Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to put the brakes on traveling. Why not, instead, use your older, wiser years to travel more? That lifetime of experiences and accumulated knowledge only lets you better appreciate and fully immerse yourself in the destination’s culture, sights and experiences. So long as safe travel is a part of your plan, of course.
The harsh reality is that, with age, you can’t always travel the same way you did when you were a college grad backpacking through Europe. Now, you have to watch out for things you didn’t think about before; in many cases, you have to think about things you never had to consider before. Here are a few tips to help make your time away from home safe and comfortable, and of course, a fun time too!
Keep your Whereabouts on the DL
Put simply, this means you shouldn’t make a Facebook announcement broadcasting that you’re taking the trip of a lifetime. On the home front, stop your mail and newspapers, and set timers on your porch lights so they turn on at night. If you have a security alarm, set it. When you reach your destination, avoid hanging the “clean my room” sign on your hotel room door. That’s an open invitation to let potential thieves know your room is empty. If you want your room cleaned, stop by the front desk on your way out to ask them to have housekeeping clean it.
Watch what you Eat
When you’re away, you may want to toss caution to the wind and eat whatever you want. Hey, you’re on vacation and you only live once, right? However, when you’re older, you may have a more sensitive belly or be on a restricted diet. So, eating a spicy meal at dinner one night may have some unpleasant side effects that could impact your whole trip. Do your best to follow your dietary rules and restrictions. If you’re driving, especially at night, eat foods that fight fatigue like lean proteins (chicken, turkey, fish), nuts and seeds, bananas and oats.
For beverages, opt for water and non-caffeinated beverages. Don’t consume foods or beverages that are likely to cause cramping or diarrhea before or during a long drive like fried fare, large or high-fat meals, coffee and alcohol. Some medications don’t interact well with certain foods; so before you leave for a trip, especially one to a foreign country, ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid any foods.
Book a direct bus, train or airplane trip. It’s true that this method may be costlier and you may have to drive to an airport, bus or train station that’s further away; but doing so will lower your total travel time, minimize the stress of catching a connection (and possibly trekking across an entire airport to do so) and lessen your chances of getting lost.
It’s Okay to Get Extra Help
To make the often-taxing airport process easier, ride on a cart or get a wheelchair to take you to the gate. Most airlines have wheelchairs available at both curbside check-in and the ticket counter inside the airport. A wheelchair attendant will push the wheelchair, handle your bags and help you get through screening quickly and easily. You can also ask for help at security, where you may be able to go through a shorter line. If you’re 75 or older, you can get some form of expedited TSA (Transportation Security Administration) screening. You can also leave your shoes and light jacket on during screening.
Choose the Right Room
If you have limited mobility, book a hotel room that’s handicap accessible. If you can’t walk far, ask for a room near the elevator. (For the technologically inclined, if you are part of a hotel’s rewards program, many allow members to download an app or go online to select their room of choice through an early check-in service.) You may also want to stay on a lower level of the hotel; that way if an elevator goes out of service, you won’t have to travel down multiple flights of stairs.
Select a Destination Geared for You
If you’re in a wheelchair, you want a destination that’s easily walkable and boasts reliable public transportation. A town known for its cobblestone streets, for example, may be difficult to maneuver around. Also consider the climate and potential for extreme weather situations. If you’re traveling during hurricane season, for example, certain areas are prone to that threat. This could present a problem if you have a health condition where your medications must be refrigerated. Consider if the altitude or climate (whether extreme heat or cold) could impact your health, as well.
It’s important to be up-to-date on routine vaccines. Check your immunizations records or contact your healthcare provider to ensure you’ve had ones like the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). Make sure to get a seasonal flu shot if you haven’t already. Yes, some vaccines may be for what are considered outdated diseases, like polio. But the diseases these vaccines protect against are often more common when outside the United States.
Also consider getting a tetanus shot (You need one every 10 years). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting a tetanus shot before you travel, especially if you’re traveling to an area where it’s difficult to get healthcare services. You should also get vaccines recommended for the countries you’re visiting, like typhoid or hepatitis. (Note: You may be unable to get some vaccines depending on your age or if you have certain chronic illnesses.) For more information, visit the CDC’s listing of vaccines organized by country.
Stay Hydrated and Dress Comfortably
Wear clothing that’s loose and comfortable when you’re traveling. It will lower your risk of heat stroke, high blood pressure and blood clots. You also want to drink lots of water to help prevent dehydration. These two may seem like no-brainers, but it’s easy to forget about your water intake when you’re focused on completing an itinerary or caught up in a tourist activity. Likewise, weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to pack a few wardrobe options in case your trip is hotter/colder than you expect.