Safe Travels - Do Seniors Need Special Considerations?

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. February 06, 2017

Safe Travels - Do Seniors Need Special Considerations?

 

I travel at least once a week for one of my businesses – usually within 50 to 250 miles of my home – sometimes staying overnight, sometimes returning home the same day. I travel domestically over 500 miles from home two or three times each year and internationally at least once a year.

Being in my early 60s, I have not felt a need to alter my travel destinations or approach. The only thing that I notice is occasional forgetfulness, so I like to have everything written down ahead of time – both my itinerary and my packing list. Good planning is a good idea for any age of traveler.

Some travel experts lump all seniors into one bucket and suggest that us “older folks” should take special travel precautions due to their age.

Do Seniors Need Special Considerations?

As far as special considerations for seniors who travel, the biggest factors to consider are medications and mobility. Of course, these factors could apply to a person of any age depending upon their health and physical condition. Although seniors tend to have increased medication use and decreased mobility as they age, you the senior will know best if you require any special considerations in your travels.

If you use medications, pack an ample supply of your prescriptions or any other medicines or essential medical device. Make sure that your prescriptions are available to you while on your flight. If your luggage is lost, you will still have your medication with you.

In terms of seniors and others who use a mobility device such as a walker, cane, rollator, scooter or wheel chair, see if you can rent one at your destination. As you plan your travel, contact your travel provider to arrange for lodging and transportation accommodations to fit your needs. For example, airlines are happy to assist passengers getting to and from gates within the airport. If needed, seek an accessible room for overnight accommodations. Make these arrangements prior to your trip.

Comfortable, proper-fitting walking shoes are important when traveling. To select the best footwear, see our blog: Proper Footwear for Older Adults.

As we age, it is important for us to recognize and respect our physical limitations. Be active but be smart. If you work out regularly, hike a lot, and are physically fit, then you will know how long you can stay on your feet and whether you can handle that 200-foot high ropes course in the Amazon. Being on vacation does not mean that you suddenly become 30 years younger. This advice applies to me so I feel fine passing it on to my older friends and readers.

To feel your best and optimize your trip, eat healthy foods and drink plenty of clean, safe water.

Other Travel Tips

Here are some other things that I have learned from my travels – sometimes from mistakes, other times from fellow travelers and mostly from memorable experiences – often while traveling alone:

  1. Make an itinerary (bring it with you on your trip in paper form) and email it to a family member or friend who is not traveling with you
  2. Check in daily with that family member or friend – a simple text is fine
  3. Discuss what the family member or friend should do if they do not hear from you
  4. Make a list of what to pack and bring – keep it on your computer so that you can re-use the list every time you travel
  5. As you pack, cross off each item that is truly packed so nothing gets left behind
  6. Items to pack for seniors (and others) in addition to medications and mobility devices
    • Proper identification – driver’s license, passport (bring paper copies of your passport as a backup)
    • Medical insurance and alert cards
    • Credit cards – two cards are usually fine (TIP: leave a paper copy of the front and back of your credit cards in a safe place at home. Contact your family member or friend to retrieve the copies in case your cards are lost or stolen on your trip)
    • Cash – I usually carry enough cash for small purchases, gratuities and emergencies. Travel experts suggest hiding some of your money and a credit card in a money belt or hidden compartment in your clothes
    • Eyewear – contact lenses, cleaning solution, glasses and sunglasses
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Phone, laptop or other technology devices. Remember to pack the chargers
  7. Have pets? Fill out our handy “Care Information for Your Pets” to let your pet caregiver know your pets’ needs.
  8. Notify your bank(s) and credit card companies of your travel plans
  9. Check with your cell phone carrier on how to avoid roaming or extra data charges – especially for international travel
  10. Secure your home while you are away. Consider installing new technologies that allow you to visually monitor your home while you are away. Some apps allow you to adjust your thermostats through your cell phone or laptop. Other apps can alert you in case of a fire, flood or gas leak. Always deadbolt your doors. Install light timers and motion activated sensors. Do not publicly announce your travel plans – only inform those you know and trust.
  11. If you are traveling abroad – review your destination’s cultures and rules. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) - a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and receive travel warnings and alerts.
  12. More and more travel experts are suggesting that you make a reservation that you can cancel without penalty (offered at many US lodging chains) and that you buy trip insurance.

If you are like me, you may be finding that your areas of interests are changing as you age. You may feel less enthusiastic about traveling long distances or even unsafe vacationing by yourself or as a couple. Perhaps your health has changed and you have new limitations on your ability to travel. Keep in mind that travel is intended to be fun and rejuvenating. Identify those places that offer you what you are seeking at your stage of life. Optimize your travel decisions by your areas of interests, level of confidence, and health condition. Consider group tours, escorted tour packages or short trips to nearby locales that offer the safety and enjoyment that you seek.

For more tips on traveling, talk with your local travel agent or check out http://www.independenttraveler.com/ which has a variety of in depth travel tips and tools.

Please let us know your favorite travel experiences and safety tips. We would love to hear from you!




Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.

Author

Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.