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Getting There on the Cheap

There are bargains galore for seniors, students, and small children

Face it, working world, airlines might drop their rates or offer special packages from time to time, but they won't bend over backwards to court you. The story is different, however, for senior citizens, students, and small children. Travel industry executives know that many working men and women have to fly on business, but younger and older travelers still need to be wooed. Accordingly, there are several excellent discounts available for young and not-so-young travelers. Outlined below are some the best.

Airline Deals and Discounts

Seniors: Most North American airlines offer coupon books good for travel within the United States and Canada. The books come in sets of four and eight, with each coupon redeemable for a single, one-way flight. They cost about $600 for four, and about $1,000 for eight. Those who fly only short distances might not want to buy these coupons, but they do offer considerable savings on expensive and coast-to-coast routes. Since the prices and services are similar on each airline, choose the one that serves cities you expect to visit most.

Students: Several airlines have their own discount "clubs" for students. American Airlines offers students deals through the National Collegiate Travel Club. For $50 a year, students receive three certificates valid for travel within the continental United States. One certificate can only be used by the student to either depart from or arrive at an airport near the student's college. The other two certificates can be used by the student or his or her parents, but only for flights between school and home. Of course, there are several restrictions with this plan.

USAir offers rates as low as $29 to students traveling distances under 750 miles to entice them to fly rather than drive.

Full-time students who carry American Express cards can enroll free in the company's "Student Privileges" program. It offers discount certificates on Continental Airlines, some of which can be used on international flights or by companions.

Children: Infants under the age of 2 travel free on almost all domestic airlines. They are expected to travel on a parent's or guardian's lap, and can only be placed in a seat if one is available. With USAir, children between 2 and 11 can use senior coupons when they are accompanied by seniors also using coupons.

Train Deals and Discounts

Seniors: Amtrak passengers 62 and older can get coach tickets 15 percent off, but only between Monday and Thursday. The discount does not apply to Auto-train, Metroliner, sleeper car, Club service, or Custom Class passengers.

Students: Students 12 to 25 can get big discounts on rail and ferry tickets in Europe and beyond by showing an International Student ID Card. The cards are available for under $20 from the International Education Exchange. They offer no savings in the United States, though.

Children: Amtrak passengers 2 and under can ride on a parent's lap for free, while children 2 to 15 can ride at half-price with an adult or other child who is paying regular, adult ticket prices.

Overnighting Deals and Discounts

Seniors: Many hotels already offer senior discounts to guests either 60 or 65 and older, but some increase their discounts for members of the American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP admits anyone over 50, so membership means senior rates for some not-so-senior travelers. AARP membership also brings discounts on rental cars, sightseeing tours, and cruises. The annual membership fee is $8.

Other seniors' clubs, such as the National Alliance of Senior Citizens and the Silver Keys, offer discounts as well.

Several hotel chains have created their own seniors' clubs. They sometimes offer big savings, but deals vary greatly, according to a recent study by the Consumer Reports Travel Letter. Hilton's Senior Honors offers up to 50 percent off nightly rates, but charges $50 for one year and $35 each year thereafter. Red Roof's RediCard +60 program entitles guests to a 10 percent discount over its regular senior discount for a $10 lifetime-membership fee. Several other clubs, including Best Inns' Senior First Club and Hampton Inn's Lifestyle 50 Club, offer free membership but with reduced savings.

Seniors who want to combine travel with classroom learning can vacation for very little through the Elderhostel program. Participants, who must be at least 60, spend one to four weeks on a college campus, studying a variety of subjects, eating in dining halls, and sleeping in student housing. Room and board is just over $300 a week in the United States and Canada.

National Park enthusiasts 62 or older can pay $10 for a lifetime Golden Age Pass, good at all U.S. national parks for 50 percent off all recreation fees--a good deal for seniors who enjoy camping but not the standard $8 to $10 daily rates.

Students: Many hotels are increasing the maximum ages for free stays with accompanying parents from 12 to 18. Holiday Inn Express even lets 19-year-olds in free.

For students seeking shelter sans parents, American Youth Hostels (AYH) provide an inexpensive bed and the opportunity to meet other travelers. A $25 AYH membership is not required, but it does reduce the $5 to $12 cost for a bed for the night by a few dollars. The majority of hostel guests are between 18 and 30, but there is no age requirement. Children under 12 receive reduced rates at many youth hostels, but they must be accompanied by a parent of the same sex.

Children: Many hotels permit children to stay free when their parents or guardians pay regular rates. Children under 16 are admitted free to all U.S. national parks.

We've started a library of "Living Footnotes" for this section, and welcome your suggestions and your URLs to make it more useful. Use our customized Lycos search to linkthink your way around the web, or feel free to consult the experts about the above topic.

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Updated on October 8, 1995