For today's mature traveler, selecting an international vacation should be easy.
After all, most of us have had decades of big-ticket shopping for houses, new cars, dozens of major appliances, putting kids through school, etc. All of which adds up to street-wise shopping and deciphering more fine print than is contained in the Los Angeles phone directory.
The pleasant problem is that the travel industry has found that the mature traveler isn't an endangered species. Far from it.
Mature travelers represent more than half of America's discretionary spending bucks. And because most seniors' homes and cars are paid off, the money available for travel will open an array of vacation travel more exceptional than ever in 1988.
Of course, nowhere is it chiseled in stone that mature travelers must take a tour or package designed for the 55-plus age group.
But in the last few years, surveys have shown that mature travelers prefer a more leisurely paced tour, central hotels, later-starting sightseeing tours, earlier-stopping tours, less night life, more local culture and personal interaction with people. Above all, a less hassled and hectic trip.
Although many tours and packages profess to be designed for mature travelers, some are so in name only. Study the fine print. You'll discover that they're often trips of 10 countries in 10 days for the youth market. As a result, it is still necessary to read the pesky fine print.
One of the most popular trends for mature travelers is the long-term, stay-put vacation in which you sign in at one hotel or resort in Europe for anywhere from two weeks to longer, exploring out from there.
The biggest selection of these trips is being offered from three pros in the mature market: AARP, Saga Holidays and Grand Circle Travel.
Grand Circle claims to have been the first to offer the concept to Americans. This year it offers the program in London, the Swiss Alps, Swiss-Italian lakes region, Austria, Spain's Costa del Sol, Sorrento/Rome, Yugoslavia and Hong Kong.
These "Live-Abroad" vacations usually include a first-class hotel room or apartment for two weeks, buffet breakfast daily, lunch or dinner each day, plus a program of activities in addition to the resort's sports and social programs. Tours are optional.
Some examples of prices, including air fare from Los Angeles, are two weeks in Davos, Switzerland, from $1,708 to $1,898, with extra weeks priced at $375; two weeks in London from $1,445 to $1,845. Other destinations are similarly priced. (These are per person, double occupancy, spring and summer rates.)
"Mature travelers love this program," Alan E. Lewis, chairman of Grand Circle, said. "They really get to know a country, relax and set their own pace. Of course, we have a staff on duty at each area to help them plan sightseeing or other activities."
Larger Trip Selection
The AARP program is similar but offers a larger selection with a choice of 17 destinations. The program is called "Hosted Holidays" and offers stays in first-class hotels or apartments for a week and longer.
"Many mature travelers enjoy a conducted or packaged tour," Hal Norvell, manager of AARP's travel service program, said. "But our research shows that older Americans would rather spend holidays abroad by setting up housekeeping in just one or two places for a more leisurely time.
"Last year several thousand members proved us right, and with an expanded program in 1988, this year will be even greater."
Saga Holidays, which is aimed at the 60-plus age group, has a long-stay package for Switzerland.
Vacationers have the choice of 14 days at a three-star hotel in Interlaken or seven nights in Interlaken and seven nights at villas in the Lake Geneva region. Breakfasts and dinners, some excursions, transfers, taxes and Saga's good insurance program are included in the prices, which start at $1,619 per person, double, from Los Angeles. Summer rates run $1,889.
A. J. S. Travel Consultants of New York has a long-stay program for its 50 Plus Club in a 15-day tour of Britain. This includes four nights in London and nine nights in the south coast seaside resort of Bournemouth.
Several sightseeing excursions, a London show, most meals and air fare from New York is included in the package. Prices start at $2,067 per person, double. A. J. S. also has similar programs in Switzerland, Italy and Israel.
In addition, all companies mentioned have regular escorted and/or package tours to Europe, all designed for the mature traveler.
For the active mature traveler looking for a more budget-oriented tour of Europe, check out the American Youth Hostels' tours for its 50-plus years members.
There are two, both motor trips in 12-passenger vans. Members tote their own luggage and should be in good physical condition for the exploring excursions and brief hikes that are offered, in addition to the regular sightseeing.