Traveling enables all of us (seniors included!) to experience the beauty of new places and the vibrancy of new cultures. Whether you're fifteen or fifty years old, travel keeps you active, curious, and connected to the world around you. In fact, experts routinely cite travel as being especially important for seniors’ physical and mental health; many say that the ability to travel is absolutely vital to health and wellbeing. And with kids out of the nest and a little extra money in your pocket, being a little older often provides you with the luxury of the time and resources needed to explore the world.
Below, we offer 25 tips for wanderlusters who are enjoying their golden years:
1.) One of the nicest parts about traveling over the age of 50 is that you have the flexibility in choosing when you want to go! Planning a trip in the "off-season" (avoiding school holidays, spring break, and other peak seasons) can help you save a bundle on flights and hotels. Plus, you'll be able to avoid crowds!
2.) Buy travel insurance! It can help you recoup the costs in the event that something goes wrong. Travel insurance is especially useful if you're worried about medical issues; it can reimburse you if you need to cancel the trip, cover the cost of a medical emergency, or just need to make new arrangements due to something unexpected.
3.) Lighten up your luggage. There's no need to throw out your back or lug a heavy bag through a foreign country! Grab a small backpack as a carry-on and opt for a very lightweight suitcase for your checked baggage.
4.) Mind your meds! Don't pack them in your checked baggage, and don't leave them lying about your hotel room, either. Make sure that you have a few extra days' worth with you, just in case of flight delays or a spontaneous desire to stay a little longer.
5.) Pace yourself. Remember, this isn't spring break in your 20s. ;) While it may be tempting to overindulge on rich foods and alcohol, both can mess with your health and enjoyment on a big trip. Mix up luscious meals with lighter options, and follow a booze-filled evening with a more sober day.
6.) Consult your doctor. If you're dealing with some serious health problems, you should consult your personal physician before making travel plans. Find out if there's a chance anything could flare up during travel, and ask them to provide you with any advice to help manage your health throughout your vacation.
7.) Hide your money and your passport away from plain view! Purses are an easy target, so opt for a SHOLDIT scarf (they have a hidden pocket -- also great for meds!) to keep your valuables safe and sound.
8.) Drink boiled or bottled water! As with all travelers, seniors should also be aware that water in certain countries might not be safe for consumption. It is advisable that you only drink only boiled or bottled water throughout your vacation. This is especially crucial when/if you are taking medication!
9.) Don't be shy; ask for a senior discount! AARP offers some incredible ones for car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages. On top of that, most hotels, resorts, museums, and attractions generally offer some sweet, sizable senior discounts. Check out the prices online before booking in person and see what type of offers are available to you; you can also avoid long lines by booking those tickets in advance!
10.) Keep others informed of where you're at during your trip. If you're traveling alone, be sure to tell the hotel concierge or attendant where you're going and when you expect to be back; then stick to your schedule! (Also, be sure to keep a cell phone on you at all times.)
11.) Make new friends! One of the greatest joys of traveling is the countless opportunities to meet new people -- whether you're traveling alone or as a couple. Strike up a conversation over cocktails or on the dance floor, or invite a friendly couple to join you for a meal!
12.) If you do fall seriously ill on your trip, call the nearest U.S. embassy for help. U.S. consular officers can recommend reliable doctors and hospitals, and they can help you contact your family back home.
13.) Go for a cruise! If you're nervous at all about travel, cruises offer a unique opportunity for a senior traveler. Everything is planned, and the ship is fully operated and staffed to support many of your needs.
14.) Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions (this one's important for any age!). Some countries have strict rules for a woman’s dress and behavior, and it’s really crucial that you know what they are.
15.) Traveling along? Booking a room with AirBNB is a great option, instead of a hotel. They allow you to rent out a room or part of a real home, so you can pick a place that comes with instant company (and a great local tour guide)!
16.) Go for as long as you can, do as much as you can, and make sure you are as fit as you can be before you go! Know your limits, and know when you can push yourself. :)
17.) Don't bring all your bling! While you may have a beautiful stockpile of nice jewelry, expensive watches, and fancy cameras, you shouldn't do anything that makes you a target for thieves.
18.) Start small, if you're nervous! Choose a trip you feel called to that features activites you adore. Whether that's a weekend stay in a nearby city, a quick camping trip, or a spa retreat, you can always scratch the itch to travel with something a little closer to home.
19.) Treat yourself! This is not the shoestring backpacking trip you took after college. If it's in the budget, feel free to book nicer accommodations, rent a car, or splurge on an incredible meal.
20.) Get certifications if your meds contain narcotic or habit-forming drugs (check with your doctor!). Some medications are considered illegal and those who carry such medications may be arrested when they are trying to clear customs (which would be an awful way to start our your vacation). Do some research to find out if your medications are legal in the countries you're visiting!
21.) Wear comfortable shoes. Trust us on this one!
22.) Bring your own first-aid kit, just in case. Pack over-the-counter medication you often use, as well as first-aid items, like Band-Aids or Neosporin.
23.) Watch what you eat! If you have a more sensitive stomach, or are on a restricted diet, keep an eye on your dinner plate. Minimize the amount of heavy, spicy, or cheesy foods (as tempting as they can be).
24.) Bring along a small notebook -- it's helpful for jotting down facts and reminders, like your hotel room number or where you parked the rental car. Doing so will lessen your anxiety about forgetting these small details, keeping your mind clear and worry-free!
25.) Be mindful of your accommodations. To make it easier to get around, ask for a room near the elevator, or a ground-floor room if only stairs are available.
Share your travel tips (or travel plans!) in the comments below!