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Travel for the elderly: be sure to ask about discounts

By James H. WinchesterSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / July 14, 1981

The 45 million Americans now over the age of 50 are the nation's largest and fastest-growing travel market, with those 55 or older accounting for one-third of all US spending for vacation or recreational activities. The travel industry has responded by offering a wide variety of discounts to the elderly:

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Airlines. The government once disallowed air fare discounts for the elderly as "discriminatory" to younger travelers. This law has since been repealed, and many -- but not all -- US airlines, as well as some foreign carriers, now offer substantial reductions to passengers 65 years or older. In general, these fares average two-thirds the cost of a regular one-way coach ticket. Reservations sometimes must be made at least 24 hours before departure, but tickets can be bought up to one hour before flight time, and legal proof of age must be shown.

Some of the airlines offering senior citizen discount fares include American, Pan American, Braniff, and Delta. It's a good idea, however, to ask when making a reservation on anym airline if there are special fares for the elderly. Usually, senior citizen airline fares apply to those 65 years or older.

Amtrak. Senior citizens save 25 percent on the regular one-way fare where the ticket costs a minimum of $40 or more. This special fare is good for both unreserved and reserved travel in coach, club and sleeping cars; however, applicable accomodation charges -- such as a special fee, for instance, for a berth or roomete -- must be paid in full. This fare does not apply to Metroliner service between Washington and Boston and the cities in between.

Buses. Both Greyhound and Trailways give a 13 percent discount to senior citizens, but the lower rates do not apply to promotional fares.

National Parks. Available to anyone 62 years or older, a free lifetime permit gives entrance to all US parks, recreational areas and monuments.For details, write Public Inquiries, National Park Service, Washington, D.C. 20240.

Memberships. The several million members of the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons get special discounts for both lodgings and auto rentals at many places. By showing membership cards when checking in at Holiday Inns, Howard Johnson Motor Lodges, Quality Inns, Ramada Inns, and Rodeway Inns, members get a 10 percent discount on all rooms every day of the year. Scottish Inns, located primarily in the Southeastern States, gives NRTA and AARP members a 20 percent discount on room, while Sheraton Hotels and Inns give a 25 percent discount on all but minimum-priced rooms at all their worldwide locations. Sonesta hotels offer a 15 percent discount.

For information on membership in the National Retired Teachers Association or the American Association of Retired Persons, write (to either group) at 1909 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20049. Their annual fee is only $4.

The NRTA and AARP Purchase Privilege Program also offers members discounts on Hertz, Avis, Domestic, and National auto rentals. The discount rates vary for differing circumtances.For Avis, for example, these discounts apply: