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Travel Smart: Top 10 Travel Tips For The Young At Heart

For some, travelling is an opportunity to break away from life’s daily routine and spend quality time with family and friends. For others, it is the chance to experience different sights, sounds and cultures. Whatever the reason, travelling is a rewarding experience. However, being an older traveller often means there are some unique health and safety tips to consider.

1. Research and plan ahead

Whether travelling alone or with others, trip planning should be accomplished sooner rather than later. This includes choosing which destination is appropriate and what the itinerary might look like.

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  • Destination selection – While it may be one’s dream to travel to a particular destination, make sure to research important factors such as climate, language and culture. Senior travellers should avoid selecting destinations with extreme climates and areas that are prone to epidemics and infectious diseases (e.g. traveller’s diarrhea, dengue fever, yellow fever).
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  • Make time to relax – Due to potential physical limitations; it is best to avoid planning a full itinerary. Make sure to allocate some time for relaxation each day.
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  • Activities – Adventurous activities, such as mountain climbing, bungee jumping, extreme water sports and other physically strenuous activities, are also best avoided.
  • Pre-trip planning – Many tour operators specialise in accommodating the needs of older travellers. If you have health concerns, go on a package tour and if you require wheelchairs, guide dogs and special seating organise these items well in advance.
2. Arrange a medical assessment
  • Medical checkup – Consult your doctor for a complete medical checkup and aim to identify any underlying pre-existing illnesses (e.g. heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or any other chronic illness) to ensure that any issues are medically under control before your trip. If you intend to travel to areas where infectious diseases are present, make sure you are fully vaccinated.
  • Physical preparedness – Establish whether you are physically prepared to travel and determine if any particular travel arrangements are required (e.g. escort/travel companion or in-flight oxygen).
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  • Doctor’s statement – A doctor’s report is essential and should always include a list of active and chronic illnesses, regular medications, past surgical history (especially hip or knee implants and heart surgery), immunisation status and allergies.
3. Handling your medications
  • Packing medication – Always bring medications in their original bottles and store them in a transparent zip-lock bag together with a prescription list from your doctor. Pack them in your carry-on luggage, so that they are with you throughout the duration of your trip. This will also ensure a smoother immigration process if travelling internationally. Pack enough medication to last the entire trip. If possible, try packing extra medication in your check-in luggage to ensure an adequate supply in the event of an emergency.
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  • Time zones – Discuss how to safely stagger medication to fit a different time zone (e.g. anti-diabetic medications) with your doctor. Record the new schedule in a personal notepad or set an alarm. Also, inform a caretaker/travel companion of the new drug administration schedule.
4. Arrange for vaccinations
  • Routine immunisation – Tropical or infectious diseases are more common in less developed countries, and seniors are prone to infections due to their weaker immune systems. As such, senior travellers should stay up-to-date with their routine immunisations (i.e. measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and pneumococcal).
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  • Recommended vaccination – Seniors are also encouraged to receive recommended vaccinations for destination countries, which may include vaccinations for hepatitis, typhoid, polio and yellow fever.
5. Pack light
  • A heavy load is never good when travelling, especially for those with osteoporotic bones, back pain or joint problems. So pack light and use rolling luggage for ease and comfort.
6. Prepare documentation and plan for security checkpoints
  • Documents – Make copies of important documents and keep them in different places including your carry-on and check-in luggage. These documents should include your passport, insurance policy, travel itinerary and doctor’s report. Upon receiving your digital or printed boarding pass, a copy should be made, for reference, and sent to relatives and friends at home and relatives and friends greeting you at your destination, if possible.
  • Airport security checkpoints – To avoid delays, be prepared to explain any medical condition(s), such as hip or knee implants, that will set off metal detectors or alarm systems. A doctor’s report on the implanted steel is crucial to facilitate and speed up security checks. If possible, senior travellers should request using the express/fast lane at airports.
7. Request and reserve special services for limited mobility
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  • Wheelchair/Special assistance services – Make an early reservation for cost-free wheelchair service at every airport of origination, connection and arrival. If travelling alone, request end-to-end human assistance to expedite your journey to the check-in counter, security checkpoints, the departure gate and aboard the aircraft. In-flight usage of a wheelchair or walking frame can also be arranged well ahead of a trip through your airline.
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  • Special seating needs – Request a designated seat for the elderly in the aircraft and at the airports. By doing so, seniors are allowed to board ahead of other passengers.
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  • Immobility-friendly accommodation – Choose a hotel in the destination country that is disabled/wheelchair friendly.„
8. Be aware of any dietary restrictions while travelling
  • In-flight meal – Adhering to diet restrictions while travelling can be a lot easier with advance planning. Meals for those with special dietary needs can be arranged with the airline and hotel during your booking process. Tour leaders or relatives and friends at your destination should be made aware of your dietary restrictions. Diet and water precautions should be practiced at all times to prevent traveller diarrhea, which can be more severe among older travellers.
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9. Stay in touch at all times
  • Device – Get a prepaid mobile phone or a calling card to make phone calls back home, if necessary.
  • Emergency numbers – Have the phone number of a family member or friend programmed into the phone as an emergency contact. The phone number of the local embassy or consulate of your home country, airline(s), home doctor and travel agent should also be added to your phone. A hardcopy of these numbers should be kept with you as well.
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10. Safety preparedness
  • Physical injury – Prevent theft by using a lightweight wallet, which can easily be hidden underneath a coat or pair of pants. Always avoid carrying cash, credit cards and passports in handbags, sling bags or purses. If possible, seniors are encouraged to avoid driving while overseas, especially at night and in areas that may be unsafe.
  • Medical facilities – Find the nearest medical facilities in your destination countries prior to travelling and carry a written copy of the name and address of the medical facilities with you in the event of an emergency.
  • Travel Insurance – You should always purchase Travel Insurance prior to travelling in case of injury or illness, cancellations or lost baggage whilst travelling overseas. Emergency evacuations to a qualified facility with a higher level of medical care would be important if the travel destination is in a remote area or is a less developed country.

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