re just looking for roadside assistance, check out our roadside assistance tips for your next road trip.
When my wife and I moved across the country in 2015, we had tons of fun mapping out our route, utilizing hotel points to stay at nice, clean hotels, and using points, miles, and cash back from credit cards to have an amazing trip at a fraction of the price. The highlights of our trip were visiting the Grand Canyon, stopping by Elvis’s Graceland, and visiting with friends in Nashville!
Resort vacations: For seniors who prefer to relax
If a nature-inspired road trip doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, never fear! No matter your age, pina coladas and catching some rays by the pool or beach are always a great idea.
If you don’t already live in a tropical paradise, you might need to fly to reach your exotic destination, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Check our guides to the best credit cards for airlines and best hotel credit cards which can help you achieve your dream trip for nearly free.
As a general rule, try to focus on securing your flights first and then move on to your hotel, rental cars, and other expenses. Points and miles can be valuable for each of these expenses, although flights and hotels are probably the simplest.
When deciding on your destination, consider proximity to good medical care, ease of access, and how difficult it might be to travel to your destination. You probably don’t want to stay in a cliffside villa in Santorini if your body can’t handle going up and down dozens of steps!
There’s also something to be said for visiting a relaxing resort close to home. The US has dozens of gorgeous resort towns (from Florida to California, and lots of places in between) that are only a quick flight or drive away. The shorter and cheaper flight might also make it more feasible to fly up front in First or Business Class. And for more mature travelers, the extra legroom on a flight can be a huge benefit!
Consider using points and miles to book a Business Class or Premium Economy seat (instead of paying cash!) to get your vacation started out right. You can also relax before or after your flight in one of many airport lounges you can access for free simply for having a single credit card!
If your trip involves flying, you can get your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursed for free to make your airport experience faster and simpler. These trusted traveler perks can save you from standing for hours in long, crowded airport lines and make the experience much more civilized.
Don’t forget to pack your medications and necessary supplements, especially if you’re traveling far from home. And for folks with mobility limitations or disabilities, visit our accessible travel guide for more information on the easiest airports to navigate through. Here’s a handy list:
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Cruises: For seniors of all types
If you’ve never enjoyed the simple, relaxing luxury of a cruise, your golden years are the opportune time to indulge. I particularly love cruises for their all-encompassing nature. Once you’ve paid for your passage and boarded the ship, your accommodation, transportation, food, and entertainment are taken care of!
Cruises also offer a great opportunity to see many places in a short amount of time! If you like to hop around, a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise will be much more cost-effective than booking train travel or flights between the several destinations that you can see on a single cruise. And cruising can be a great way to scope out ports of call for your next extended vacation (or for an upcoming retirement).
You can book cruises easily with any of the three main transferable points currencies – Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Points. For each option, I recommend calling the number on the back of your credit card to speak with a cruise or travel specialist. Here’s our guide to booking cruises with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to do some of your own research first. I recommend you start by deciding what type of cruise you want to do (Alaska, Caribbean, European, etc.) then searching for typical cruise itineraries in your destination of choice. From there, you can call to chat with a specialist to hear what options are available to you. Because cruises run on set schedules on specified dates, try to be flexible with your cruising plans – and always book well in advance (or very last minute) for the best deals.
Note: Some cruise lines offer cruises specifically catered to seniors who prefer a quieter, more laid back experience.
If you have mobility challenges, keep in mind that most cruises also offer accessible staterooms that make traveling with a wheelchair or other disability a breeze. Most cruise lines also have an on-board doctor / medical staff as well as anything else you might need in case of an emergency.
For folks with dietary restrictions, I recommend calling the cruise line in advance to ensure that they can meet your personal needs. And be sure to let the cruise line know well ahead of time if you’ll require additional assistance. Also, remember to plan ahead and bring extras of any necessary medications or supplements that might be tough to find onboard or in foreign cruise ports.
Aside from booking your cruise using transferable points or “erasing” the charge using a travel credit card statement credit, you can also get big savings by booking your accompanying travel using points and miles. If your cruise departs from Miami or Galveston, use your hard earned miles and points to subsidize your flights to and from your cruise as well as any hotel stays you might need before and after you embark / disembark!
Considerations for solo seniors
If you’re looking to travel solo, you’ll want to be extra vigilant in making sure you avoid some of the common traveling pitfalls. In addition to common scams and not having a buddy to split all your costs, you might have a tougher time meeting other travelers if you don’t stay downtown or in tourist hot spots. So choose your hotels and accommodation carefully, and be willing to pay a little more for the better location.
When it comes to seniors stepping out of their comfort zones, you might also consider using the internet or a mobile app to help guide your travel plans. Modern-day technology has made travel more accessible than ever with free walking tours, instant translation, and the ability to meet other expats or travelers with the click of a button. Don’t be afraid to try these new technologies – they can truly be a lifesaver!
Another thing solo travelers might consider is booking group tours or packages as a way to mingle with other travelers while exploring a new destination. Touring as a group can be a cost-effective way to get to know a new destination without spending tons of cash or trying to navigate yourself around uncharted territory!
Don’t forget to check in with your doctor before you go, think in advance about any medical needs you’ll have, and bring along a doctor’s note for any specific concerns. You might want to plan ahead with travel insurance or a particular back-up plan in case you encounter any unexpected hiccups!
Keep in mind that you’ll want to have a good emergency contact in case anything should happen while you’re out adventuring. And it’s a good idea to share your itinerary with a close friend or family member in case things go awry.
No matter your age, don’t let mobility or health concerns prevent you from taking trips you’ve always dreamed of. With the increased time flexibility (and wisdom!) that can come during your golden years, it’s a perfect opportunity to make new memories and adventure beyond your comfort level.
And if costs are holding you back, don’t be intimidated. Even for beginners, you can quickly and easily enjoy huge savings and travel in style by redeeming points and miles for your travels. Here’s a good starting point with our best rewards credit cards for beginners.
Don’t forget to take advantage of discounts for seniors and extra card perks that can make your travel more comfortable, like airport lounge access or TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (free to apply with certain cards!).
Do you have any tips as a senior to share with fellow travelers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!
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