Years go up, price goes down

You don't have to act your age on holiday but, as Jane E. Fraser explains, admitting it can bring benefits.

There are times when it pays to admit to your age. You might not want to think of yourself as "senior" but what if there are big discounts to be had? Many travellers may not realise that they qualify for seniors discounts, which typically range from 5 per cent to 50 per cent.

Often you only need to be aged 50 or 55 to qualify and often only one person needs to be the minimum age, with the benefits extended to travelling companions.

Unfortunately, seniors discounts are far from uniform, meaning you need to keep an eye out for offers and get in the habit of asking at time of booking. Even companies that do not actively promote seniors discounts may have a seniors rate or be willing to offer some sort of discount if you inquire when booking.

Travellers older than 50 account for a huge proportion of the leisure market and are a sector the industry is keen to court.

In NSW, anyone aged 60 or more and not working more than 20 hours a week can apply for a Seniors Card, see www.seniorscard.nsw

.gov.au.

The card is not asset-tested and benefits include travel discounts from companies such as Captain Cook Cruises, Evergreen Tours (escorted tours), Driveaway Holidays (car rental) and Roamfree (accommodation).

You can also get a discount on tours designed specifically for single older travellers, along with deals on rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian Pacific. When it comes to cruising, a popular holiday with people over 50, seniors discounts are somewhat more hit and miss.

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The marketing manager at Cruiseabout, Carre Le Page, says not all cruise lines offer discounts and those that do tend not to offer them all the time. Le Page recommends travellers sign up for email newsletters so they know when seniors' offers are released.

"We advertise seniors discounts every four to six weeks," he says. "You have to be 55-plus to get the discount and only one person has to be that age."

Le Page says Royal Caribbean tends to offer more seniors discounts than other cruise lines. The average discount is 5 per cent, which might not seem a huge amount but can add up on longer cruises.

"The biggest saving we've seen was over $1000, and that was per person, on an Alaskan cruise," he says.

Seniors discounts can also apply to less obvious products, such as adventure activities.

At the Falls Creek ski fields in Victoria, anyone aged 70 or over skis free, while those aged 65 to 69 pay half the normal price on passes, single-day lift tickets and group lessons.

Mount Buller has a "baby boomers bonus day", where anyone born in 1954 or earlier who buys a lift pass on a Wednesday or Thursday can get the next day's skiing free.

Many hotels offer discounts and add-ons for seniors, so it pays to call the hotel direct and ask.

The Radisson Plaza Hotel Sydney, for example, offers a 10 per cent discount on its daily rate and provides free internet and health club access.

When booking hotels, make sure you are getting the lowest possible rate, not just a discount off an arbitrary rate, because hotel rates fluctuate day to day.

Rail lines commonly have seniors rates throughout the year; Countrylink, for example, offers 50 per cent off the normal adult seat fare for Seniors Card holders and up to four free journeys a year for NSW residents with pensioner cards.

Many tour operators offer discounts to eligible passengers, although they tend to be on selected tours and departures.

AAT Kings offers modest discounts for Seniors Card holders on selected tours, with present offers including $45 a person off some of their itineraries throughout Australia.

Similarly, Grand Pacific Tours, which operates coach tours in New Zealand, offers a flat $50 discount to Seniors Card holders on most tours.

Ensure you pack the right policy

Getting suitable and affordable travel insurance can be a challenge for older travellers, especially if you are over 70 or have pre-existing medical conditions.

Taking out extra coverage for pre-existing medical conditions can really add to the cost of a policy, so it pays to shop around or ask a travel agent to recommend a good provider.

AIG Travel Insurance offers a 20 per cent discount on insurance to holders of a NSW Seniors Card and has policies catering to travellers over 70.

You may be able to find a cheaper policy on the internet but double-check the inclusions and read the fine print regarding age and health.

With some medical conditions, it also pays to have a letter from your doctor saying you are fit to fly, in case you are asked by airline staff.

Make the most of it ... a Seniors Card opens a world of discounts to older travellers. Photo: Getty Images

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