Whether recently retired or still working, many seniors find that it is never too late to travel the world. In fact, there are a lot of tours that cater to seniors. Many travel companies (airlines, car rental, hotels) often offer discounts to seniors. With the right preparations and precautions, there is really no limit to how far your travels could take you.
Path to well being
For seniors especially, it pays to play it smart when traveling. A little prep work and a lot of planning can help keep you safe on the road. They also can help ensure that you don’t put your health at risk. Use these travel planning tips before heading out on your next trip.
One of the first things to consider when planning a trip is how you’ll get there. Will you drive, fly, or take a train? As you explore your options, also consider what will make your travel more convenient. For example, if you are taking a plane, you should consider checking your bag so that you don’t have to push or pull it around. This is especially important if you have a connecting flight. You should also think about what kinds of accommodations the airport offers. Can you take a shuttle to your gate? Are wheelchairs available? Do you need to reserve them ahead of time? Usually, you can get a wheelchair at skycap (this is the outdoor baggage check area). You can use it to go through security and to your gate. There, a gate agent can arrange to have a wheelchair waiting for you at your destination (or in between, if you have a connecting flight).
If you are driving, make sure to take plenty of breaks during the trip. A good rule of thumb is to take a break of at least 15 minutes for every two hours of driving. During your break, walk around and stretch your legs. Eat a snack. Get out of the car and get some fresh air. If you feel sleepy, take a quick nap.
A place to stay
Choosing a place to stay is part of the fun of planning a trip. There are so many choices. You could choose to stay at an Airbnb, a luxury hotel, or a boutique hotel.
Whichever you decide on, be sure to do your research. Does the place have an elevator? Is it wheelchair accessible? This is especially important to ask when you are travelling abroad. They may not have disability laws similar to those that we have in the U.S. If you are unsure, request a room on the ground floor.
Do I need travel insurance?
Even if you won’t be ziplining during your trip, you should go ahead and get travel insurance. It is recommended for nearly all travellers over the age of 65. This is because Medicare is not valid outside the U.S. (with few exceptions). If you have other health insurance, research how it works in other countries.
A good travel insurance for seniors should include:
- Trip cancellation/interruption/delays.
- Stolen luggage/personal items.
- Hospital room and board.
- Preexisting conditions (you may have to pay extra).
- Medical emergencies.
- Ambulance service.
- Medical evacuation.
- Accidental death.
Once you arrive at your destination, how will you move around? Taxis are convenient, but expensive. Taking the bus is more economical, but it can be difficult to figure out the schedule and route. This is especially true if a foreign language is involved. Subways are economical and fast, but can be hard to navigate with all the stairways. If you are considering renting a car, check rental policies before you go. Some car rental companies have age restrictions. It could be company policy to not rent a car to someone older than 75 years of age. Other companies may charge extra fees for renters older than 70 years of age.
Packing your bag
In general, pack light. No one ever complained about a bag being too light. Choose items that can mix and match so that you don’t feel like you’re wearing the same outfit multiple times. Do not pack for worst-case scenarios or you will be over-packed. But do be smart about remembering what you’ll need. Don’t forget your extra glasses. Also, if you wear hearing devices, pack extra batteries. Remember to get outlet adapters for any electrical devices that you will need to charge overseas.
It can be difficult to refill your prescriptions outside of the U.S. You may not even be able to purchase the same over-the-counter medicines. If you can, plan to take all the medicine you will need with you on your trip. It is best to keep your medicines in their original containers.
If you’re flying, remember not to pack your medicine in a bag that you are planning to check at the airport. Instead, keep all medicines in your carry-on bag. That way, when you arrive at your destination, you’ll have your medicine even if the airline misplaces your checked luggage.
Things to consider
Know before you go. Whether you are a veteran traveler or a first-timer, always do your homework before you travel.
- Some destinations may have health issues (think malaria or yellow fever) or political unrest. Research both before you take off. It always makes for a better trip when you know as much as possible about your destination. Don’t go to areas that could put you at risk. For current travel health notices, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Don’t get ruffled by travel delays. They are just a part of travel. Flights get cancelled. Cars break down. Have a plan in place to deal with these things when they happen. You don’t want to be left stranded.
- Remember the water. Travel, in general, causes dehydration. When you get caught up in getting to your destination, you sometimes forget to drink or don’t have time to drink. Always have a bottle of water with you.
Questions for your doctor
- What are the signs of a food- or water-borne illness?
- How can I prevent blood clots while traveling?
- What shots do I need if I’m traveling to developing countries?
- How can I fill my prescriptions in another country?
- Can I call you with health questions while I’m traveling?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.