These Travel Tips for Seniors Can Help Ensure Your Next Trip Is a Safe One

November 16, 2023

Having more leisure time is one of the great perks of retirement. For many, it means more time to travel, whether it’s a trip to visit family or an adventure in some exotic, faraway place.

As we head into the winter holidays, you may be planning some travel of your own — maybe a road trip to see the grandkids, or a flight to visit friends. These senior travel tips will make the trip go more smoothly and help you avoid common problems while you’re traveling.

Protect Your Health — Starting Before You Leave

If it’s been a while since your last physical exam, getting one before you go is a good idea. You don’t want to find out about a health issue when you’re far from home. And if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, or you’ve had recent surgery, it’s wise to get the green light on travel from your doctor.

While you’re at it, talk with your doctor about getting shots to protect against the flu, pneumonia, shingles, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Be sure to book your appointment far enough ahead to give the shots time to take effect before you leave.

If you’ll be traveling out of the country, check to see if other inoculations are recommended or required. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides helpful information on travel vaccines.

You can also have a conversation with your doctor about any medications you take. This will help prevent issues that could result in missed doses during your trip. A few points to discuss:

  • If you don’t already have one, ask for a list of all prescription drugs and supplements you take. The list should include dosages, the prescribing physician’s name and dosing instructions. If different doctors are treating you for various health conditions, you may need to get a list from each doctor and compile them into one.
  • Liquid medications (especially those requiring needles, syringes or infusion ports) may hold you up when going through airport security. Ask your doctor to make explanatory notes on the list for these medications to help speed up the screening process.
  • Check to be sure you have enough of your medications to last the duration of your trip, or have a plan in place with your doctor for getting refills while you’re away. Either way, find out if there’s an in-network pharmacy near where you’ll be staying, just in case.
  • If you’ll be traveling across different time zones, ask your doctor whether you should continue to take your medications at the same time you would normally take them at home or switch your dosing schedule to your destination’s time zone.
  • If you have surgical implants or prosthetics that may trigger an alert at the airport security checkpoint, ask your doctor for a written statement to help facilitate the screening process.

Staying Healthy While on the Road or in the Air

A medical emergency could change your plans before you ever get to where you’re going. These simple steps can help you get there without incident.

Lower your DVT risk

Traveling often means sitting for long periods of time, whether you go by car, plane, train or tour bus. This can raise your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the legs. The best way to prevent DVT is to get out of your seat and move around frequently during the trip.

On a plane, you can walk up and down the aisle or stand up at your seat and move around. If you must remain seated, you can still flex your feet and calf muscles, do circles with your ankles and hug your knees in toward your chest. You may feel self-conscious at first, but you might also encourage other travelers to follow your example.

If you’ll be traveling by car, give yourself ample time to allow for frequent stops so you can get out and stretch your legs.

Other precautions you can take to help prevent DVT include wearing compression socks (ask your doctor about this), dressing in loose-fitting clothes and not crossing your legs while sitting.

Stay hydrated

The air in a plane’s cabin is extremely dry, so it’s easy to become dehydrated on even short flights. Drinking water, and plenty of it, is your best bet for staying hydrated. Although you may be tempted to have a cocktail or two while waiting for your flight or after you’re seated on the plane, alcohol will increase your odds of becoming dehydrated.

Sometimes people limit their intake of liquids because they don’t want to have to get up to use the restroom — but remember, it’s good to get up and move around! This is also true if you’re taking a road trip. Those frequent pit stops are better for your health than logging hundreds of miles nonstop.

Take snacks

Not all airlines serve snacks nowadays, so to keep your blood sugar steady, pack some nutritious items in leakproof sandwich bags to take with you. Nuts and dried fruit travel well.

If you’ll be flying, pack your snacks in a small travel bag you can keep at your seat or take them out of your carry-on bag before putting it in the overhead bin.

Flights that include a meal often provide options to accommodate special dietary needs. The time to make your request is when you book the flight.

Plan ahead to avoid potential injuries

Pack light so you don’t have to lug heavy suitcases around. You can ask for assistance with your luggage at airports and hotels, but there will still be times when you’ll need to do the lifting yourself.

If you’re planning to fly, the airport can provide mobility assistance (e.g., an electric cart or a wheelchair) to help you get to your gate and onto your flight. It’s a good idea to request this when booking your flight.

Arrive at the airport early so you don’t have to rush. To avoid long lines at the security checkpoint, consider applying ahead of time for the TSA PreCheck® program. If you’re 75 or older, you probably won’t have to take off your shoes or jacket during the screening process unless you set off the alarm.

Additional Travel Safety Tips for Seniors

  • Give copies of your itinerary and travel documents to a friend or family member before you leave so someone will know where you are supposed to be while you’re traveling.
  • Even though you may be excited about your trip, don’t announce it on social media — your privacy settings may not be as private as you think, and it’s never good to let strangers know when you won’t be home.
  • If you’ll be traveling out of state, find out what your health plan covers where you’ll be staying. If you’ll be traveling abroad, know that Medicare won’t pay for your health care needs in most situations. For peace of mind, consider buying travel insurance.
  • Using a travel agency or tour operator that specializes in senior travel — such as TravelPulse or Road Scholar — can make planning your trip a breeze.
  • Carry your medications in your purse or satchel if you’ll be flying. Luggage can get lost, and extreme temperatures in the cargo hold can affect the potency of some prescription drugs.
  • Take photocopies of your IDs and travel documents to carry with you in case the originals are lost or stolen. The copies will help you get replacements more easily and perhaps more quickly. You can also scan the originals and make digital versions.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, take an extra pair with you if possible.
  • Consider carrying a “dummy” wallet or purse with only a small amount of money in it if you’ll be taking tours on your trip, and keep your ID, credit cards and larger sums of cash in a travel pouch or hidden pocket made for travelers. This way, if a pickpocket gets the dummy wallet, you won’t have lost much.

Senior Living Makes It Easy To Travel as You Please

As a resident of The Variel, you’d have the freedom to travel whenever you want, for as long as you want, without having to worry about your home.

Independent living in our community is ideal for older adults who are ready to trade the hassle of home maintenance and upkeep for more time to enjoy all that makes life fun and interesting — like exploring new places.

Why not begin your adventures with a trip to The Variel? We’d love the opportunity to show you our beautiful residences and upscale amenities. While you’re here, you’ll get a taste of the lifestyle that can be yours and learn about the benefits of living in a rental community.

Contact us to schedule a one-on-one visit.

Featured Image: Olena Yakubchok /  Shutterstock