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Tips for Senior Travel

Helpful resources!

So at what age are you considered a “senior” anyway? You’re eligible for AARP when you reach 50, at Denny’s, you qualify for the senior discount menu when you’re 55, some theaters offer discounts at 60 and at age 62, you’re eligible for a portion of benefits from Social Security.

But isn’t age all about a state of mind? My Dad is 90 years old and has been commuting into New York City everyday for the past 50 years. Everyday without a complaint. He has raced up the NYC subway stairs, beating everyone half his age!  He walks several blocks to work at the Chelsea Brewing Company where he is the “social director,” “gardener,” “painter,” “host,” “handyman” and all around great guy to have a conversation with. He is truly a spirited, positive, energetic and amazing man. So I would have to say, yes, age is definitely a state of mind.

So whether your 50 or 90 or somewhere in between, some questions come to mind. Where am I in life? How do I want to balance my time? Do I want to travel? Will I travel with a group or alone? Where would I like to go and what is my budget? We usually travel to explore a new area or interest, or spend time in another country to learn new skills, the culture or languages. If exploring a new destination is on your mind, a little pre-planning certainly helps. 

Think about scheduling for impromptu events and extensions of time in certain places you really enjoy. Research ways to save money. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best times to find price changes. Timing is everything. Think about purchasing travel insurance and make sure it covers pre-existing illness if needed.  And of course, a travel agent can help navigate this process with you! But beyond choosing the type of destination you’d like to visit, here are a few tips to consider:

Make sure that you are aware of medical facilities surrounding the destination you are planning on visiting. Research the climate, language and the culture of your chosen destination. Explore transportation savings with Eurail Passes and in country ticket shops. Use frequent flyer points. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. When a passenger calls TSA, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel for information about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.  The toll free number is 855-787-2227.  Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA or can e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

In addition, if you have a medical condition, contact the local tourist authority at your destination to find out if the public transportation system accommodates your condition.  If you’re traveling abroad, contact the relevant embassies to check rules and regulations about your aids, whether it’s about the availability of a wheelchair, guide dog or medication. Always consult with your doctor for a complete medical check-up prior to departure. This is especially important if you have any coronary heart disease, hypertension or any other chronic condition. If you’ve recently undergone surgery or experienced a heart attack, it’s equally important. Be sure to mention any particular health concerns you might have, such as dietary changes (local cuisine), time zone differences and anything else with respect to your health. People with diabetes will need medical advice on how to safely stagger their medications to fit a different time zone. Consider having your flu and pneumonia vaccinations before you go on your trip. If you intend to travel to areas where infectious diseases are present, make sure you are fully vaccinated.

Medication:

When visiting abroad, check to make sure that your medications are legal in the country you are visiting. To do this, simply contact the country's embassy, high commission or consulate. Carry a letter from your doctor that describes your medication, how much you will be taking and mention that it is for your own personal use. Leave the medicine in its original packaging, so that you are aware of the dosage instructions. If you’re using a pill box, bring the bottle with you. In case you have to inject your medication, it might be preferable to carry your own needles and syringes. When buying needles and syringes overseas ensure you buy packs that are sealed and sterile. Do not try to save luggage space by combining medications into one container. Keep all medications in the original, labeled container to avoid troubles with Customs.

Mobility:

If you are a traveler with mobility issues, but do not own a scooter, consider renting one for your next trip. You can have the scooter delivered to your home, hotel or cruise ship and have it picked up at the end of your vacation. If you are traveling by air, it is important to plan ahead.  If using a wheelchair, inform the airline if you are traveling with a manual or electric wheelchair, or a scooter. When reconfirming your flight, ask the airline for "maximum assistance" at all airport terminals. Reconfirm your request for "maximum assistance" when you arrive at the airline ticket counter.

At the airport, ask the ticket personnel to "gate check" your wheelchair and obtain a luggage claim receipt for your wheelchair. When you "gate check" your wheelchair it allows you to roll your wheelchair directly to the fuselage of the plane where you will either walk to your seat or be transferred to an "aisle chair" for assistance to your seat. Before handing your wheelchair over to the airline staff, remove your leg supports and portable seat cushions and carry these into the plane. These do not travel well when attached to your wheelchair. Use a small, nylon sports bag large enough to hold the leg supports that is also light enough to fold into your carry-on luggage when not in use.

Transportation:

If you need to use accessible transportation, look through the Project Action database (www.projectaction.org) to locate accessible buses, trains and light rail systems. Find your destination city in their Accessible Travelers Database, then contact the local transit system directly for access information. Many transit systems also have print or on-line access guides or maps of their accessible transit routes. If you can’t find this information on-line, call the local transit authority and inquire.

Try to find a hotel near a bus or metro stop. City hotels are usually more expensive, so if you want to save money, look for a hotel outside the city center but near public transportation.  Check to make sure the attractions you want to visit are also near public transportation. Find out if your hotel has a free airport shuttle. Hotels that offer courtesy transportation must also provide free accessible transportation.

Must Have Information:

Emergency contact numbers including doctors. Your travel agent’s number if you booked through a travel agency. Airline, cruise ship and/or hotel contact information, number for US Embassy and transportation numbers and any important documentation. Having the appropriate information makes travel much easier.

With some knowledge and organization, the world is waiting for you!  Go out and enjoy a fascinating cruise to the New England/Canada area. Canada's 13 provinces and territories offer something for everyone. From stunning mountain scenery to cosmopolitan night life to the warm beaches of New Brunswick, you're bound to find a destination in Canada that's right for you.  Or perhaps France. It is the world's top travel destination, and with good reason. Each region of France has its own unique character, heritage and cuisine. The Alps, the Normandy coast, historic castles and more. Add in France's excellent food and delightful wines and the result is an unforgettable vacation.  Or visit some of the top destinations in the US-Washington, DC, Branson, MO, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, or Williamsburg, VA.

Or even better, come say hi to my Dad in NYC!  Tell him I sent you!  Bon Voyage!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Olive April 21, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Very informative. Thank you.
Marianne Szeluga April 22, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Thanks MCD. I'm glad my information was helpful!

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