One of the most exciting things for retired seniors is their freedom. Without jobs and PTO to negotiate, time opens up for them to finally take that dream vacation they’ve been putting off for years. For those less keen on hopping a plane to the nearest historic site, sometimes all seniors need is a little encouragement and they’ll become practiced world travelers.
Helping plan a trip can be a headache and a half, though, even without extra concerns about seniors’ health and safety. To make life easier, here are a few steps to take to ensure simple and safe senior travel.
1. Research Possible Destinations
There‘s no shortage of amazing travel destinations, but it’s important to select one that’s going to make vacationing as easy and enjoyable as possible. Looking into climate, location, and regional food can stop problems before they start.
Pay attention to weather trends to make sure it won’t be too hot or cold to be outside comfortably — a lot of tourism involves walking to or from locations or viewing monuments outside. If a destination has been set but the weather won’t be perfect, look for indoor or climate-controlled activities to minimize discomfort.
Check the destination’s elevation. Altitude sickness is often overlooked when making travel plans, and it’s an easy way to ruin the first few days of vacation. Luckily, seniors who have heart or lung conditions are not at a higher risk for altitude sickness. However, they may experience more intense symptoms if affected.
Finally, consider the food in the region. Seniors often have dietary restrictions or preferences due to medical conditions. Traveling to an area with vastly different food staples may make it hard to accommodate dietary needs.
2. Visit the Doctor
Once a destination has been selected, seniors should plan to visit their doctor before the trip. Care providers will be able to offer insight about potential complications or concerns due to medical conditions. Doctors may also have suggestions to make the trip more comfortable or easier on the body.
It is also incredibly important to make sure all travel vaccination requirements are met. Seniors are more susceptible to illnesses and infections, so vaccinations are even more important for them than younger travelers.
Travelling with prescriptions can be tricky. It’s essential to make sure there are enough doses left for the length of the trip. If an early refill is needed, the doctor will need to write an additional script or call the pharmacy to OK the timeline.
3. Plan Activities Ahead of Time
With the doctor’s visit out of the way, it’s time to start planning the meat of the vacation. To help decide what to do upon arrival, do some research. What is the area famous for? What inspired the trip? Are there any bucket list items to check off?
Buying tickets to major attractions ahead of time will guarantee entry and minimize time spent in lines. Looking into popular tourist stops early can ensure that seniors with limited mobility are able to access everything.
Consider looking into active tourism activities like bicycle tours or group day hikes. Keeping seniors moving will help combat jet lag and can be more mentally engaging than sitting all day.
Getting to and from activities in an unfamiliar place can be the hardest part of travelling. Navigating a new transportation system is a challenge for many seniors. If an itinerary is created before departure, public transportation times and locations can be included with each activity.
When booking flights, contact the airline to find out what sort of accommodations they offer to senior travelers. Seniors may get perks like pre-boarding or transportation between airport gates during layovers. Travel agents may have other valuable information about senior travel perks.
Packing may be one of the hardest parts of traveling, and the challenges only increase for seniors. It will be helpful to try to pack everything into a carry-on suitcase. A smaller bag means less to haul around and makes navigating airports easier. Planning activities ahead of time will make packing light easier.
When packing medications, look into restrictions. Some areas require permits to travel with certain medications. Narcotics and psychotropics are potentially restricted medications for international travelers. Any senior taking opioids or medication for anxiety, depression, or other mental conditions may face restrictions.
6. Look Into Travel Insurance
There are a variety of travel insurance policies available, and the choices can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to even tell what each plan covers. The bottom line for seniors, though, is that travel insurance can be literally life-saving in the event of an injury or illness overseas.
Medicare doesn’t cover care received outside of the United States, except for a few specific exceptions. For seniors considering active travel experiences, the recent dramatic rise in injuries from bicycle accidents, sprains from hiking, and shoulder wear from kayaking or canoeing, the cost is worth taking into account. Without travel insurance, the likelihood of bringing home a medical bill as a souvenir increases.
7. Stay Connected
Create a plan for seniors to contact their travel companions in the event of separation. Contact information should be stored on a card in a wallet or purse in case electronics lose power or service.
Work with cell carriers to make phone service available overseas and find out if there are any fees associated. Using Wi-Fi calling to check in with family at home can provide peace of mind for a traveling senior’s family and loved ones.
Cell phones can also be used to help navigate if seniors get lost. It’s easy to download itinerary information, maps, and some tickets to electronic devices to avoid having paper to keep track of. Also, consider leaving a copy of the itinerary at home in the event that something goes wrong and travelers need to be located.
Easier said than done, but remember, this is a vacation. Keep things somewhat flexible for the intrepid travelers. Trips rarely goes according to plan, but the unexpected moments often make the best stories. Checking off the steps above will take care of many major worries and make sure seniors are prepared for safe travel. Now all that’s left to do is to see the travelers off and wait for the stories!
Author Bio: Brooke Faulkner is a writer and senior care advocate in Portland, Oregon. When not writing, she can usually be found trying to tire out her grandmother’s dog in the local dog park. Follow her on Twitter @faulknercreek