Once upon a time, seniority ruled. Smart travelers 55 and over asked if there was a senior discount for their flight, room, or trip, and if so, they snagged it. In the Internet age, however, senior discounts aren't automatically the best deal. Sometimes specials that are available to all can be a bigger bargain. So check everything for the lowest price, but don't neglect senior specials, either. Here are a few senior deals worth weighing:
Although many airlines have discontinued senior fares, several airlines still offer discounts to older people who make their reservations by phone. Among them is Midwest Airlines (800-452-2022), which has special fares for passengers 55 and up who book 14 days in advance with a Saturday night stay. United Airlines has a Silver Wings Plus Travel Club for 55-plus fliers (call 800-720-1765). USAirways has a program for AARP members 50 or older that offers discounts not available online or through travel agents (call 866-886-2277). Speaking of AARP, Virgin Atlantic Airways is offering AARP members discounts of 5-25 percent through Dec. 31 (call 800-862-8621 and mention the AARP discount promotion).
For a complete report on all age-based airline discounts as well as other features of interest to older travelers, send $7 to John Stickler, former publisher of the now-defunct Mature Traveler newsletter, at PO Box 1543, Wildomar, CA 92595.
Boston-based Grand Circle Travel has always had good prices and trips for its clientele, whom it calls "seasoned travelers." For example, a 15-day stay on Spain's Costa del Sol begins at $995 from New York and $1,145 from Boston, including air fare, accommodations, and 25 meals. The company gives its travelers a 3-5 percent discount on their next journey and has an Inner Circle , offering specials and other benefits to those who have taken at least three trips with Grand Circle. Call 800-553-1129 or visit www.gct.com. A handy free publication from the company is "101 Tips for the Mature Traveler;" when calling, ask for a free copy.
Save $5 any day and $8 on "Terrific Tuesdays" at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Again, an AARP card is needed. Events for "Terrific Tuesdays" vary by location and feature workshops on health and wellness, hobbies, horticulture, cooking, and behind-the-scenes talks with animal experts. Visit www.aarp.com, www.seaworld.com, and www.buschgardens.com.
September and October are Senior Time at the Sagamore, a resort on Lake George at Bolton Landing, N.Y. Rates at the 70-acre private island resort start at $215 a night Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night stay Sept. 8-Oct. 31. Guests who book a two-night stay get $100 Resort Bucks to use at the Sagamore Spa, Donald Ross golf course, or the six restaurants and bars. Call 800-358-3585 or visit www.thesagamore.com.
VIA Rail Canada invites anyone over age 60 traveling in economy class to bring a companion of any age for free. The two-for-one offer is available on all VIA Rail trains and is in addition to the regular 10 percent discount seniors ordinarily receive. This offer is good through Feb. 28, and there are other specials for seniors as well. Trip prices vary. Call 888-842-7245 or visit www.viarail.ca.
Anchors Away Cruise Center has discounted rates for travelers 55 and over on selected sailings with various lines. And seniors can bring other passengers of any age for the same rate when staying together in a stateroom.
Sample senior rates for interior staterooms are $479 per person for a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on Celebrity's Century, departing from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sept. 27 (regular price is $573) and $529 per person for a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, departing from Miami on Sept. 27 (regular price is $628). Taxes and port fees, but not air fare, are included.
Specials are listed on the Anchors Away senior cruise page at www.mustcruise.com/cruise--info/seniors.html. More are available by calling 888-516-6306.
Bonus miles Orbitz says it is the first online travel company to offer bonus airline mile awards. Customers will now receive 1,000 additional US Airways Dividend Miles the first time they purchase a US Airways ticket on www.orbitz.com. Customers purchasing additional US Airways tickets on Orbitz will receive 500 bonus miles with each purchase. Those miles are in addition to the standard mileage awards. You must be a US Airways Dividend Miles member but can enroll via the Orbitz website during the promotion, which runs through Oct. 5. Travel must be completed by Nov. 25.
Birds and animals The Inn at Chelsea Farm and The Fan House, both in Barnard, Vt., have enlisted a local Audubon Society leader and an animal tracker to show bed-and-breakfast guests the year-round abundance of Vermont's birds and wildlife. In October, for example, guests may see the spectacle of 10,000 snow geese heading south. In January they can put on snowshoes to see where bears have marked their territory.
Per-couple rates for bird watching or animal tracking are $110 ($90 per single) for a half day, $160 ($135 per single) for a full day. For winter outings, snowshoes can be rented locally. Nightly accommodation rates vary by season, starting at $95 (including daily breakfast but not taxes and gratuities) for two people sharing a room with private bath.