After you retire, you’ll likely be more than ready to pack your bags and take the trip of a lifetime. However, knowing your own physical health and the risks involved with traveling, it’s important to be as prepared as possible.
Most international destinations are accessible to older travelers, but some present risks. Accordingly, seniors should always take extra safety precautions when venturing into foreign countries. By following a few, easy, travel-planning tips – potential disasters or misfortunes can be avoided.
As we get older, we become more vulnerable to illness and injury. Accidents can occur at any place, and injuries may take an extended period of time to recover from and be very costly. That’s why it’s important for senior travelers to be fully aware and to plan for the unexpected.
Here are some of our travel tips for globe-trotting senior citizens.
1. Know What to Expect on Your Trip
Get as much information as you can about your travel, including the flight departure and arrival times, terminal maps, immigration information, etc… to avoid unexpected surprises. You may be required to complete immigration forms or customs forms during the flight. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for help before you land so your forms are ready.
Make sure you understand the destination country’s customs regulations to avoid bringing items that are not allowed. For example, you can’t bring fruit, seeds, or plants into the U.S. and if you are caught you may face fines or other legal problems.
2. Get to the Airport Early
Get to the airport with time to spare so that you aren’t rushed as you find your way to the right terminal (sections of the airport) and gate (where the planes are boarded). Try to avoid walking very long distances and if you need help, arrange for a wheelchair or assistance ahead of time (usually the airline can help you arrange this when you book your tickets).
3. Select an Aisle Seat on Long Flights
When the flight is long, you don’t want to have to negotiate with your seatmates when you need to stretch, use the restroom, or ask the flight attendant a question. The freedom to move about is less restricted from an aisle seat. If you are traveling with another person, choose seats that are across the aisle from each other, so you can be nearby and still have equal mobility.
4. Keep Medicines Handy
Travelers should always have several days’ worth of their important medications in their carry-on and keep them handy, in their seat (to avoid having to get up and dig in your bag in the overhead bin). Why several days’ worth?
If you check your bag and then the flight is delayed, it’s hard, if not impossible, for the airline to retrieve your bag – even if the reason is something as critical as accessing your medication. Keep plenty with you so that you can make it through the flight, in case of a potential delay to your destination.
5. Print and Share Your Travel Documents
Print and/or have your travel documents handy. Make a backup copy of your itinerary and send it to those you are visiting – so they know when your plane is arriving and can make arrangements if it is delayed – and leave a copy with a friend or family member back home.
Have copies of your travel insurance, your passport ID page, your visas, emergency contacts, and medical information with you. If your flight is canceled, your passport is stolen, or your prescriptions are lost, you can call your travel insurance company for help.
6. Skip the Alcohol and Drink Lots of Water
Flying at high altitudes is extremely dehydrating and most people think as long as they are sitting quietly they don’t need a lot of water. Unfortunately, this is how many seniors get into severe trouble – they accidentally get dehydrated.
Have a water bottle with you and fill it at one of the airport cafes after you pass through security. Keep sipping the water all throughout your flight. Drinking water has the added benefit of getting you up and moving too – even if it’s just to the lavatory.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Attendants for Help
While flying has changed significantly from the roomy and comfortable flights of long ago, the crew members are there to help passengers and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help lifting your bag into place, or getting a cup of water, for example. Many passengers around you are also willing and happy to help as well.
8. Have Healthy Snacks On Hand
Don’t let yourself get too hungry either – have a few healthy snacks on hand. Some nuts, sliced fruit, or energy bars are all good options. Depending on the airline, snacks may only be available for purchase, and it’s more simple to have what you like on hand rather than taking your chances with the food carts.
Pack your snacks in plastic zippered bags, so they don’t leak in your bag, and be sure they are handy to you so you don’t have to retrieve your bag from the overhead bin.
9. Stand Up and Stretch Often
One of the most critical risks for senior travelers is DVT or deep vein thrombosis – it can cause death during and after a long flight simply because a person did not move about or stretch often. When you are cramped in an airplane flying for many hours, it’s critical to wriggle, stretch, stand, and even move about when you can.
Even if the seatbelt sign remains on – and you aren’t supposed to get up and stroll about the aisles, you can stretch your toes up and back, bring your knee into your chest, and roll your feet about.
10. Get Help With Your Luggage
Unless you are traveling very light, get help with your luggage. Traveling at 30,000 feet or more through the skies is hard on the human body and you may be far more tired than you think . If you reach for your bag on a fast-moving carousel and fall, you could be injured in a foreign country. Take it easy on yourself. Ask another passenger to grab your bag and if you don’t have family at the luggage point, get a porter to load your bags into the taxi or hotel van.
11. Buy Travel Insurance
This is our number one tip, and for good reason. Travel medical insurance can help keep you physically safe and financially secure. If you incur an injury or contract an illness while abroad, travel medical insurance ensures that you get the medical attention you need without facing mountains of medical bills later. Medicare won’t cover you while you’re abroad so you need this added protection. While travel insurance for seniors can cost a little bit more, it’s still inexpensive next to the cost of your trip. You may not need to use it, and in fact, we hope you don’t, but knowing your covered if things hit a snag can give you the peace of mind and confidence necessary to explore the world.
12. Buy Travel Insurance with Cancel For Any Reason Coverage
It’s a good idea to make sure your travel insurance plan includes Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage. Basic travel insurance will allow you to cancel your trip for a limited number of covered reasons and still get reimbursed. Acceptable reasons involve circumstances beyond the insured’s control, like natural disasters or airline issues. But if CFAR is included in your plan, you have the flexibility to cancel your travel plans for literally any reason and still recoup your prepaid travel expenses.