Retirement for single seniors once meant sitting on the front porch rocker alone and lonely crooning to the cat. Then, single seniors—particularly females—didn’t dare travel alone. Today’s retired single baby boomer senior, especially female, travels alone, meets other singles, and then dances the nights away in exotic, faraway places. With little extra planning and caution, elders can enjoy their vacations by traveling through their favorite locations. If caregiver accompanies, caregiver attitude is perhaps the single most important factor impacting how well a senior travels, and how well those travel with the individual enjoys the experience.
Tips for Traveling With the Elderly
Before embarking on a trip with a senior, there are a few things the caregiver should consider.
- A good physical check-up and communication with the doctor about travel plans is extremely important. Make sure flu shots are up-to-date and any immunizations are administered in plenty of time, if traveling to a country that requires shots.
- Print off a list of the patient’s medical issues and medications, so if needed, it’s in a format that medical professionals anywhere in the world can easily understand.
- Such printed information can also be helpful when traveling through airport or other security installations. Hearing aides, artificial implants in hips and knees, and pacemakers are among the list of medical issues that may trip security alarms.
- The medical history also addresses oxygen needs, which must be communicated to airline officials in advance. FAA regulations prohibit the use of personal oxygen units during flight although it may be checked below if it meets certain packaging and labeling requirements. Airlines provide oxygen equipment during the flight for a small service charge and most require a 48-hour notice.
- When flying, arrange for an aisle seat for the elderly family member so he/she can easily get up and walk around. This holds true for car or train rides as well. The elderly are at increased risk for blood clots when sitting to long.
- Discussing traveling styles in advance is important for any multi-generational travel, particularly with young children involved.
- Schedule plenty of breaks and time out for snacks.
- Get the senior to drink plenty of water.
- Try to maintain meal times and sleep schedules.
- Pack extra batteries for hearing aides and make sure they are turned to an appropriate volume.
- Bring an extra pair of glasses.
- Take plenty of prescription medication, packed in a carry-on bag for flying.
- Check with airlines in advance regarding oxygen and wheelchair use.
Services for Elderly Travelers
The U.S. Department of Transportation has a toll-free hotline to assist air travelers with disabilities. The line is staffed from 7am to 11pm Eastern time, seven days a week. Call (800) 778-4838 (voice) or (800) 455-9880 (TTY).
Many theme parks and large attractions offer scooters and motorized wheelchairs on property. Some cities, such as Boston, where walking is encouraged to discover sites, also provide such services, including delivery to your hotel. Call the city’s convention and visitors bureau in advance to ask about such services.Many state parks offer free or discounted admission to senior citizens, disabled veterans and anyone traveling in that car.
Deal with a Reliable Vacation Planner
Sadly, people 62-plus are too often the victims of vacation scams, offering glorious trips for amazing bargain prices. To make sure you don’t fall prey to such schemes, always makes sure you know your vacation planner. If you don’t have an agent you’ve used for years, ask family and friends. You can read more about scams that target the seniors here.
Choosing Holiday Transportation
Seniors needs to be honest with themselves. Are they really prepared drive 1500 miles anymore? What about anyone else riding along? Would a plane or train be a better bet? After all, it’s now possible to arrange certain AmTrak trips that allow bringing the car. That offers other advantages: it’s not necessary to rent a car when on arrival and the vehicle being driven is something familiar.
The Safe Mature Driver
No matter how good older people think they are at driving (many figure they have “experience”), the fact is fatality rates among those 62-plus have climbed since 1991, the only group for which that’s true. So it doesn’t hurt to refresh your skills periodically. Lots of state motor vehicle bureaus can suggest classes, and the AAA offers a class called “Safe Driving for Mature Operators” in many states. An added bonus: many insurers offer automotive discounts to those who’ve completed this course.
Pack Medications Carefully
Some older adults must take certain medications several times a day. Not only can daily meds be already counted out, but bottled water or other drinks need to be readily available for taking doses on the road. Some seniors prefer to take them with pre-packaged puddings – which are easy to carry and a good non-perishable choice. Dosage times may have to be adjusted if a medication makes the senior driver sleepy or is otherwise contraindicated during the active part of the day.
Make sure prescriptions are filled with enough to last the entire trip. Consultation with medical provider may be helpful before the trip. Taking the prescription bottle (even if the pills have been put into a daily dosage container) provides proof that the medication is really for the actual traveler, in the rare case that is called into question.
Also make sure to always have at least a week’s worth of medication(s) along in a separate bag when traveling; e.g., in a carry-on, one’s purse, or some other small carry bag. That way even if luggage is lost, the car is stolen, or something else unforeseen happens, the traveler has some extra medications and needn’t be frantic if getting replacements is delayed.
Check Foreign Travel Health Advisories
Anyone leaving the country should find out what – if any – waivers are needed to carry glucose monitors, syringes, or any other medical equipment. Also ask what – if any – health problems are common to the area (malaria, diarrhea?) and prepare for them.
Travel in Fall to Save Money
The arrival of fall brings cooler weather to most regions across the U.S. Caregivers responsible for elderly family members see fall as a great time to make travel plans. The tourists have gone home, school is back in session, and the lines are shorter at many popular parks, resorts, and exhibits. Residents now have a chance to get out for short trips and enjoy the attractions within their own states.
Caregivers are advised to consider more than just the weather, however. Most senior travelers qualify for reduced travel expenses. Places that don’t advertise obvious discounts for the elderly will often lower fees and prices if the traveler asks. And don’t forget the advantages if one belongs to an automobile club or some other affiliation that offers travel discounts. Senior travel discounts are usually above and beyond the average seasonal and residence discounts.
Fall Vacationing Means Cheaper Prices for the Elderly
Prices drop at some of the most popular resorts in the country after Labor Day. Savings on hotels and restaurants are just as appealing. Gas prices seem to be holding steady for the time being, and the roads are less crowded as families settle back into school and work routines. Even year ’round vacation states like Florida offer lower prices on many hot spots attractive to local senior residents. Orlando getaways, for example, feature travel packages at reduced prices for seniors. Caregivers can enjoy slower-paced activities that suit aging family members.
Where to Look for Fall Travel Discounts for Senior Citizens
No one wants to spend more than necessary on airfare, hotel rooms, cruises and other travel components. If you’re over 50, make sure that you’re getting all of the senior discounts you deserve, without being deceived by false promises. Here are a few tips:
Remember you don’t have to be “old.” “Senior” is a relative term. You don’t have to be of retirement age in order to qualify for many “senior” discounts. Some discounts are offered to those as young as age 50.
- Join AARP. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a great source of travel discounts. Anyone age 50 and older may join, and members qualify for discounts on thousands of hotels, tour packages, cruises, and airfare. The membership fee is very reasonable; you’ll recoup it with your first hotel stay. A caution, however: don’t assume that the AARP price is the lowest price. Sometimes it is; sometimes there are lower fares and room rates.
- Ask for discounts. Many senior discounts are offered, but not advertised. Make it second nature to ask for a discount at hotels, museums, car rental counters, retailers, and even restaurants.
- Compare discounts. As I mentioned above, the so-called “senior discount” is not always the best price. Make sure to compare the senior discount with other promotional rates, particularly when making hotel reservations.
- Travel by Amtrak. Amtrak, America’s rail system, offers one of the most generous—and consistent—senior discount programs. The company gives a flat 15 percent discount on all tickets, except sleeper accommodations and the autotrain, to those 62 and older. Plus, traveling by rail is a more relaxed and more scenic way to travel around the country.
- Buy an America the Beautiful Senior Pass. Another generous discount is the lifetime pass offered by the National Park Service to U.S. citizens and permanet residents age 62 and older. This pass is $10 and is good for admission to all of the Federal Recreation sites that charge an admission fee. The pass also entitles bearers to a 50 percent discount on extra fees for things such as camping, swimming, and boat launches. Passes are available in person at any national recreation site.
- Consider purchasing an Entertainment Book. If your travel plans are centered around a major city, consider purchasing an Entertainment Book for that city before you travel. Though not limited to seniors, the books feature hundreds of discount coupons for everything from museums to performing arts to restaurants. Most coupons are of the “buy one, get one free” variety.
Travel Tips for Frugal Travel
If part of the joy of retirement has been the freedom to travel, it may take a bit more planning, research and being more frugal to have travel remain in the baby boomer’s budget during a recession.
Fly when Air Fares are Low
With the ability for retired people to travel during the week or over the weekend, be alert to times when airfares are lowest.
- Use the internet to scope out the airlines that serve airports within a couple of hours of home for the best deals.
- Choose flights that have connections and are usually less expensive than non-stop flights.
It may be worthwhile to drive an hour or two to a neighboring airport in order to get a better fare, and getting off the plane at connecting airports can break up a long trip and allow time to have a bite to eat.
Frugal Travel for Baby Boomers during the Off-Season
When choosing a destination, consider traveling to places during the off-season when there are fewer tourists. Most summer resorts will have considerably lower accommodation prices from September to May, although in northeastern U.S. the fall foliage season rates may still be higher until November.
Traveling to New York City during January or February, or European cities during the winter months are also ways to be a frugal traveler. Consider visiting the cities of central and eastern Europe from November to February. There may be some rain or snow, but there is certainly a more realistic perspective of life there than in the heavy tourist months of the spring and summer.
Budget Accommodations for Frugal Travelers- Small Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts & Pensions
Another way to reduce costs is to find accommodations that are less elaborate and have fewer amenities. Considering the fact that most of the day will be spent out and about, why not find something that is smaller and less elaborate than the typical American hotel.
Bed and Breakfasts are another option for finding lower rates and being well located. At a B & B, there is also the added enjoyment of getting to know the person operating or managing the B & B and learning more about the area from someone who lives there.
Money can also be saved by staying in the heart of the city where there is no need for a rental car. One can get around by walking and taking public transportation.
Tips on Eating for Less While Traveling
Bed & Breakfasts include breakfast in their room rate, and some hotels have free continental breakfasts served in the reception area. Ask about where the locals eat. Eating like the locals can be a great way to find places with good food that are less expensive.
- Find a local diner for breakfast.
- Purchase juice, bagels and cream cheese to have in the room.
- Eat the main meal for lunch, when food prices tend to be lower, rather than at dinner .
- For dinner, sit at the bar and have drinks and appetizers rather than a 4 course meal.
- Carry small bags of peanuts or granola bars for snacking in between meals.
Jet lag and circulation
In terms of jet lag, most travelers can only manage three time zone changes without feeling jet lag. It’s best to get plenty of rest before departure and sleep as much as possible on the plane or rest with eyes closed.
In addition, it’s a good idea to carry a snack in case the connection with a flight is not long enough to include a meal.
While on a flight, some recommend not drinking soda, even though it’s readily offered. It can cause ankles to swell, and seniors generally have poor circulation to begin with. To alleviate the problem, seniors should get up from their seats every hour to walk down the aisle to the back of the plane to get circulation moving.
Dressing right for travel is imperative as well. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) puts out a climate chart for major cities around the world. It lists high and low temperatures, altitude, days of rain and information about food to eat or avoid. Once the area’s climate is determined, travelers will have a better idea of what clothing to pack.
It is recommended that seniors dress in layers, so that they can be prepared for being hot or cool. In addition, by wearing flat comfortable shoes that can be slipped off and on easily, seniors can avoid the hassles of tying shoes when going through metal detectors.
Of utmost importance is making sure one’s passport is current. Some countries will not permit travelers to enter or give them a visa if their passport’s remaining validity is less than six months.
If a passport is lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to your country’s nearest embassy or consulate and to local police. If the traveler can provide a photocopy to the consular officer, it will help in the issuance of a new passport.
That’s why it’s recommended that travelers keep a copy of their passport at home to make it easier to get a replacement. A passport is a valuable document and should be carefully safeguarded.
Those without passports should get them much earlier than the departure date. For Americans, what’s needed is proof of U.S. citizenship (a birth certificate), proof of identity (a driver’s license), two recent two-inch by two-inch photographs of a good likeness and a completed official passport form. For more information, visit the “Travel” section of the U.S. State Department’s website.
Proper planning for food, medications, and clothes can make the trip much more enjoyable and stress free. Timing of such trips and pace during the travel can be important to assure pleasant travel for seniors.