August 28 2009 by Sam Lowe
As senior citizens, it's our right and our duty to seek out and utilize travel tips that save us enough money so we can go again. Here are a few I have used or read about.
The free weekends at the nation's national parks are over, but there will be a fee-free day on Public Lands Day, Sept. 26. It might get a bit crowded, considering the zero admission charge, but those with Golden Age Passes can avoid the throngs by going any other time, and for the same price.
Some of us face mobility challenges when traveling. These can be substantially alleviated by renting small travel scooters. Most major cities offer them, but always check with either travel agencies or visitors bureaus first. It might take some planning, but the results are worth the effort.
On one of my last overseas trips, I needed access to my passport number six times and each time was a hassle because once I dug my passport out of its safe hiding place, I had to find my glasses so I could read the dinky little number. So now, I take ballpoint pen and a piece of white paper in hand, write down all the vital information (number, date of issuance, where it was issued, expiration date) in large letters and numbers and tape them on the front of the passport.
If your luggage is as well-travelled as mine, gussying it up a bit won't hurt its value or function but it might cut down your waiting time at the baggage claim. Here's one idea: Buy some inexpensive fabric paint and apply it generously to the exterior of the suitcase. Brightly colored stripes, geometric forms, and smiley faces all set yours apart from the others as they circle past. I like giraffes myself but, of course, it's a matter of personal preference.
Due to a mind filled with other matters of much more importance, I frequently leave items in hotel rooms when checking out. They're usually small - guidebooks, underwear, pens - but I once got all the way to the front desk before realizing I'd left my cellphone charger in the room. Fortunately, it was still there when I got back to the room, but it made me wonder if that's a common occurrence, so I checked it out. It is. This is a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is that a lot of people have to buy new chargers. The good news is that if it happens to you, the front desk at your next hotel will probably have several different brands that others have left, and they'll let you use them for nothing.
Occasionally, when passing through a security point's metal detectors at an airport, even a single dime or car key will set it off. A plastic baggie might help avoid such an embarrasing and time-consuming situation. Remove everything metal from your pockets, put it in the baggie and send it through the x-ray equipment with your cellphone, laptop and shoes.
If you're among those travelers who are always on the lookout for ways to reduce costs, check into one-way airfares instead of round-trip tickets. This doesn't always result in a reduction of the cash outlay, but occasionally you'll find that two one-ways are substantially less than one round trip. The savings aren't enormous, but every little bit helps get us onto our next destination.
Zoos are always popular destinations. Kids love them because they get to see strange creatures. We love them because some of the monkeys bear close resemblance to somebody we know. Anyway, the next time you go, either alone or with the grandkids, check into the zoo's family membership program. Frequently, a family plan will also include discounts or free admission at other affiliated zoos all across the nation.
Save time, save money. It's an important part of the experience.