I know…they say 70 is the new 50 or is it 60? While we may look and feel younger than our parents as we age, that doesn’t mean traveling for us isn’t a bit different then when we traveled in our 20’s and 30’s. I know it is for me. Back then, I was a bit more cavalier about my travels. Having to walk a lot, sleep in 1 star hotels, and eating whatever I could afford was just fine. I was seeing Italy, who cared where I slept!
But not anymore..While I now have the financial resources to stay in much nicer hotels, travel Business Class as much as possible, eat where I choose, and add perks like private guides, there are other considerations that impact my travels. From finances to health to how far away is the destination, aging can pose a whole new set of issues. But, it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t have amazing adventures. It does not have to put a crimp on our choice of destinations. Aging and travel can mix well together, it just may take a little more planning and tweaking, even if you’re traveling solo.
Preparation, not fear, has become my motto and one that certainly gives me peace of mind. Armed with these ageless living travel tips, let’s hope you get peace of mind, too, and venture out to see the world!
Ageless Living Travel Tips for Navigating the World
It doesn’t matter how old you are, financial resources play a most decisive role in travel plans. Whether you’re living on a limited budget or finances are not an issue, they affect our travel choices. In fact, for most, finances are probably the single most important factor to consider when making plans. These days, fortunately, having limited resources doesn’t mean your travel options are limited. Deals can be had for everything.
- Think long term and how your financial resources will change over time. If you expect your financial situation to change when you quit working, think about taking bigger and better trips before your income is limited.
- Be sure to collect those miles. Find the credit card that best meets your need and accumulate. Try and get the best use of them, however, and if you know you’re going far, like say New Zealand, save them for Business Class airfare – it’s a LONG flight.
- Consider working with a travel agent who can get you good deals and/or items like free breakfasts, resort credits, etc. There are also many other reasons (see below) to use a travel agent.
- If finances are limited, set priorities as to where you want to spend your dollars. Some questions to ask yourself…What makes you most happy or what might be on your bucket list? If flying first class is important, then you may opt for an all-inclusive resort/cruise for the destination. Or, if you’ve always wanted to visit Croatia, get a package tour go off season when rates are lower. Is dining at a nice restaurant important to you or do you prefer having a suite at a hotel or do you want to take a private tour? Also, decide if you prefer quantity over quality. Would you prefer to take one amazing cruise to Antarctica or 5 trips to a more local destination?
- Make a budget and stick to it, if finances are an issue. Just always pad a little into your budget for something marvelous that comes your way and you just can’t do without!
It’s just a fact of life that health will become an issue to our travel plans as we age. Years of wear and tear on our bodies has to be paid for at some point. That said, it can be quite easy to make adjustments for these ills and the best we can do is be prepared. But, you also have to be realistic and know what you can and can’t do physically.
You also have to know if you’re willing to chance not being able to get good medical assistance should it be required and are you willing to face the consequences if you can’t. I’ve traveled with seniors who didn’t have a care in the world and literally had no worry about dying on a cruise to Antarctica. I also know seniors who hate to venture far from their home in case they get sick. Know your risk tolerance.
Here are questions to be answered before making your plans…
- Do you have any medical condition(s) that will affect travel?
- Could blood clots on airplanes be an issue
- Will you have access to medical care?
- What is your risk tolerance for having access to good medical care?
- Are you taking any meds and if so, are any side effects an issue?
- Do you have to get vaccines in order to visit?
- Does your health insurance cover you when away or do you need to purchase travel health insurance and if so, does it cover pre-existing conditions?
- Carry a travel health kit and include OTC meds you could need for things like colds, flu, diarrhea, and make sure you bring a first aid kit that has antibiotic ointment. You can easily buy inexpensive prepackaged kits.
- Make sure you have extra prescription medications to cover you for any travel delays. A week’s worth is not unreasonable.
- Carry a list of any medical issues you have and medications you take on your person at all times and/or wear a medical alert bracelet.
- Make sure you have additional medical travel insurance that covers above your policy, but more importantly, covers evacuation in case of a major tragedy. Travel Guard is one such company.
- Know your own strengths and what you’re capable of, including how strenuous of activities you will be able to handle.
- Book flights that are optimum for you and how you’ll feel. Do not book red eyes if you will have jet lag for days. Instead, fly during the day.
- Know where healthcare facilities are available at your destinations, should any medical issue arise.
Antecdotal Story…I would like to relay a personal health crisis story that happened to me in my 40’s in Tuscany, Italy that made me consider my travel choices. I will try and make a long story short. I suffered chest palpitations and some shortness of breath in the middle of the night while I was on a girlfriend trip staying in a lovely villa. I really thought I was having a heart attack.
When we were finally able to get assistance, very few people, including the paramedics and hospital personnel spoke English and we were in a very touristy town in Italy! Trying to communicate what was going on with me was very difficult. It ended up with the ER physician thinking I was having a panic attack when it ended up I had food poisoning. It seriously made me think about traveling to countries with little medical resources and even worse language barriers.
On the plus side, everyone that treated me was professional and skillful. In addition, I was treated by paramedics, had an ambulance ride to the hospital, and was treated in the ER for about 4 hours, all for free. I kept expecting a bill as they took my passport information, but never received one.
Most ageless living travelers are not letting aging impact their travel plans and their choice of destinations. They travel smart, plan ahead, and continue to experience amazing adventures. They now generally have more time to be away and don’t have to schedule vacations around their work. The world opens up to them. This includes whether you travel with someone or alone. But when choosing where to spend their vacation dollars, they do have to consider a few factors before making the final decision.
Here are questions to be answered before making your plans…
- Can you travel long distances no matter the mode of transportation?
- Are you limited by a certain mode of transportation, i.e. is flying a problem?
- Will language be an issue, especially if there was an emergency?
- Will there be extreme temperatures and/or high altitudes?
- Will driving be an issue, especially in a foreign country. Do you need an international license?
- Will there be a wide range and level of activities?
- Do you have special dietary needs and can they be accommodated?
- Can you get senior discounts for anything like travel, food, or activities? Think AARP and AAA, movies, dining…
- Consider your itinerary and try and plan for some downtime; don’t fill every second with activities.
- Get to know the reception staff/concierge and let them know any specific needs you have, including medical issues.
- If you have a special diet, either make sure that where you are staying can accommodate or if worst comes to worst, be prepared to bring your own food.
- Along the same lines, consider if becoming a frequent guest at a hotel is the way to go. The staff gets to know you and you know them and the area. That added comfort can go a long way to de-stressing the vacation and making it more enjoyable.
- Think about spending some of your travel dollars on a private tour. These are really not that expensive and can be arranged by a travel agent. You will learn so much about where you are visiting and get to go many places you wouldn’t otherwise know about doing it on your own.
- Take a gentle yoga class for stretching if offered.
- If you have concerns about traveling alone, consider a package tour of some sort or a cruise.
- Check for any senior discounts that may be available.
Now that you’ve decided on how much to spend and where your destination will be, there are just a few considerations for your actual travels. This includes both getting to your destination and once you’re there.
Here are questions to be answered before making your plans…
- Can you travel alone or would you prefer a package tour or being in a group?
- Is jet lag an issue for you?
- Do you require special equipment, such as wheelchairs and oxygen?
- How much luggage can you manage by yourself?
- Carry a list of all emergency phone numbers you may need, including bank/credit card company numbers. You can also put them in your contact list on your phone. Just make sure they’re handy at all times.
- Make copies of your driver’s license, passport, and insurance cards and carry one set in your handbag/briefcase and one in carry-on luggage. DO NOT store in checked baggage. Or, leave a copy with someone you can trust at home or scan and email to yourself and store in a cloud server.
- Make sure your carry-on contains all the things you can’t be without. For instance, don’t pack your medications in a suitcase.
- Carry only essentials with you and only carry the bare minimum of credit cards you will use.
- Do not travel with expensive jewelry. In fact, seriously do not travel with anything you will worry about losing.
- Always bring a spare pair of glasses/contacts if you wear them.
- Make sure you have international phone coverage if traveling outside of the U.S.
- Always carry a portable charger with you that is fully charged.
- Pack as lightly as you can. You may be forced to lift your luggage and/or walk with it for long distances.
- Be very aware of your purse/wallet. Women should wear cross body bags or dare I say, fanny packs, which men can wear too. Don’t make it easy to be pick pocketed.
- Travel confidently. Don’t look lost or like you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Travel in business/first or get an aisle seat if blood clots could be an issue. Also, know what to do to prevent clots.
- Try and fly non-stop if possible. Having to get on and off multiple planes and walking through multiple airports is not ideal for anyone.
- Request special services you will need well ahead of time, such as wheelchairs and diet.
- Consider that it might be best to use a travel agent/credit card travel department, so if something goes wrong you have a contact to deal with the issue, especially for flight cancellations.
- If traveling to a foreign country where language is an issue, make sure you are prepared with a few sayings to get you by in an emergency and/or download a translation app like Speak & Translate.
If a fear of traveling as you age is keeping you from doing what brings you immense joy, I hope these tips give you the confidence to be an ageless living traveler. In most cases, there are ways to adjust how you travel so you can continue to experience the world, its cultures, and its people while doing what you love most.