Section 4: Travel Safety Tips For Seniors
While retirement hopefully brings you more opportunities to travel, spending time in unfamiliar environments could potentially pose safety risks. Unfortunately, senior travelers are popular targets for thieves, pick-pockets and other unsavory characters. And seniors may also face additional logistical and health challenges, such as mobility limitations or the need to travel with substantial amounts of medication.
However, the fear of safety risks or the need to consider additional challenges shouldn’t deter you from planning and enjoying those trips you’ve been looking forward to taking. You shouldn’t be afraid, but you should be smart.
With that in mind, there are few simple and straightforward steps to make your travel experiences secure and headache-free. The following tips will help you prepare for the unexpected and protect yourself, your property and your possessions during your travels:
Do your homework
Whether you are traveling around the corner or around the world, in a large group or by yourself, preparation is the key to a smooth and safe trip. Resolve all your travel details well in advance, including specific timelines, pickups, transportation arrangements and hotel reservations or other accommodations.
Be sure to take advantage of available deals for seniors, but also try to strike a balance between the most affordable way to get from A to B, and the most comfortable. The more complicated your
itinerary, the greater the chances that something can go wrong. A lengthy, multi-step journey can be unnecessarily exhausting.
Seat assignments and meal arrangements (especially if you have specific dietary requirements or health issues), as well as any special considerations for disabled travelers, should all be arranged well in advance of your actual travel. Confirm all of these details the day before travel.
Preparing important travel and medical documentation well in advance is also a good idea. Make multiple photocopies of your passport, driver’s license and Medicare and insurance cards–and even your tickets, boarding pass and travel itinerary. Place one set of copies in your carry-on bag and another in your checked luggage.
Be a smart packer
If at all possible, try to pack light. If you can travel with your essentials in a carry-on bag, so much the better: you can take the worry about a lost or misrouted suitcase completely off the table.
Make your security screening process easier by reviewing TSA guidelines for travel limitations– especially for essentials like medication and any liquids you might be packing in your carry-on luggage. Remember to leave a little extra room for gifts and mementos! Prioritize comfort. A travel pillow is a small but important luxury. And durable, comfortable shoes aren’t just a way to avoid sore feet at the end of the day; they are also a safety precaution. One trip and fall can ruin a trip and send you to the hospital.
Better safe than sorry
Consider securing travel insurance. This is especially important for older travelers who tend to be at greater risk of injury, illness or other medical emergencies. If you fall or get sick, securing appropriate medical care in a foreign country can be a challenge, and the bills can add up very quickly. The good news is that travel insurance is usually very affordable–and is well worth the peace of mind that it brings you.
Stay under the radar
Don’t advertise your absence. Avoid posting about your trip on social media until your return, and never leave the “clean room” sign on your door. Hotel rooms are a common target for thieves, and it’s smarter to request maid service verbally when required.
Use the provided security chain on your door when you’re in the room, and try to avoid ground-floor rooms if possible to reduce the chances of unwanted entry. Also, be aware that expensive jewelry, watches and cameras can make you a target for criminals looking for an easy score. Leave the “bling” at home and take steps to secure your cash and valuables at all times.
Watch what’s on the menu
One of the pleasures of travel is getting to try new and delicious foods. But unfamiliar cuisine is also one of the challenges of travel! Don’t neglect your gastrointestinal health, particularly if you are on a restricted diet.
No matter how tempting it may be to try those street tacos or that spicy authentic Indian dish, one ill-advised meal can lead to an illness that can ruin a trip, or even make you sick enough to require medical care.
If you have any questions about how your medications might interact with certain foods, be sure to consult your doctor before your trip.
Be thoughtful when planning what medications to bring with you on your trip. Never pack essential meds in checked luggage, and try to keep them with you at all times–or secured in your room safe in a hotel.
Make sure you bring enough medication to cover you if your travel plans change unexpectedly and you have to extend your trip. It’s also a good idea to travel with an updated list of all of your medications (including copies of any prescriptions, dosage details and both brand and generic names) to make it easier to replace them if necessary.
Stay in touch
Keeping friends and family aware of your itinerary and travel status is a smart move–especially for solo travelers. Let your hotel concierge know about your daily schedule, including when you expect to return. Make sure you have a reliable cell phone with a plan that works in the country where you will be traveling, and familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers.
Take basic safety precautions
Thieves and pickpockets are an unfortunate reality of travel in many countries. Women should consider a money belt or hidden wallet instead of a purse, and men should avoid keeping their wallet in their back pocket–and instead should use a hidden/travel wallet that is secured to the belt.
Try to keep your carry-on between your feet when standing in line, or with a strap looped under/ around the leg of your chair when sitting.
Following these basic preparedness reminders and precautions will help ensure that your next trip is memorable for all the right reasons.