Whether you are a senior yourself or someone planning travel for one of your older family members, these travel tips for seniors are meant to assist in a fun and safe time for everyone involved.
1. If you are not a cell phone user, as not all seniors are, consider learning how to use one and get a pre-paid, disposable phone just for this trip. The other idea is to buy an international phone card and learn how to use it before your trip. Do not use the payphone, especially for international calls. These are usually scams because they will charge around $20 just for the connection fee and more for the minutes you talk. This is by far one of the most important travel tips for seniors because communication with friends, family, or health care professionals can be crucial, especially in an emergency situation. It will also make it easier to notify whomever is picking you up if travel plans change.
2. Take advantage of your age. Pretty much everywhere you go, there will be a senior discount. For example, if you are traveling to any of the national parks within the United States, you can purchase an interagency senior pass (currently $10), which gives you and everyone in the vehicle free entrance to all national parks. So carry around your license even when you are not planning to drive.
3. Plan ahead with the airline and hotel. Most airlines offer special assistance or priority boarding for seniors who may need extra time. They can greet you with a wheelchair and transport you through the airport if you need help. Ask the hotel what special assistance they can offer. If you need a ground floor because stairs are difficult for you, mention that while making the reservations.
4. Bring a credit card for purchases during the trip, and be sure to both write down the customer service number to keep in a separate place from the cards and give the number to a trusted friend or family member. Traveler’s checks are becoming exceedingly difficult to use and are no longer as cost-effective as they once were. Cash is easy to lose without recourse, whereas the credit card is easy to cancel, and unauthorized purchases are easy to deny. Credit cards are also more widely accepted when traveling abroad and give the best exchange rates. Be aware of foreign transaction fees, however. Try a card that doesn’t charge these fees.
5. Book travel with a group. There are plenty of religious groups, like unitours.com, that will organize the whole trip for you. Organizations like Road Scholar specialize in educational group travel and coordinate everything to keep your trip stress-free. No matter which type you choose, group travel will be the easiest and safest way for senior travel.
6. Pack light, but pack right. Seniors are more susceptible to sunburns, heat stroke, and cold, so you should try to be prepared for the weather at your destination. Pack only what you need so that you are not bogged down while trying to enjoy the trip. Remember to carry extra medications and split them in different bags in case one gets lost. Ideally you should carry a prescription with you in case you need a refill or replacement.
7. When booking excursions or tours, pay attention to the activity level. Many tours have some type of indication for how strenuous an activity can be. Do not overdo it, or you will pay later. You also do not want to ruin the activity for those who have also paid for the trip, but may not be able to complete it if the guide needs to stop for you or take you back. Ask if the excursion is walker- or wheel-chair-friendly, if applicable.
8. Do your best to stay healthy. Remember that traveling can mess with your normal biological routines. Jet lag has a worse effect on seniors, so get plenty of sleep the night before, and do not plan anything the first day of your vacation. Remember to hydrate before getting on the plane and to walk around some while on the plane to prevent blood clots. Be careful about the foods you eat in foreign countries, and drink only bottled water unless your guide is sure that the water is safe for you. Even still, use a filtered water bottle for tap water. Travel insurance is also a good idea to have, just in case.
9. Make sure you have good, sturdy walking shoes, as well as your slippers for down time in your room. Sometimes people underestimate how much walking is done during a good vacation and often forget that the right shoe can make all the difference. If you have foot problems (e.g., bunions) that make walking difficult, be sure to bring some padded inserts to relieve discomfort. Studies have shown that shoes that allow the foot more flexibility (like slippers) allow the joints more movement and lessens knee pain. So bring both and wear them as appropriate for good knee health.
10. Be vigilant and take precautions against theft. Seniors are a major target for thieves, no matter where you go, but especially in crowds. Women should try to keep their purses so the strap is over one shoulder and going diagonally across the chest. Men should keep their wallets in front. Fannie packs are good to keep pick pockets away, but they also scream “tourist” and could make you a target later when you do pull out your cash. Consider a money pouch that you can wear around your neck and tuck inside your shirt. Keep small bills on the outside of your cash wad, so it looks like you have less. You can also buy a personal travel luggage alarm, which will emit a loud noise when the pin is removed (when someone tugs your purse hard enough, moves your luggage, etc.).
After retirement, seniors have the most freedom to really get out and see the world. Age should not be a deterrent. Following these simple travel tips for seniors should help alleviate the problems that seniors sometimes face when traveling.