The promotion of the senior tourism is a strategy for active and healthy ageing. In fact travelling provides life satisfaction and helps people stay active, avoids loneliness and lack of meaning in the later stages of life and tackle social exclusion, which are some of the main issues older people face today. Travelling can be an enriching experience for senior citizens as it provides a change in their daily routine; it involves discovery, interaction with the environment, intercultural contact and social interaction.
The benefits of travel, whether it’s a refreshing weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a new destination, are undeniable. And for retirees or seniors who have time and a travel budget, the opportunities are nearly endless.
However travel today can be challenging and exhausting but there are plenty of ways seniors on the move can make it easier and much less stressful. Here are tips to ensure your next travel adventure is all you want it to be.
Flying is often the quickest and most convenient way to travel, but it can be stressful and confusing. Here are a few things you can do to make the experience easier and more pleasant:
Some airlines offer reduced fares for older adults, although they might not widely advertise such fares. Older travelers can get a bit of a break when it comes to security screening. For instance, if they’re over 75, seniors do not have to take shoes off at airport security (although the shoes may still be swabbed for traces of explosives). They can also leave light jackets on.
It’s best to take a full supply of any medications with you, and leave them in their original containers. Finding a pharmacy and filling a prescription in Europe isn’t necessarily difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Plus, nonprescription medications (such as vitamins and supplements) may not be available abroad in the same form you’re used to.
Medically required liquids and gels are not subject to the same size restrictions as other carry-on liquids. However, they need to be screened separately, so you can speed things up by packing them in a Ziploc bag that is separate from your other liquids. Keep the medications in an easily accessible part of your carry-on bag.
Most airlines allow you to bring canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and even electric scooters along for no extra cost. If you can’t walk to your seat, you can transfer from a wheelchair into a special aisle chair that is narrow enough to fit down the aircraft’s aisle.
Having gear that can safely, conveniently, and durably hold your belongings will help make your trip easier. Here are some good examples of travel essentials: a secure and easy-to-use passport holder or travel pouch to keep essential belongings, like ID, credit cards and cash, safe and close by. One that can be worn around the neck may be especially handy for those who can be forgetful. Durable, lightweight luggage that’s easy to identify, pull, and carry.
A suitcase marker to help identify your bag from everyone else’s and make it easier and quicker to pick up your belongings from luggage carousels. A waterproof toiletry bag to store your personal care essentials and protect your other belongings if something containing liquid/gel/cream breaks or opens during transit. Durable luggage tags to identify your checked bags if the airline tags come off, and to identify your carry-on bag in case it’s misplaced or needs to be stowed after you board the plane. A travel pillow and blanket can help make the trip a lot more comfortable. Planes can be cold, and the seats can be difficult to nap in. So a small pillow and blanket can help make the trip more restful and enjoyable.
How far is the walk from your drop-off point to the terminal? How much medical and mobility equipment is there to carry? Will you be close to a restroom? These are all things you’ll want to consider when traveling with seniors.
Reviewing the map of your airport can help you tremendously. When you plan for frequent stops, handling any mobility or medical equipment and adjusting to new surroundings, you can help reduce some of the unique stress that comes with air travel for seniors.
Consider travel insurance. Perhaps never before have travelers faced so many uncertainties. From canceled flights to accidents to natural or man-made disasters. As COVID19 continues to wreak havoc, travel insurance is one way to be sure many contingencies are covered. In fact, travel insurance can cover much more than the cost of canceled flights. For those traveling out of the country, or outside their healthcare network, travel insurance can be a financial lifesaver should a senior require medical care for an illness or injury. It can also include medical evacuation coverage to make sure a senior can return home even while in a medical crisis. Other helpful add-ons include luggage insurance, rental car insurance and coverage that includes terrorist attacks and kidnapping ransom.
You probably have the flexibility to travel when it suits you. Avoiding the prime tourist season can help you save money and avoid crowds. If you can travel whenever you want, it’s smart to aim for shoulder season (April through mid-May, or late September through October). This allows you to avoid the most exhausting things about European travel — crowds and the heat of summer — and it saves money, too.
But make sure you pack for unpredictable weather and research some indoor activities so that you can stay out of the cold or rain. Also, be aware that some museums and other tourist sites have limited hours or are completely closed off-season.
Most rail passes are about 10 percent cheaper for seniors age 60 and up. And seniors can get deals on point-to-point rail tickets in Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Norway.
Getting to an attraction right at opening or just before closing helps you avoid extreme temperatures and large crowds. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, starting with a one- or two-hour bus or boat tour can orient you to the area’s attractions and help you determine what you’d like to explore in more depth.
Take bus tours (usually two hours long) for a painless overview of a city’s highlights. Boat tours — of the harbor, river, lake, or fjord — are a pleasure.
Choose centrally located hotels. Staying near the major attractions (or at least close to public transit options) makes it easier to get back to your room to relax at the end of a long day. If you have mobility issues, ask for a ground-floor room and find out if the hallways or doorways can fit a walker or wheelchair.
Mistakes not to make
Choosing the Wrong Destination for Your Situation
Plan trips according to what’s best for you at this stage in life. “You really need to choose the trip, the tour, or the destination that’s right for you — and that, again, is going to be affected by your abilities,” Waugh says. “Maybe you’ve been a great hiker in the past, but it’s just not in the cards, but you also love cooking, so you go to Italy and take a cooking course. Sometimes you have to adapt according to the times within your life.”
Not Starting Small
Another surefire way to get comfortable traveling on your own as a senior is to start small and stay local. “Go to a city not far from you, where it’s really familiar,” Waugh advises.
If you have a lot of travel experience already and it’s not the travel that’s baffling you but the being alone, then choose a place that’s exotic yet familiar. “If you want to be more adventurous than just going down the road, so to speak, then go to the UK or go across the country or go somewhere where English is spoken and it’s pretty familiar how the world works,” Waugh recommends. “You get your feet wet that way.”
Not Sorting Out Your Communication Strategy Before You Depart
Don’t leave home without knowing how you’ll contact home in case of emergency.
“What can happen, if you’re under stress and the things you have to do to communicate with home or with your travel agent or whomever is not clear to you — if you’re using the phone and you’ve just bought the phone, that kind of thing — the stress can make it impossible, almost,” Waugh says. “So make sure that you’re leaving really confident about how you’re communicating with home.”
Seniors travel to visit family, learn about the countries of their ancestors, or explore new destinations. Many seek immersive experiences, educational opportunities, or adventure. And travel companies are responding to their needs and wishes with tours, from independent to guided options, budget to luxury, and group to individual.
When you travel with a group travel organization, you’re never on your own. You’ll have Group Leaders and instructors who will constantly be drawing on local knowledge and providing behind-the-scenes insight and, often, access.
Your Group Leader speaks the local language, so you can relax knowing you won’t have any trouble communicating or getting around. Plus, having a translator can allow you to interact with locals in a way that you wouldn’t be able to on your own, with a dictionary or with language apps on your phone.
Probably the best benefit of traveling with a group is the group itself. When you travel with like-minded peers and take part in life-changing and memorable adventures, you can often bond very quickly.
When you enroll in a group travel adventure, everything from hotels to excursions is taken care of. Group travel organizations draw on local knowledge to craft itineraries that include the best of the destination, and Group Leaders will get you from one place to the next without you having to make plans or decisions on your own.
Traveling with local Group Leaders also means that you often have opportunities to see things and do things you couldn’t on your own. With years of knowledge and local connections, your Group Leaders can get you access to behind-the-scenes experiences and introduce you to people like chefs at famous restaurants, directors at a film festival or locals who took part in historic events like the Civil Rights Movement.
Depending on where you travel to, you may feel more comfortable journeying with a group than by yourself. Plus, your Group Leaders are trained problem solvers and are always there to help navigate unexpected travel surprises.
Traveling with a group can push you out of your comfort zone. When you don’t have to worry about things like logistics and safety, you can focus on just relaxing and enjoying the ride, and often new experiences. Plus, meeting new friends with different interests may encourage you to try new things!
AGE Platform Europe, ‘EUROSEN – Europe for senior: active ageing by travelling”, AGE Platform Europe. https://www.age-platform.eu/project/eurosen-europe-senior-active-ageing-travelling
Jonh Ganton’s Countryside, « 6 Travel Tips for Seniors”, John Ganton’s Couontryside blog, 1 February 2022. https://blog.gantons.com/6-travel-tips-for-seniors
Patricia Doherty, « 14 Best Senior-friendly travel groups”, Travel Leisure, 8 March 2021. https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/senior-travel/best-travel-groups-for-seniors
Publisher, “Senior Travel Tips: How to Have Great Adventures as an Older Adult”, GreatSeniorLiving, 22 April 2022. https://www.greatseniorliving.com/articles/senior-travel
Rick Steves, “Savvy Senior Travelers”, Rick Steves Europe. https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/savvy-senior-travelers
ROADSCHOLAR, “Travel tips for senior”, ROADSCHOLAR. https://www.roadscholar.org/senior-travel-tips/benefits-of-group-travel/