Bon Voyage!

Travel Tips for Seniors

Have you ever heard the phrase “the world is your oyster”? Well, now’s the perfect time to make plans to travel, to see the world, to expand your horizons!

Sometimes taking a trip and having a change of scenery can do wonders for our health, our mood and our outlook on life in general. Having fun and enjoying life and all it has to offer can be just the shot in the arm that some of us need to help us gain a new perspective. Before booking your trip, however, there are a few safety guidelines that you need to be aware of as well as some tips to help make your travels the best ever.

Pre-Trip Planning

Find out about the medical facilities in the area where you’ll be traveling.

Make arrangements for the medical equipment or special needs you might need (e.g., wheelchairs, portable oxygen, guide dogs) well in advance.

• Research your destination’s climate, language and culture. It can be very educational to purchase and read a travel guide book specific to the area you plan to go.

Some people find it prudent to arrange for travel insurance with pre-existing coverage for some health conditions.

Some countries have reciprocal health care agreements for seniors, which means that emergency health care can be available when needed.

Pre-trip Medical Check-Ups

It’s important to arrange a complete physical exam with your physician prior to traveling, especially if you have a heart condition, hypertension or recently have undergone surgery. During your appointment, be sure to discuss any dietary concerns or health issues that may be impacted by the area to which you are traveling. Also, if you are diabetic, discuss with your physician on how to safely stagger your medication to fit into different time zones. It’s always a good idea to get your flu and pneumonia vaccines before you travel and to determine if there may be other vaccines you need, depending on where you are headed.

Taking Care of Yourself While Traveling

Taking care of yourself while traveling is easy when you plan ahead. If you plan to fly, be mindful of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which can be a problem in people who have coronary artery disease, are obese and/or who sit still for long periods of time (such as on a long flight). As with any medical condition, consult with your doctor before flying. He or she may have some recommendations for you to reduce your risk of DVTs and other flight-related maladies. Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcoholic beverages can help reduce your risk, too. Wear loose clothing and walk up and down the aisles when possible, or perform foot and leg stretches while seated.

Other things to consider when you travel include being mindful of the local cuisine, water supply and jet lag. Try to allow for an easy first day when you arrive at your destination, and do not pack your itinerary too full each day. For safety reasons, do not travel at night, and do not wear expensive jewelry on obvious display. Be practical, and use a rolling bag if possible. All medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) should be placed in one quart-sized zip-lock freezer bag.

Other great tips for a wonderful travel experience include thinking ahead about accommodations. A ground-floor room will be easier for you if stairs are an issue, and proximity to public transport also may be a consideration. Always ask about senior discounts! When sightseeing, note that many museums have elevators (and even if none are open to the public in general, staff might allow you as a senior to use the freight elevator!). Take advantage of benches, and sit down frequently to rest and relax your feet. Bus and boat tours also are a lovely and simple way to see the sights, and often the tours are only about two hours long.

Whether you leave the country or simply take a day trip to recharge your batteries, travel is a fun and rejuvenating activity. The American Association of Retired People provides an extensive online library of travel-related articles and advice for seniors, including destination guides, budget travel recommendations and an interactive trip finder. Wherever you go, and however you get there, being a safe and savvy traveler can help you have the time of your life!

Mina Acquaye, R.N., B.S.N., M.P.H, CHCE, is founder, CEO and administrator of Excell Home Care, Hospice and Personal Care in south Oklahoma City. She can be reached at 631.0521 or mina@excellcares.com.