Sentimental or not, plenty of seniors take journeys

Many grandparents are traveling to graduations ... but others are taking Caribbean cruises.

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WALLA WALLA - Whether going by air, car or ship, area travel professionals say seniors frequently choose spring and early summer to see the sights, often with family.

Great bargains can be found close to home, at the same time avoiding ash-spewing volcanoes, drug cartels and keeping those travels simple.

"In late spring and early summer we see plenty of grandparents going to graduations," said Paul Schneidmiller, owner of World Wide Travel. "They're still within the U.S. but going to a wide variety of locations. These are usually high school and college graduations. And we still see quite a few grandparents arranging family travel."

According to Schneidmiller, the grandparents often decide to treat the family to a vacation at Disneyland or Disney World or some other favorite location.

"We're also seeing a lot of cruises, like a seven-day Caribbean cruise," he said.

So the challenge for the travel agency is to coordinate getting family members from many different locations to one specific spot or departure area.

"Another thing that's real popular with seniors, who may have a little more time on their hands, is the Canadian Rail."

He suggested that if travelers have the luxury of enough time, they could enjoy a relaxed rail trip all the way across Canada, maybe to Toronto. "It could be a nice five- or six-day trip," he said.

According to Schneidmiller, "Then again, many seniors just want to go on a cruise and they can stay a little bit longer. They have the time and the budget. They can go anywhere from 10 days to three to four weeks and they have more time to just relax."

"Again, Hawaii is such a popular destination. It's still in the United States, so you don't need a passport. They often book a seven-day Hawaiian cruise and arrive a couple days early. Then stay a couple days longer after they get back from the cruise."

A trip to Canada now takes either a passport or in the state of Washington an enhanced driver's license. However, he said the enhanced driver's license takes about the same amount of time as getting a passport.

According to Schneidmiller, another popular destination for seniors is Branson, Mo. Europe has always been popular but at this time the eruption of the volcano in Iceland has severely disrupted European travel because of volcanic ash, he said. "We've seen nothing like this shut down since 9-11," Schneidmiller said.

"Just avoid Europe," said Kathleen Buford, service center manager at AAA, because of the volcano and airport closures. "And Mexico, because of the violence. I see a lot of seniors putting together road trips, car trips and taking cruises. Alaska cruises are popular, it's a perfect time to see Alaska. It's win-win, you can fly or drive to Seattle for departure. We have awesome sales for Alaska in the summer. There're cruise tours, you can see Denali and Mt. McKinley."

On a cruise she said, "You need a passport. Period."

According to Buford, it takes about three to four weeks to get an original passport and about two weeks for a renewal. They can assist with the passport process.

Buford also said many people want to travel in this country, so the national parks are very popular. "The national parks seem to be a big attraction. There are senior passes. You can get an annual national park pass."

Staying close to home is popular. "Canada is nice. You can go from one side of the country to the other by rail. Canada has one of the best rail systems anywhere. The first of July, the Calgary Stampede is coming up. Then there's Banff and Lake Louise - they're drop dead beautiful," Buford said.

She cautions those taking medication to be sure they have enough of the medication to last the whole trip.

Refill prescriptions well in advance to make sure and not run out.

"Make sure your passport is good for six months beyond the dates of travel. You don't want to be traveling somewhere and find your passport has expired."

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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