9 Travel Tips for the Senior Explorer

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In the memorable words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” That is more than ample justification for everyone to travel — and that includes seniors.

For seniors, though, travel presents a number of special challenges that go with travel’s considerable benefits and opportunities. What follows are some suggestions to make the travel experience more rewarding. Many of them are especially helpful for seniors.

  1. Make and carry with you a complete list of emergency information. This should include names and contact information for next of kin and close family members as well as photo copies of your passport, any needed visas, personal identification and driver’s license. You also should make photo copies of your credit cards (both sides so you have emergency numbers to call in case these are lost or stolen), make several copies of all this information. Keep one set with you, put another with your luggage and leave another one back home.
  2. Make a list of your physicians along with their contact numbers, and contact information for your pharmacy. If you take medication for chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, pack your regular medications in a plastic bag and carry the bag with you. You should pack a duplicate bag of medications to keep in your luggage. Make sure your travel companions know where the duplicates are, when your medications need to be taken and in what dosages, and why. Don’t be concerned about taking too many medications with you. You can always use it when you get home and may need it in case of delays, problems making connections or other emergencies.
  3. Make copies of your health care proxies and powers of attorney and carry them with you. A health care proxy designates someone else to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do this and the power of attorney delegates financial and legal decision-making authority to someone else. These documents may not be of use outside of the United States, but it still makes sense to have them with you.
  4. Be sure that you are fit to travel and that you have any inoculations or special emergency medicines that might be needed for the areas where you plan to travel. This may require a quick visit to your doctor before you leave.
  5. Remember that Medicare — and this probably applies to your supplemental coverage as well — doesn’t cover care outside of the United States. Be sure you have some kind of health insurance coverage — just in case. You may want to consider joining the International Association for Health Assistance to Travellers, or IAMAT, an organization whose member medical practitioners must meet certain standards (i.e., fees, qualifications, and language spoken). You can also check the internet to find companies that offer short term health insurance for travelers or contact a group like Emergency Assistance Plus for help dealing with emergency problems while travelling.
  6. If you are disabled, check to be sure your domestic accommodations are ADA compliant. You also need to inquire about accommodations in other countries to be sure, for instance, that doorways are wide enough for a wheelchair and that a lift or elevator is available. Those in wheelchairs should alert their airlines as many airports offer wheelchair service that bypasses escalators and stairs — and also helps to avoid long lines.
  7. Make your travel an educational experience. One way is through the Road Scholar program, which offers package trips designed to educate participants. Examples include “The Best of Colorado’s Historic Railroads” and “Art Collectors and Their Collections.”
  8. Home exchanges are a great way to save money. In exchange for letting someone else live in your home, you live in their home and experience a different culture first hand. (To find one, enter “home exchange” in your favorite search engine.) You might also check out bed and breakfast accommodations in areas you plan to visit. Both are preferable to staying in a hotel, and less expensive.
  9. Consider a cruise. These floating hotels are ideal for seniors. They offer full packages that include meals, entertainment and on-shore excursions, all without the hassle of unpacking, repacking and moving to get to a different location.

(This article was reviewed February 2024 since it was originally published in July, 2016.)

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