One good indication that Max Mermelstein knows about senior travel after more than 15 years of catering to mature travelers is the number of times that "day at leisure" and "morning at leisure" crop up in his well-paced itineraries of Europe and Israel.
Another is the activity level on the first few days upon arrival after the long flight from the West Coast. After a morning arrival in Switzerland or Israel, the only planned activity is an evening cocktail party and dinner. Even the next day is limited to an easy walking tour of the area.
"Such things are really basic to mature travel," says Mermelstein, "like central hotels, lengthy stays in one place instead of in and out of the suitcases, and well-trained guides attuned to the needs of seniors."
Mermelstein has been planning and operating tours for the mature traveler for more than 15 years, the last five of them through his own company, A. J. S. Travel Consultants Inc., which deals almost exclusively with those over 50 years of age.
A. J. S. Travel (the initials come from the first names of his grandchildren) has three major tour programs for 1987: two 15-day tours of Switzerland and Italy and a popular 22-day tour of Israel.
Begin at St. Moritz
The 15-day Swiss and Swiss-Italian leisure vacations both begin in the elegant resort of St. Moritz and either branch off to the French-speaking resort town of Montreux on Lake Geneva or to the renowned Italian spa-resort of Albano-Terme near Venice.
Highlighting the all-Swiss tour is a scenic journey through the Alpine heartland on the Glacier Express through Davos, Chur and Andermatt and on to Montreux.
There are also excursions on and along Lake Como, a visit to Chillon Castle made famous by Lord Byron, tours of Geneva and some easy activities such as nature walks, open-air concerts or optional spa and beauty treatments.
"Those leisure days can be just that," says Mermelstein, "for those who just want to relax. But other seniors might want to take the cogwheel train ride to Gstaad, or go see the Matterhorn at Zermat, or simply go shopping. Our guides are ready to help with any of these options."
The Swiss-Italian tour, which spends a week at the spa resort of Albano-Terme, includes a full day in Venice, visits to the ancient university town of Padua, also Lake Como, as well as optional health and fitness spa programs for men and beauty treatments for women--both very popular with mature travelers.
"And during July and August," adds Mermelstein, "there is leisure time to take an optional excursion to the famous open-air Opera Festival in Verona."
Both packages are 15 days long and include first-class hotels throughout with breakfasts (buffet-style) and dinners daily, transfers, sightseeing tours, all the hotels' recreational and entertainment facilities, plus services of local hostesses.
The Swiss package trip runs $2,241 from Los Angeles, based on two people sharing a room. Single supplement is $175 additional.
The Swiss-Italian package runs $2,043 from Los Angeles based on a double shared room, with a single-room supplement of $120 additional.
All trips subject to $13 departure and customs taxes. Also, prices are slightly lower after mid-September. Weekly departures start June 11.
Mermelstein has been planning and perfecting his Israel tours for mature travelers for years now, and his 1987 leisure vacation features eight days each in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and four days at a relaxing kibbutz in the Galilee.
Thirteen escorted sightseeing tours, well distributed among the days of leisure, are included as are two kosher meals each day, transfers, entrance fees, evening entertainment and services of many local hosts and guides.
"There is so much to see and do in Israel, so compelling is its history, that a trip there can be hectic, almost stressful," says Mermelstein. "But we hold it down to no more than two or three days touring per week--yet manage to see almost all the top spots--and still have time to relax and reflect on the land and its people."
For the Israel Leisure Vacation, there is the same basic itinerary but with a choice of first-class or deluxe hotels. For first-class it's the Moriah in Jerusalem and the Grand Beach in Tel Aviv; deluxe hotels are the King Solomon in Jerusalem and the Plaza in Tel Aviv.
Monthly departures start April 8. The all-inclusive price using first-class hotels begins at $2,336 from Los Angeles. Using deluxe hotels the price starts at $2,622.
Prices go only slightly higher during peak summer months and during the Hebrew holiday periods of Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Succoth. All prices are subject to $13 departure tax and customs inspection fee in the United States.
"We've done our best to plan trips that have a slower pace rather than a rigorous conventional tour. Over the years we've found that most mature travelers want it that way," says Mermelstein.
"Planning and arranging such vacations for seniors has been a labor of love for me these many years," he added. "And being instrumental in implementing the lifelong dreams of so many retired men and women in vacations and travel during their golden years always has been and remains a source of great personal satisfaction."
For more information: A. J. S. Travel is a tour wholesaler, so see your own travel agent. If he does not have the brochures, write to A. J. S. Travel, 177 Beach 116th St., Rockaway Park, N.Y. 11694 or phone toll-free (800) 221-5002.