There’s a widespread view that senior citizens get a good deal in life as far as money is concerned. The stereotype of the impoverished pensioner has largely disappeared, replaced by the well-off baby boomer who owns their own house outright, has no dependent family, and has invested wisely for a comfortable retirement.
And yet financial support for pensioners still remains. The famous bus pass, concessionary train fares, support with energy bills through the winter, discounts on nearly all leisure activities and attractions – it’s enough to make people look forward to old age.
The truth is there’s as much myth in this as reality. As with any age group, there’s huge variation in how financially secure people aged over 70 are. You don’t automatically get rich by retiring.
Also, in some respects, older people get penalised financially because of their age. Take insurance, for example. Equality laws nowadays make it illegal for most businesses to discriminate by charging different prices to people of different ages. Apart from the special case of concessions, insurance is one of the few industries that is exempt from this rule.
Why? Because insurance companies argue that, for certain insurance products in any case, older people are more likely to make a claim. As that increases the financial risk for insurers because they have to pay out more often, they are allowed to charge older customers more to compensate.
So for things like car and health insurance, senior citizens are paying considerably more than the rest of the population. Same for travel insurance. In fact, there are concerns that some over-70s are being priced out of travel altogether because insurance premiums are climbing so high.
If you’re in that age bracket, it’s a stressful experience finding out there is this considerable extra cost you have to factor into your holiday planning. So what can older people do to keep travel affordable?
Buy travel insurance from an over 70s specialist
The problem senior citizens face when looking for travel insurance is that most providers don’t want to take on what they see as the extra risk. So they either set an age cap and refuse to offer insurance altogether after people reach a specified age, or they increase premiums so high the prices put people off.
What a lot of insurers also do is automatically increase premiums every year after, say, 60 or 65. By the time you reach your 70s, the prices you are being quoted can be eye-watering.
The answer is to ditch the big-name providers and instead look for travel insurance companies that specialise in policies for older age groups. If you go to a firm advertising over 70s travel insurance, you can bet you’ll be getting a fairer price. An insurer that markets its business to older travellers can’t afford to put them off with sky-high premiums – its model is based around offering better prices than the mainstream providers.
Book travel independently online
Another reason travel ends up costing more for older people is that they are more likely than other age groups to book package holidays through travel agents and other third parties. There are benefits to this, of course. With a travel package, most of the organisational leg work is done for you. Flights, accommodation, even excursions and activities are arranged in advance. All the customer has to do is choose the product, pay the price and they get a full travel itinerary arranged for them.
But for the convenience this offers, it comes at a price. Booking through an agent costs more than making your own arrangements. Although independent online travel booking has been a major trend in tourism for the past 20 years, older travellers have been more likely to stick with package deals.
There are signs that that is starting to change, however. Pre-pandemic, Avanti Travel Insurance found that 40% of over-65s now arrange their own holidays abroad using travel search sites like Skyscanner, Booking.com, Kayak and so on.
Take advantage of senior concessions
If you are of retirement age, another great way to save money while on holiday is to take advantage of senior concessions. Wherever you go in the world, there are usually great deals to be had at major paid-for tourist attractions, including things like theme parks, museums and galleries, day trips and excursions. Just remember to carry your passport or ID with you when you are out and about to take advantage of special offers for key attractions.
You can also find concessionary prices on public transport in many countries. A great example is discounted Interrail passes for getting around Europe by train. Another option is to look for out-of-season packages put together especially for older travellers, with pre-paid travel, attraction and excursion options all available at heavily discounted rates
The age at which you qualify for these concessions will vary from country to country, but are usually available between the ages of 60 and 70.
Look into alternatives to flying
As mentioned above, rail travel is cheaper for senior travellers in many countries. As well as being a great option for getting around and seeing the sights, you could take advantage of cheap rail tickets to save money on flights. Using Europe as an example again, senior discounts on cross-channel rail fares can work out cheaper than flying – especially if you want to visit more than one country on a single trip.
The same principle applies to coach travel. Coach holiday packages for senior citizens are well known for being one of the most affordable travel options out there. But saving money isn’t the only reason not to fly. Travelling by rail, road or sea can be part of the adventure in itself.
Featured image: “Senior couple having fun” by Be-Younger.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0