Seniors can save on last-minute deals

 
Published6/7/2008 11:56 AM

With gasoline so costly this summer, perhaps the surest escape from the misery is to drink a gallon and get it over with.

Certainly, we can assume many vacations are being postponed or abbreviated because of economic downturns such as high gas costs.

 

International travel in particular seems at the bottom of the destination list. A survey by the Travel Industry Assn. and Ypartnership, a marketing organization, asked respondents what they plan to do with the money they receive from the recent "economic stimulus" tax rebates. Sixteen percent said they would use the rebates for a trip of some kind, but of that group only 3 percent would travel to another country. A typical reason is that a round-trip ticket from Chicago to London, which was priced at about $1,000 a person just a few years ago, has risen to double that at least.

But there's a way that seniors can beat the system, especially those whose time constraints for travel are less of a factor. You can take advantage of last-minute travel, i.e., booking unsold seats just a few days before takeoff, in many cases up to 14 days. An unsold seat on an airplane and a room in a hotel are like leftover vegetables to the travel industry. If nobody buys, they go to the dumpster.

Among the sources promoting last-minute cut rates for many popular destinations are the LastMinute Travel Club (www.lastminutetravel.com, (800) 442-0568), Travelocity (www.travelocity.com, (888) 872-8356) and its sister company, lastminute.com (www.lastminute.com, no phone), Expedia (www.expedia.com, (800) 397-3342) and its partner Hotwire (www.hotwire.com, (866) 468-9473), and Smarter Travel (www.smartertravel.com, (617) 886-5555). Last-minute trips on these sites are usually good for about two weeks. Air miles are also credited.

Because of their super-bargain nature, the offers get sucked up rapidly, but you will be surprised by the vast numbers of choices and discounts for seniors.

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The Internet, where communications happen in a blink, lends utmost sophistication to the business, meaning that airlines, hotels and resorts can quickly combine their vacancies into amazingly attractive travel packages. The LastMinute Travel Club boasts a network of 13,000 hotels in 255 major cities, at discounts of up to 65 percent off the usual price.

The club, which keeps members informed of bargains by e-mail, offers in some cases, senior discounts of up to 25 percent off the last-minute price. Memberships are $50 a year. They are dues that are quickly reclaimed the first time a member takes advantage of a bargain. For instance, two seniors traveling round trip from Chicago to London for a round trip in early June was priced at $1,017 each, tax included, using Air Canada, with a connection in Montreal going over and through Ottawa coming back.

The club posted even more attractive bargains for domestic trips, like to Orlando. From Chicago, a round trip for seniors age 65 plus would have cost $390 a person instead of $449 for a non-senior, a savings of 14 percent. And, within a few miles of Walt Disney World, the Imperial Swan hotel was renting rooms for $29 a night, including taxes. A Maingate East and Howard Johnson hotel asked $49 and $32 respectively.

(If you take advantage of the last-minute flights to Orlando and Disney World, make sure you pick up a Mature Traveler Guide offered by the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau ((800) 643-9492, www.orlandoinfo.com). The guide publicizes discounts on hotel rooms, but also restaurants and Florida attractions such as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Dinosaur World, SeaWorld and Orlando outlet stores.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Last-minute package deals, including air and hotel, are an even better choice for most popular domestic resorts. Hundreds of hotel companies are listed and air miles are credited. You can choose hotels by check boxes of amenities, such as swimming pool, pets allowed, high-speed Internet, free parking, tennis courts, kitchenette and so on.

When I searched an air/hotel package deal on Travelocity's last-minute site from Chicago to Las Vegas for seven days early in June, a round trip on United with a room at the Mirage Hotel & Casino went for $798 per person, including taxes and fees; at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, $689, the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, $1,021, the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, $624.

Flying Continental for three nights listed these package prices: Mirage, $543; Luxor, $498; Venetian, $642, and Golden Nugget, $468.

A feature of Lastminute.com is that if you are not particular, for instance, which European city you would like to visit, there are alternatives listed on the same page that may better suit your choice of prices. For example, Chicago to Barcelona came in at $2,515 a person for three nights (air and hotel). London was $1,295 and Madrid $1,378.

Expedia's last-minute packages featured air/hotel/rental car for prices ranging from $925 per senior for seven nights (Kings Inn Hotel) in San Diego, on up to $2,045 (Marriott Gaslamp Quarter).

John Hilferty's column for
mature travelers appears
monthly. He can be reached at
hilf@johnhilferty.com.

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