While many of the seniors I work with can likely teach the rest of us a thing or two about travel, there are some recent retirees who are just starting their global adventures. The tips below are best practices for any age but especially applicable to older travelers. I’d love to hear your travel tips that you’ve picked up through the years in the comments section.
1. Get insurance
While traveling you run the risk of falling, getting sick, or needing extra medication in case you experience delays. You don’t want to be in a foreign land and not know whether it is covered. You can also elect coverage that protects your vacation investment if either you, your travel partners, or family back home were to get sick before you leave causing you to have to cancel or delay your vacation.
2. Don’t advertise your absence from your hotel room
Avoid the urge to hang the door tag asking for your room to be serviced. While hotels are generally thought of to be safe places, it can be easy for outsiders to get in and out without attracting attention. These signs advertise that the room is empty, and they know that travelers often leave passports, extra money and jewelry in their rooms while they are out. You can all the front desk to ask for your room to be serviced rather than using the door tag.
AARP also recommends engaging the security chain on the door when you are in the room, asking for a room near the elevator with more foot traffic and staying away from ground-floor rooms where window entry is possible.
3. Choose your food wisely
Avoid foods that might upset your system. Heavy, spicy or cheesy foods are best avoided unless you want to spend more time inside of your room than out exploring. It’s also a good idea to see what foods are most popular in your vacation destination and ask your doctor if any of them will react with your medications.
4. Take extra care with medications
Make sure to pack enough medication for your trip, plus at least a few days extra in case you experience any delays. Never check your medications with your luggage; always carry them on with you. Bring a list of your essential medications with you including their dosages and generic names, as well as their names in the language of the destination you are visiting if you can find it. Leave this list with someone at home as well.
5. Bejeweled or not to be jeweled
Keep your bling to a minimum while traveling. Jewelry, expensive watches and fancy cameras can may you targets. Many mobile phones have excellent cameras, so consider whether that will be enough to capture the magnificent vistas you will encounter. Be sure you have enough storage before you leave so that you don’t end up running out of space on your phone to snap photos. If you prefer a separate camera, small and compact cameras pack powerful technology, and are much easier to carry around.
6. Share your plans with someone
Acquaint yourself with your inn keeper or concierge, and keep them abreast of your daily plans. If traveling internationally, make sure to get a calling plan and keep your phone on you.
7. Wear sensible shoes
Make sure to wear shoes that are good for walking, and that don’t have much of a heel. You don’t know what type of terrain you will encounter, and you are likely to spend a lot of time out and about. You want shoes that are good for balance, and comfortable for walking. That’s not to say your shoes have to be ugly, but they do have to be practical.
8. Go Together
Consider Group Travel. Many tour operators offer group packages that allow you the comfort to not travel alone. They also do the heavy lifting. Once you arrive at the destination you won’t have to touch your bags again. A river cruise or a small cruise ship are also great ways to travel together. You’ll be in company of the other cruisers, have group excursions to choose from at each port, and you only have to unpack once while visiting several countries. The small ships offer a higher level of service than the mega ships, and they can visit smaller towns that aren’t overrun with tourists. Being part of a group doesn’t mean you have to be one of the masses. You can travel in a group and still be unobtrusive and among locals.
9. Copy your passport
Make at least 4 copies of your passport, driver’s license, Medicare and insurance cards, travel tickets and itinerary, boarding pass if you have one, plus prescriptions. Leave a complete set with someone at home, one with you in a carry-on bag, and one extra in your luggage.
10. Pack Light
An oldie but goodie – don’t over pack. Take what you need and nothing more. It’ll be easier to move around, it’ll cost less if you stick to the airline’s minimum, and it’s an all around easier way to travel.
11. Embrace the discounts!
Check for AARP discounts, age-based discounts, or military or public service discounts. They are out there, and you might as well make use of them. Not everywhere offers them but be sure to ask.