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On a Budget

Some Travel Deals That Age Well

October 25, 1998|ARTHUR FROMMER

Remember when 60 was considered "old"? Today, 60 can mark the start of a new life of travel. As the first baby boomers near their "golden years" of retirement and create a vast new clientele for trips and packages, the travel industry has responded with deals limited to that age group. Here are just a few offerings:

Choice Hotels: More than 3,500 properties in this hotel group (which includes Sleep Inns, Comfort Inns, Clarion Hotels and Inns, Rodeways and Econolodges) grant a 30% discount to those 50 and older. All you need are advance reservations and proof of age--no rigmarole about joining clubs or paying fees. Telephone (800) 424-6423. Hilton Hotels: For a membership fee of $55 per year (or a $290 lifetime membership), the Hilton Senior HHonors program grants folks 60 and older discounts of up to 50% at Hilton hotels throughout America and abroad. Tel. (800) 432-3600.

Sheraton Hotels: Ask for the "retired persons rate," then flash your proof that you're 65-plus, and get 25% off at most of the chain's 600-plus properties. And there's no fee to join. Tel. (800) 325-3535.

Airlines: At their ticket counters, all major U.S. airlines sell booklets of four coupons, each entitling the bearer to a one-way trip to any destination in the continental United States served by the airline. These booklets usually cost between $540 and $600 each, and can chop the cost of a one-way flight to between $135 and $149.

Colleges: Did you know that virtually all state universities allow seniors to audit most courses for free? Some older folks enjoy spending their vacations in college towns, with their many money-saving options for low-cost lodging and eating. Contact the office of admissions or continuing education at the campus you're interested in.

Elderhostel: This organization operates more than 1,200 one-week stays at learning institutions all over the country for people 55 and older and their spouses or adult companions of any age. Each session focuses on one theme, in subjects from medieval literature to global warming. The cost is $345 for six nights of lodging, three meals a day and 4 1/2 hours daily of instruction. Tel. (877) 426-8056.

Eldertreks: A Toronto-based company geared toward the 50-plus crowd and emphasizing culture and people-to-people contacts in exotic places, Eldertreks also boasts rates not always easily available in the United States. Examples: $1,995 for 20 days in Thailand, or $2,550 for 17 days in Vietnam--all-inclusive except for air fare. Tel. (800) 741-7956.

Evergreen Bed and Breakfast Club: Join this group, which requires its members to be over 50, and you can sign up to stay at the home of one of its other 900 members worldwide (but mostly in Florida and elsewhere on the East Coast). Annual membership costs $40 (or $50 per couple), and there's an additional gratuity of $10 per night (or $15 per couple). Tel. (800) 962-2392.

Grand Circle Travel: A four-decade veteran of the senior travel market, Grand Circle is especially popular with those who like extended-stay vacations (say, two to 20 weeks in an apartment in Guadalajara, Mexico, or Spain's Mediterranean Costa del Sol, starting at $73 per day). But it also has numerous other offerings: from Alaskan cruises to European tours; and a 16-day whirl through Turkey for $89 a day, including breakfast, dinner and air fare from the United States. The company publishes a quarterly magazine. Tel. (800) 248-3737.

Mayflower Tours: Most of its group excursions in Europe and North America are limited to age 50-plus, with tours to places like Colonial Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The average land-only price in North America is $1,100 for eight days, including daily breakfast and some dinners. In Europe, an air-land package would run about $1,900 for nine days, including breakfast and dinner daily. Tel. (800) 365-5359.

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