Mark Twain, no slouch in the travel department, once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
Getting old isn't fun, but it does have its privileges. The good news is that it's easier than ever to plan a trip because as we get older, common travel problems disappear.
Here are my top five:
1. The summertime kids-in-school problem
Travelers with young children are at the mercy of rigid school schedules; airlines know this and capitalize on it by charging a premium for summer airline tickets. If you don't have little ones at home, take your summer vacation in May or late August when airfare prices are 10, 20 or even 30 percent less. The weather's usually better, too.
2. The Thanksgiving hassle
If you're a retiree who's said farewell to the cube farm, lucky you; no more battles with colleagues over choice vacation times ("I'm sorry, Dilbert's already requested that week"). This really pays off during holidays because you're not limited to company-paid days-off. So at Thanksgiving, you can fly outside the traditional Wednesday-to-Sunday itinerary which is famous for the double-whammy of most expensive tickets plus biggest airport crowds.
3. The no-discounts dilemma
Pity the poor 40-somethings; they know nothing of the power of an AARP discount. But my favorite discount is the National Parks Service pass for anyone 62 or older. A one-time payment of $10 gives free access for life to all 59 national parks plus another 2,000 or so federal recreation areas including monuments, battlefields, forests and more. The not-so-dirty little secret? The pass covers everyone traveling in the same vehicle as the pass-holder, no matter how old they are.
4. The packing quandary
A lot of older Americans (especially women) seem to have travel-style challenges licked, because know what they like, they know what looks good on them, and they keep it simple by not over-packing. This allows them to save $50 per trip on bag fees since they can use a carry-on which also allows them to zip past the all those passengers stuck at the baggage carousel.
5. "I'm stuck in a rut"
This one's similar to number two but it's about total freedom to travel whenever the spirit moves you. In other words, freedom to take advantage of the ultimate in cheap flights: Dead zones.
Dead zones are periods when hardly anyone wants to fly which sends ticket prices plummeting and there are two good ones on the horizon: The first two weeks of November and the two week-long period immediately following the Thanksgiving rush. There are more which I'll feature in an upcoming column.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site