Savvy Seniors: 2006
More and more retirees are tackling Europe. Is Europe friendly to older globetrotters? Please share any special deals, tricks, or advice.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
I hace been backpacking to Europe for 40 years and I have a number of short tips. First, as Rick suggests, get as much knowledge as possible about your hotel/hostel/room etc. before you leave. Being able to plan how to get to your accommodations is a necessity. For example, staying in castles may be adventurous or romantic, but don't forget that they are built on high points (like mountains or really big hills). Make sure that you know how you're going to get to the top whether by taxi, bus, etc. You don't want to carry your heavy backpack and a roll-along up a dirt trail with lots of steps. My favorite example is the DJH Hostel Burg Stahleck in Bacharach, Germany. Research your accommodations or suffer.
Next, when you are told to pack light, PACK LIGHT! More vacations in Europe are ruined by having more than essentials. This is true of tours as well. For people that plan on hiking or climbing, pack your light shoes and wear your boots on the plane. Keep as much weight off your back as possible. When you have to run to a train, you'll thank me.
Also, regarding packing, the spacesaver type bags (you squeeze the air out) seem like a great idea. But remember that while the tighter you pack the more you get into the pack, the more weight you'll have to carry. A good idea is to pack your bag ( or pack) a couple of weeks before you leave. Load the pack into your car and drive to your local mall. Load up and walk through the mall for a couple of hours realizing that this is as GOOD as it gets. Again, PACK LIGHT!
Next, do not carry your bills in a money clip. Showing off money attracts pickpockets and in Europe is considered to be in poor taste anyway. Don't be afraid to pull your money belt out in front of a clerk when making a purchase. In fact, I believe that pickpockets will leave you alone if they know that you have a money belt.
Hostels have become more expensive due to the strength of the Euro. Look into getting a room (check at the TI) in someone's home. Also, remember that hostels frequently have bunk beds. You may get a top bunk. If you have problems getting up to it, politely ask if someone will change with you Most of the time one of the young people will oblige. Buy them a drink in the bar or a bottle of water to show your appreciation.
I prefer hostels because of the people you meet. You may not get as much sleep as you want, but you will have a good time with the young people. If you are in my age bracket (66), you won't be looked at as a parent, but as a grandparent. I know things about my grandchildren that they don't think their parents know. If you strike up a conversation, they will probably treat you and your wisdom with the same respect.
Remember to live each day as if it were to be your last. One day, you'll be right! (But you'll have a blast along the way.)
Madison, WI USA Sun 12/03/2006
Paris bus system
Now that we are seniors, endless stairs are not as enjoyable as they once were. We visit Paris often, buy a Carte Orange, use the bus system exclusively, and eliminate all of those Metro stairs. A large system map is posted at most bus stops, and a pocket map is available at Metro ticket booths (a magnifying glass is helpful with the small print). We make a point of never being in a hurry (we're on vacation), so waiting at a bus stop is no problem. Another advantage of the Paris bus is being able to see the street life and neighborhoods (not seen on the Metro). We wait until our last day in Paris to pick up a car (Renault Eurodirve www.renaultusa.com) to continue our travels. Driving in Paris is no problem, but parking is difficult and expensive, so forget renting a car to use in the city; use the bus!
Charles A. Robinson
Lodi, CA USA Sun 11/26/2006
SAVE MONEY ON LONDON THEATRE
Do not go to the half price ticket booth go right to the box office and ask do you have any conscion tickets ?? an hour before and more often then not they will sell you a ticket many hours before. No 2.50£ and often more then half off. Second tip for popular shows ie. Billy elliot or mary popinns (both outstanding)ask for restricted view I saved almost half on both these shows I missed a bit of feet but sure saw faces well from front row . I have seen 80% of London shows and am happy advise for non theatre nuts.
Bellevue, wa USA Sat 11/25/2006
my husband and i have spent quite a bit of time travelling in europe by train and by car. we are planning a trip to cadiz province in southern spain in late january, 2007, and are considering taking the ferry from tarifa to tangier and spending a couple of days in morocco. has anyone out there done this and if so what kind of experiences have you had and what kind of advice would you give....ie...should we get out of tangier as quickly as we got in? is it worth the effort if we're only going to spend a couple of days in morocco? whatever input out there would be appreciated. thanks
long beach, ms USA Sun 11/19/2006
advice on Hahn airport
I intend to fly Ryan air from Frankfurt Hahn HHN to Krakow begining the trip at Koblenz. Does anyone have any info about taking the bus from Koblenz and Ryan air out of HHN. It apears it is better to start from Koblenz than from Frankfurt or Mainz??
Absarokee, MT USA Wed 11/15/2006
PAT...NEED ADVICE ON USED AUTO PURCHASE
Check to see if you sell your car in England before you buy.
When I brought a car from France into London to ship to Texas the authorities told me I must ship it and could not sell it.
USA Mon 10/09/2006
Actually, it's not a very good idea to buy in Europe because the rest of Europe is left hand drive, whilst the UK is right hand drive. You can use a left hand drive car in the UK, but it can be very confusing and is not reccomended.
Also, there may well be a limitation at how long you can have a car bought in another country in the UK without having to pay UK road tax / import fees/insurance. By the time you factor in import fees/VAT - which would almost certainly apply if you don't have proof that you are taking the car back to where it was bought - it would probably be no more expensive that buying one in the UK.
Depending on how long you will be in the UK, you might be better off renting a car/trailer as you won't have to worry about things like import taxes, getting insurance cover for the car and trailer etc.
In addition, you might want to make sure that you can in fact buy a car without having to have a UK or EU license. I think it would be possible in the UK as long as you are staying for under a year, but don't know the rules & regs elsewhere.
I think it might be wise to do a little research in the web about the rules & regulations & costs of buying/importing a car to the UK and about pulling a trailer.
Scotland Sat 09/30/2006
Need Advice on Used Auto Purch.
American Geezerette (old lady) needs used auto for occasionally pulling my small trailer/caravan in England. Dollar/lb. exchange is bad, I will buy in Europe, perhaps a diesel, drive back to England. Any advice?
editors note: all questions must be posted to Traveler's Helpline
Ft. Worth, TX USA Fri 09/29/2006
Travel... Travel... Travel..
My husband and I are both retirees and have travelled to Europe for the last 9 years.We are so lucky! We follow most the rules... travel light...meet the people...try different food, take in the sights, taste the wine and sit in the town square and watch the world from a different perspective. WE always remember we are a guest in their country so we are polite and show respect for the locals. We always try and learn some of the langusge, especially please, thank you, hello etc. It has been the most incredible experience of our lives. We have been to France, Spain, Greece, England etc. It really has opened a new and exciting door for the both of us. We have rented a car, traveled by train, taken ferries and love every minute. We have stayed in B&B, hostels, gites etc. Wow is it great! Remember in North America, if you don't feel safe you move on, the same applies there. We have been extremely fortunate and will continue to travel as long as we can. We leave for Tuscany on Saturday, and we have rented a farm house (a new experience) then on to Santorini in Greece. Happy travels!!!!
Edmonton Alberta, Alta Canada Tue 09/05/2006
Fred,,,,,senior discounts in France
In England the discount is called pensioners rate.
So I would ask for "Pensioners", with the accent of the last syllable
USA Tue 09/05/2006
Senior Discounts in France
What is the best french expression for asking if there is a senior discount?
Austin, tx USA Mon 09/04/2006
May I vent, I hear buy a second class ticket because you meet "more interesting people" Last trip 1st class spent an hour discussing world commerce with a member of world bank and then on next train dicussed the cancer vacine this women dr. was doing reseach on, both in Paris and Munchen So book 2nd class save money and maybe find the cheapest room or beer but for meaningful conversation 1st class is just fine. certainly with a Eurale pass no reason I know of to be cramped into 2 class
Bellevue, WA USA Mon 08/28/2006
age and car rental
At age 79, I rented a car for 30 days from AVIS. My wife and I got off the plane at CDG from Atlanta and drove to Rouen, Honfleur, Normandy, Brittany, and the Loire valley. Turned the Ford Fusiom in at the Chartres gare and took a train to gay Paris. Main roads were 4 lane, divided highway. Country roads were two narrow lanes and poorly marked. No problems at any time.
Atlanta, Ga USA Mon 08/21/2006
Car Rental for Seniors
I am 68 and I have had no trouble renting a car in Europe. In fact, I have just returned from 5 weeks in Italy and had a car for 3 weeks. I was the first user of a brand new Fiat Station Wagon.I am now returning to Europe and will rent again.
Bowling green, KY USA Tue 07/18/2006
WOODY....SENIORS AND CAR RENTALS
Yes, there is an age limit. It varies with each rental agency.
The only way I could find the limit was to call each agency on the toll free phone line and ask.
TX USA Tue 07/11/2006
Seniors and car rentals in Europe
Do any senior readers know if there is a cutoff date for seniors to rent cars in Europe? I've heard that people over 65 are not allowed to rent cars. Can anyone confirm this? Thanks
USA Tue 07/11/2006
Trains ans Seniors
Train travel is easy for seniors. Just relax and take your time. Be careful of the usual scams, but in enjoy. Happy travels
Paradise, Ca. USA Sat 07/08/2006
Save Money at London Theatre
Most theatres that have tickets at half price booth will sell senior tickets at theatre all day, saving you 2 1/2 pounds each, shorter line and often more convenient. last time (a year ago )worked 9 out ten plays PS dont miss Blood Brothers one of my favorites
Bellevue, Wa USA Mon 07/03/2006
Travelling in Germany, Denmark etc...
Greetings At least in Denmark, I think you'll find that public transportation - bus and train - is the preferred form of transportation. And I've certainly seen many older folks on bikes as well!
Train stations are almost always well set up with clean & functional elevators, and trains with no more than a slight step (as to allow bikes and huge baby-carriages to get on).
I'd have no worries about travelling by train, and your mother may well be eligible for senior citizens discounts. (It varies by country and city, whether discounts are available and if they are available to non-citizens).
Scotland Sun 06/11/2006
Traveling with mom
I love to travel and enjoy when my mom is able to come. I find that proper planning is the key. I plan everytihng about a year in advance. I almost never do tours as they whip you around and my mom is not able to keep up plus she needs many breaks to sit and rest. On the occasion we do book a tour we have found that booking after we arrive and do some site seeing usually works really well because we can verbalize my mom's limitations to the travel agant and they can better advise us to tours.
I also do not book hotels but rather apt or condos so we can spread out and be more comfy and have a kitchen to cook in plus it adds to the trip and memories. A car pick-up is always a must after a long flight so my mom does not have to worry about luggage, even if it does have wheels. If your tired and feel bad, you do not want to worry about luggage and trying to find your way around when you first arrive.
Newport Beach, Ca USA Wed 05/31/2006
TAKING THE TRAINS
Lisa: My wife and I are 82 and ride the trains all the time in Europe.
Depends on your mom's health and strength. But if she is average she can handle it.
Only strenuous activity for us is handling luggage and you can always pay someone to do that for you.
We use wheeled bags and have no trouble.
USA Sun 05/21/2006
Taking the Trains
Traveling with my healthy active 77 year old Mom this fall. Concerned that traveling by train in Germany, Amsterdam and Denmark might be to much for her. Looking for those who may have attempted for some advice. Yes, I will be packing light......
Peoria, AZ USA Thu 05/18/2006
Check your dates
On our last trip to Germany, I noticed that there were discounts available on most of the boat trips on the Rhine and the Bodensee. These are large discounts, but they are not available every day. If you are staying in a departure city such as Rudesheim or Friedrichshafen for several days, you might want to schedule your excursion for a discounted day. You can probably check on-line ahead of time. These trips are a wonderful way to relax. We slap on the sunscreen, stake out a good seat on the sundeck, and sip our wine as we drift past the villages and castles. It's as good as a day-long spa treatment!
Pacific Grove, CA USA Thu 05/04/2006
pick up to airports
Had a hard time finding pick up for very early flight out of CDG. Make sure you call 2 days ahead. We rented an apartment, might have been the reason. Cell phone rental problematic if you are not used to them.
Issaquah, WA USA Tue 04/18/2006
Any suggestions for quiet beaches/hotels in Crete this summer? We will be there during the St John the Baptist Feast and would like to enjoy it in a smaller village.
siacusa, CA USA Thu 04/13/2006
65 YEAR OLD HELP DRESSING UP
David: I am 80 and wont be concerned about what I wear to the opera. You will find people there wearing every style of clothing. Choose a dark jacket which doesnt weigh much.
As soon as you arrive hang it in the shower and close the curtain and turn on the hot water to fill the bathroom with steam. Take it outside the bath room and hang it to dry for an hour.
It really wont matter as long as you wear a black tie. Don't forget your spats!
NYC, USA Sun 03/05/2006
65 Year-Old Man Needs Help Dressing Up
At 65, I'm taking my first trip with a Rick Steves tour of paris and the Heart of France. I'll be in Paris on my own for five days and I'd like to take in a concert, opera and/or ballet. I'm convinced that traveling with one bag is the best way to go, but I need to know what kind of jacket I could wear to those events and yet not pack a heavy sport coat. I would appreciate comments and suggestions since I really don't want to look gauche to Europeans. I'm also not comfortable looking too casual.
McKinleyville, CA USA Sun 03/05/2006
4 days England once in a lifetime trip
Hi, I'm sending my mother & sister to England for 4 full days. In all honesty pretty sure this will be my mothers only trip. She wants to see London, Cotswold & Blenheim. Is this possible in just 4 days, she doesn't walk well & they'll need to take tour buses, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Acworth, GA USA Tue 01/10/2006