According to a 2018 travel survey by the AARP, travel is a top goal of seniors, with most planning to take four or five leisure trips in 2019. And why not? Retirement is a great time to check off those bucket list trips, especially international spots.
Whether you’re getting on an airplane to explore a far-off destination or driving a few hours to see a local hotspot, here are a few tips to make the most of your senior travel.
Planning When to Go
While many families with young children plan to take a trip during the summer months, smart seniors tend to plan their travel during the off-season or “shoulder” season. Spring months including April and early May as well as the early fall in September and October are generally more pleasant because the weather is better — not too cold, not too hot. These months not only offer more temperate weather; there may also be cheaper rates on travel and lodging. And your intended destination will certainly be less crowded during the off-season, meaning more availability and shorter lines at popular attractions.
Use Your Age to Your Benefit
One perk of getting older is the benefits bestowed on you when traveling, and we’re not just talking about the senior discount. For instance, you can get a ride to your gate in the airport on a motorized cart, or ask for wheelchair assistance. Both are completely free, and can get you through security faster. Speaking of security, new eased security rules also allow you to skip taking off your shoes or jacket, and you can board the flight early.
TSA also allows airlines to give out random TSA PreCheck status stamps on boarding passes of low-risk travelers (including seniors), but it isn’t a guarantee. If you travel frequently by air, it might be worthwhile to get TSA PreCheck for domestic travel or Global Entry for international travel to save time at both the security line and customs and border security. It’s easy to apply online for either service, both last for five years, and Global Entry includes the perks of TSA PreCheck.
Many hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations provide special accommodations for seniors or those with disabilities. Taking advantage of these can mean more time at destinations, fewer crowds, or more comfort for you or your loved ones. Check your destination’s website or give them a call to see what they can do to accommodate you and your needs.
Traveling with Medicine or Medical Equipment
Many seniors have medical equipment or devices as well as prescriptions that may need special care when traveling. It’s important to take all of your medicines with you when you travel, because you may not be able to get replacements of certain prescriptions, especially if you’re traveling out of the country.
If you’re traveling by air, you should keep your medications in your carry-on bag in case you need them during the flight. This also helps avoid losing important medicines if your luggage is delayed or lost. When you’re going through security at an airport, you do not have to notify anyone about traveling with prescriptions in pill form, although you do need to notify the security agents of any liquid medications in your baggage. You might not need to keep your pills or medications in their original prescription containers, depending on where you’re traveling.
If you’re traveling with a medical device such as an insulin pump or CPAP, check with the TSA list regarding how to get them through security. Personal oxygen is allowed through security and in the gate area, but not aboard planes. However, certain portable oxygen concentrators are allowed on board the aircraft.
It’s a good idea to call your airline if you have any questions about bringing your medical devices or prescriptions with you when flying. If you’re traveling internationally, call the U.S. consulate in your country to determine what to do about prescriptions.
Travel Safely as a Senior
Traveling is a lot of fun, especially if you’re checking something off a bucket list. But even when we’re kicking up our heels, it’s important for everyone to remember safety. Seniors are often the targets of scams and other criminal activities, whether you’re at home or abroad. Try to remember to do the following:
- Keep important documents such as your passport or extra cash in the hotel safe when you leave the room.
- Make a copy of your passport, credit cards, and other important documents, and keep a print copy and digital copy somewhere safe.
- Don’t wear too much flashy jewelry or clothing when out on the town.
- Let neighbors or family members know your itinerary, including when you’ll be back and if they can check in on your home while you’re gone.
- Talk openly to hotel concierges, the reception desk, and others when you’re traveling so they’re aware of your plans.
- Don’t advertise your trip on social media, as that can invite thieves to break into your home.
- Consider buying travel insurance.
Like many of life’s joys, traveling can get better as we age. Following these tips can help you maximize your experience, whether you’re staying close to home or traveling abroad.