Senior travelers are now traveling more than ever before! Most senior citizens in today’s world travel everywhere in the world. Whether they are traveling to Walt Disney World, an expedition to Antarctica or that Bucket-List cruise to the Galapagos Islands, Seniors should always take a few safety precautions while traveling, especially if going to a destination that they are unfamiliar with. By following a few travel planning tips – potential disasters or misfortunes can be easily avoided and traveling can be much more comfortable.
- SELECT AN AISLE SEAT ON A LONG FLIGHT. 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.
- HELP IS EASILY GIVEN IN A LARGE AIRPORT. Is the gate just too far to walk comfortably? When purchasing your air tickets, notify the airline that you need assistance. They will arrange to have a representative to escort you from check-in, through security and on towards the gate. Someone will return to help you onto the plane when it’s time for boarding. Upon the plane’s arrival, another representative will be waiting at the end of the jetway to assist you with baggage claim, customs and on to ground transportation.
- KEEP MEDICINES AT HAND. All 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.
- Purchase Trip Insurance. While travel insurance is important for people of any age, it truly is essential for older travelers who are more at risk of falling and hurting themselves, getting sick, or needing extra medication if their travel is interrupted or delayed. In the long-run the cost of that policy will be miniscule if something happens during their vacation.
- Don’t Advertise Your Absence. When you divulge details of your upcoming vacation on social media, you’re basically announcing to the world that your house will be unoccupied. Wait until you return home before you share the joy of soaking up the sun in the Caribbean or enjoying the glaciers in Alaska. Once you’re safely back home, you can post highlights on Facebook and Twitter knowing that would-be intruders aren’t targeting your vacant property. In that same token, (Tip #5 is a two-parter!) Don’t put the “Clean My Room” sign on your hotel door. That sign is an open invitation that lets people know your hotel room is empty. Travelers assume hotels are safe and for the most part, that’s true. But, the truth is that people with bad intentions are everywhere. Thieves know that travelers often leave passports, extra money & jewelry in their rooms. Instead of putting out a sign, just call the Front Desk or Housekeeping and let them know that you are ready for someone to clean the room. If I’m staying at a hotel for just a couple of nights, I usually hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside my door. I would just as soon not have anyone in my room.
A few other tips for your hotel stay that is recommended by the AARP include: using the security chain on your door whenever you are in the room, asking for a room near the elevator (more foot traffic will deter thieves) and staying away from ground-floor rooms where window entry is possible.
Stand Up and Stretch Often While Flying. 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. (Refer back to Tip #1!)
- Leave your Expensive Jewelry at Home! (Keep the Bling at home–preferably visit your bank before you leave and secure your valuables in your safety deposit box.) One of the perks about getting older is that you can afford things you may not have been able to when you were younger. But carrying items like nice jewelry and gold watches makes you a target for thieves, especially as many ne’er-do-wells believe — rightly or wrongly — that older travelers are less aware of their surroundings, more unsteady on their feet and basically all around easier targets. This applies to carrying cash as well. Seniors are more likely to carry cash around than younger people, and more likely to have expensive jewelry and watches. Always pay attention to your surroundings…whether you are at your local Walmart, the AMC Theatre, or at the airport in Quito, Ecuador as you ready for your cruise to the Galapagos Islands.
- Stay Safe on Your Feet! Beyond wearing comfortable shoes in order to get through full days of walking and touring, wearing flats will also help older travelers to stay steady on their feet. Heels, even small ones, can make you more prone to spraining an ankle or falling, especially if you have any balance issues. Flats will help you stay comfortable and balanced.
Print and Share Your Travel Documents. Print and/or have your travel documents handy. Make a backup copy of your itinerary and leave 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 agent or your travel insurance company for help.
- Watch What You Eat. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand. (This tip does not apply to cruises or during All-Inclusive vacations–there is plenty of food & drinks available for you…just the flights to & from, or during an excursion) Stay hydrated…drink that extra bottle of water. 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. While flying, 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 during your flight.
- And one extra tip…Have the time of your life!