According to Australian Senior Publication’s The Senior, these trips include ‘everything from cruising to self-drive to coach and to rail holidays’.
Stats show seniors are travelling more and more
‘Holidays are considered an essential part of seniors’ lives these days. Free from the restrictions of work and mortgages, they view regular holidays as a highly enjoyable entitlement,’ they say. Of readers surveyed by the group, over half expressed plans to travel overseas in the next two years, and a whopping 9 in 10 planned on travelling within Australia in the next year alone.
The way in which this demographic are booking their travel is changing over time too. YourLifeChoices report that ‘seniors are more than happy to book their travel online, with 72% booking airfares, 48% travel insurance and 22% cruises over the internet’. With the increasing number of travellers in this demographic, we’ve compiled a handy list of travel tips for seniors to consider when planning their next jaunt.
Initial planning, preparation and research
If you’ve decided to take a well-deserved trip but don’t know where to start, cross these points off your pre-departure checklist:
- Do your research. Buy a travel guide or do some online research into the culture, traditions, and customs of your chosen destination. If you’re visiting a non-English speaking country enrolling yourself in a short course to learn the basics can be a useful and fun way to prepare. Many Tafe’s, Universities and local community centres run these courses.
- Find suitable substitutes. The Senior suggests a few great alternatives for various types of travel if you need to make some adjustments. For example, if you enjoy camping but roughing it is no longer possible, why not try ‘glamping’ where your camp site is set up for you before you arrive? With a few added luxuries it’ll make your trip that little bit more comfortable while still allowing you to be in the great outdoors. The same goes for driving holidays too, with things like Tag-Along tours allowing you to travel in a convoy instead of alone.
- Enjoy the luxury of time and flexibility. Make the most of your work-free life and flexible schedule and enjoy the perks of last minute sales, mid-week discounts and travelling off-peak season. This will save money that can be spent on extending your stay, indulging a little more or bringing back a gift for loved ones at home.
- Utilise alternative accommodation options and save. ‘Travel doesn’t have to be expensive’ says The Senior, so don’t rule out unconventional places to stay. You may like to look into house-sitting, house-swapping, volunteering or even seasonal employment options to enhance your experience, save some money and live like the locals do.
- Get the best airline seat. The Senior also recommends checking com, a website that breaks up airline seating charts using colour coding to show you where you can find the best spot, i.e. where has the most legroom. It might also be beneficial to break up a long flight ‘by taking advantage of cheap stop-over packages’ or purchasing mixed fare tickets with a combination of business, premium economy and economy class seats.
- Find likeminded travellers. The prospect of going on a holiday alone needn’t be a daunting experience nor put you off following your travel dreams. YourLifeChoices suggest organised tours or travel clubs such as Seniors Holiday Travel Solo Traveller Club as a fantastic option as you’ll meet others of a similar age with similar interests and are able to share the experience together.
- Take out the necessary travel insurances. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, ensure potential treatment for those are covered should anything arise when you’re away. Australian Senior Publications have found ‘soft adventure is increasingly popular with many seniors, with 87% of readers reporting their health as good or excellent’, so if you’re planning on taking part in any adventurous or unusual activities ensure you understand any inclusions or exclusions applicable to your chosen travel insurance policy.
- Consider your individual needs and plan ahead. If you or your travel companion has restricted mobility or uses a wheelchair or scooter, check that your accommodation and transportation can cater to this. Do they have lifts? Is there wheelchair or scooter hire available? Will you require some extra legroom? If you have any specific requirements such as these it’s better to arrange ahead of time.
- Book yourself in for a check-up. Ensure you’re in tip top shape and make an appointment with your GP, dentist and any other specialist practitioner. This will allow you to:
- Obtain copies of any necessary medical prescriptions
- Check in on any pre-existing conditions
- Receive vaccinations if required
- Speak with a professional about any concerns you might have
- Most importantly, get peace of mind before departure
- Get travel fit. ‘Travelling of any sort requires stamina’ says The Senior and it is likely when travelling that you’ll be on your feet a lot, so some pre-travel training like squats (to help if there’s Asian style toilets), strengthening exercises for carrying bags or even going for a long walk will come in handy. ‘If you are worried about your fitness level, enrol at your local gym for a few months before you go’. The Senior recommends locations that have programs for older people such as the YMCA’s Pryme and Living Longer Living Stronger courses.
Luggage, packing and last minute to-do items
It’s almost time to embark on your journey. Here are a few tips and tricks to aid with final preparations:
- Notify relevant parties. If you’re going abroad and plan on using your mobile phone or bank cards while you’re there you’ll need to alert your telephone provider and bank so they do not bar usage as a result of unusual account activity. Inform a neighbour or family member of your travel dates and make the necessary arrangements to water the garden, collect mail or take care of pets while you’re gone. Even better, have someone housesit!
- Pack comfortable footwear. You’ll likely be spending most of the day on your feet exploring, so footwear that is both supportive and comfy enough to be worn all day long is essential.
- Bring your medication. It’s also handy to pack a few toiletries as they may be cheaper when purchased at home, like sunscreen, antihistamine tablets and insect repellent. Take only what you need in your carry on and safely store the remainder in your checked luggage (if you’re flying). If you’re going on a cruise you may also like to bring something to prevent seasickness.
- Choose sensible luggage. Avoid unnecessary back and shoulder strain and ensure ease of movement, especially in busy airport and rail terminals by choosing the right luggage. Suitcases with wheels as opposed to duffel bags or backpacks work best.
- Use luggage locks to protect your belongings. While a regular padlock and key will do the trick, airport security may search luggage items on occasion as part of regular security protocols. If Purchase a TSA approved lock to avoid the lock cutters coming out and your luggage remaining unlocked post search.
- Share your itinerary. Send a copy of key dates, addresses and contact details to a loved one so they can reach you in case of emergencies.
- Bring spares. A spare set of glasses, duplicate copies of your ID and any other important items can be split between your luggage items – just in case a single items gets misplaced or stolen.
- Register overseas travel. The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have a useful online resource called Smart Traveller. Smart Traveller allows you to register your travel and contact details in case you need to be contacted, plus check for any travel warnings relevant to your intended destination. These listings are updated regularly, providing travellers with a current and credible source of information.
Long flights can take their toll on the body, so it’s important to take care of yourself when you’re in the air. This can be achieved by:
- Allow plenty of time. Getting from A to B is often one of the most stressful parts of the trip, so make life a little easier for yourself by factoring in extra time to get to the airport, port or if you’re driving to your destination leave a little early to allow for unexpected traffic or extra pit stops along the way.
- Remaining hydrated. Kidney Health Australia states that ‘an air traveller can lose approximately 1.5 litres of water during a three-hour flight’. It’s advised that the consumption of caffeine and alcohol is avoided or kept to a minimum as they can further dehydrate the body. This is also known to aid in the prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis, where a blood clot develops in the deep veins of your leg.
- Having regular stretch breaks. Be wary of deep vein thrombosis and related conditions linked with long-haul flights which can be more prevalent in older travellers. Aim to get up and moving every couple of hours to increase circulation. Better Health advises travellers wear loose, comfortable clothing, moving around the cabin to stretch your legs and do some simple leg and foot stretches when you’re in your seat to increase blood flow. QANTAS recommended inflight exercises and stretches.
At your destination
Hooray – you’ve finally made it to your destination! A few reminders and notes of caution:
- Be aware of scams. Unfortunately foreigners are often the target for scammers, and older travellers are particularly susceptible to this unsavoury behaviour. It’s useful to do some research and speak with friends and family who may have visited the destination for advice on what to look out for. Remain alert but not alarmed.
- Avoid carrying too many valuables at once. Don’t carry too much cash on you at once. It’s better to split your spending money between your bags and only carry what you need on the day with you. The same can also be said for wearing expensive jewellery and carrying other valuable items. If you’re going overseas sometimes it’s best to leave some of these trinkets at home where they’re safe and keeping valuables to a minimum.
- Enjoy seniors’ discounts and free admission days. Discover which destinations, travel methods, accommodations and activities may offer discounts for seniors in Australia and abroad. YourLifeChoices says ‘many discounts, including those on public transport, are now available to Seniors Card holders travelling interstate and within New Zealand’ so it’s useful to take your Seniors Card with you. ‘Even if you’re heading further afield ask for a discount, as many attractions will honour seniors’ discounts if you can prove your age’ they said. Some examples of the discounts available include free entry free entry on the first Sunday of the month from November to March at Versailles in France and discounted rail tickets for over 60s through Rail Europe.
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink. One of the greatest pleasures you can experience when exploring new places is trying out the local specialties, however, being away from the comforts of home cooking and your regular diet may result in an upset stomach! Be careful when drinking local water in some overseas destinations too, as the water may not be suitable for consumption. If you’re unsure ask your tour guide or a local or alternatively stick to bottled water and avoid adding ice to your drinks.
- Last but not least, remember to get some rest. Busy days sightseeing and exploring can take their toll on the body so it’s important to factor in some time into your schedule to take a breather and recuperate. This may be allowing for a night in or a late start to the day every so often or even having a tea and coffee break to put your feet up for an hour or so. Take it at your own pace; it’s your holiday after all!