Many senior citizens dream of traveling during their retirement. If you’re one of these people and are considering spending your later years traveling solo or with friends in tow – here are some great tips on how to make sure that everything goes smoothly!
Knowing what kinds of risks there are for senior solo travelers can help to make the trip safer and let’s face it, more fun. Some of the risks include extra stress because there’s no one to lean on, not having help in an emergency and of course, security issues.
It is never too late to do something you’ve always wanted! Retirement means that now is a great time to work on your bucket list. Get out there, explore new places and make some memories for yourself or with friends or family members who are also on this journey together.
Traveling can be an excellent way for single travelers to learn about different cultures, meet new people, or get away from the stress or boredom of everyday life.
Can Seniors Travel Alone?
Of course seniors can travel alone and enjoy their trips. But like anyone, there are specific tips to follow that can make the experience easier, safer and more enjoyable.
Here are 13 tips that can help to make your travel experience as a solo traveler wonderful.
Tip #1 – Be Honest About Your Abilities
The first thing to assess is what are your physical abilities? No sense in booking a trip to Machu Picchu if you aren’t physically fit.
If your medical issues make it difficult for you to walk long distances – you will most certainly have trouble on walking tours and sightseeing. So plan vacation trips where you won’t have to walk much or at least have many rest periods in between.
Don’t be shy about using a walker or a cane if you know that it will help you to participate in any tours or to just simply enjoy your trip. A great option for a walking cane is a folding walking cane with a seat.
If you have trouble hearing – then a group tour may be difficult for you unless you can arrange to be up front and close to the tour guide at all times.
Cruise ships are one of the best ways that senior travelers can take a solo trip. And don’t forget the option of a river cruise! These types of trips are a wonderful way for single travelers to relax, make new friends and visit some beautiful destinations.
In other words – older travelers need to be honest with themselves about what they are capable of doing – otherwise – it won’t be much fun.
Tip #2 – Consider Buying Comprehensive Travel Insurance
I remember working with a patient who had a severe stroke on the same day he was supposed to fly out to Nassau, Bahamas for a 12 day trip. His wife mentioned that she wished they had purchased the travel insurance.
Of course – no one WANTS to have to use travel insurance but the truth of the matter is, that anything can happen at a moment’s notice.
It’s just a good idea to consider purchasing travel insurance as often as you can.
Tip #3 – Implement The Buddy System
One of the best ways for solo travelers to stay safe is to have a group of people that they keep in contact with on a regular basis throughout their trip.
When traveling, especially alone, you should have several people that you contact throughout the day, every day. This helps your friends and family to keep tabs on you and helps you in case anything were to happen.
I would also recommend to sign up for Life360. It’s a program that can help you to quickly locate where your loved one is. Just in case something were to happen to them.
Of course, you should give your itinerary to a few of your friends and family. That way they will have an idea of where you are throughout your trip.
Tip #4 – Pack Light
You don’t want to be lugging a lot of luggage throughout your trip so, unless you’re going on a cruise or staying at a resort, I would recommend to pack as light as possible.
If you’re going to be staying at an AirBnB then know that you’ll be able to use their washer and dryer to clean your clothes so you won’t have to bring as much.
Tip #5 – Avoid Traveling At Night
Landing in a foreign destination, no matter where it is, at night time is just not a safe option for seniors and especially for single, senior women.
If you have to arrive during the night, consider hiring a car service to come pick you up. It may cost a bit more, but it will be safer than trying to hail a taxi or use an Uber or Lyft.
The other reason to avoid as much night travel as possible is that many older adults find it very difficult to drive at night due to low vision problems.
Tip #6 – Be On The Defense
If you are traveling completely alone, you want to make sure to be as safe as possible and this means equipping yourself with self-defense products.
Some that I can mention are…
Tip #7 – Consider A Group Tour
Just because you are traveling alone, does not mean that you have to be completely alone all the time. Group tours, even small group tours can be a lot of fun, especially if the tour operators are entertaining.
Consider signing up with a tour group with others in your age group for your trip or even just part of your trip.
Tip #8 – Leave Your Valuables At Home
You may be tempted to wear your fancy designer watch or jewelry or that expensive handbag that you own. But there’s no need to bring your expensive and valuable belongings on any trip.
Keep your jewelry to a bare minimum and if you’re wealthy – don’t show it off. It just makes you a target for thieves and con artists.
Tip #9 – Protect Yourself In Your Hotel Room
Whether you stay in a hotel or a bed and breakfast or maybe even renting a home – you’ll want to protect yourself and your belongings.
Here are some tools and tips to help you do just that.
Door Jammers – there are many different kinds of door jammers that you can use to help prevent someone from breaking into your room while you’re in there. Take a look at them here.
Use The Do Not Disturb Sign – if you can forego the maid coming in to your room, turn the television on and put the Do Not Disturb sign out on the door handle. This is a very good way to protect your belongings.
Luggage Locks – make sure to use locks like these on your luggage when you travel.
Avoid The First Floor – try your best to get a room in the upper level floors. There’s just less of a chance of anyone trying to break in in upper level floors.
Tip #10 – Never Forget Your Medication
It’s extremely important that you keep up with your medications so make sure to use something like a pill box like this one to help you to stick to your regimen.
Pack your medications in your carry-on luggage, NOT in the luggage that gets checked in. That way if your luggage gets lost, you still have your medicine.
I would also recommend to pack some extra medication, just in case you happen to get stuck somewhere and can’t make it home when you originally planned to do so.
Tip #11 – Avoid The Peak Season
Traveling during a peak season means that you will not only be paying more for your trip and accommodations, but wherever you go will more likely be much more crowded.
My late husband and I once took a wonderful trip to Arizona and Utah in January. Yes, there was snow at the Grand Canyon but the hot sun was out too. There was hardly anyone there – we were able to enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery with very few people around.
Tip #12 – Give Yourself Some Extra Time For Jet Lag
I remember a trip where we flew overnight from New York to Copenhagen, Denmark. I spent that entire first day in Copenhagen falling asleep and doing my very best to stay awake.
Needless to say I have no memory at all of that first day.
So, a good tip is to give yourself an extra day or so to get over jet lag.
Tip #13 – Do Your Research
The last thing, but certainly not the least is to do your research before you book your trip.
You should do as much research as you can to make sure your trip will be as safe as you can make it. Consider some things you can research so that you can enjoy your travels.
- City/country you’re going to
- Hotel/hostel where you’ll be staying
- Activities that you will do
- The airline you’ll take
- Airports you’ll stop at on your trip
If you find that a hotel or city isn’t very safe, you can adjust your trip now. That way, you can feel as confident and safe as possible during your travels.
Flying Alone As A Woman
Flying can be an excellent way to travel alone, and you can get to your destination quickly. But flying alone as a woman can be just as risky as being alone for the rest of your trip.
Here are some things you can do to make flying alone as safe as possible:
If possible, a good option is to try to book a direct flight to your destination to avoid connections entirely. But if you need connections, minimize that number.
That way, you can avoid having to wait in an airport alone more than necessary. If you have to wait alone for a long time, that can increase your chances of feeling unsafe. Someone may come up to you and make you feel uncomfortable.
Having fewer connections can also lower your risk of sitting on a plane by someone who makes you uncomfortable. That way, you can enjoy the flight to and from your destination.
Choose An Airline You Trust
You should also try to find an airline that you trust, especially when flying to a new place. When you know the airline, you can know what to expect during your flight.
And you can know what options the airline has to make you feel comfortable. Whether you want help checking in or to access seat upgrades, the airline you fly can make a huge difference.
Is It Safe For A Woman To Drive Alone?
While flying can be a good way to travel, you may also consider driving for a shorter trip. But many older women are hesitant to travel far alone. Truthfully, in most cases, it is safe for a woman to drive alone.
However, you can do a few things to make your drive as safe and comfortable as possible.
Avoid Night Driving
When driving, try to get off the road before the sun goes down. While it can be okay to drive a short distance at night, driving a long way can be dangerous for a few reasons.
- Harder to see around you
- Potential for drunk drivers
- You may feel more tired
In some cases, avoiding night driving may add a day to your travel time. However, that can be worth the peace of mind that you can see everything around you on the road.
Stick To The Interstate
You may also want to avoid smaller state highways, which tend to have less traffic. The interstate can be scary, especially in big cities. But if something happens on the interstate, like a flat tire, it will be easier for help to get to you.
Then, you won’t have to wait as long to get back on the road. And having more cars around can help you feel safer in case you do have to do a bit of driving during the evening.
Turn On Location Services
When driving alone, you may want to use your cell phone’s location services. Then, you can share your location with a friend or family member.
When you do this, make sure you tell the person the route you plan to take. If you do have to stop or you get lost, someone can know what is happening.
Keep Something You Can Use As A Weapon In Your Car
It’s important to try to prepare for every possibility when you are traveling alone. One of the best tips I can give you is to keep something in your car – anything – that you can use as a weapon in case you need it.
Here are some ideas on some common items that you can use as a weapon, if need be.
- Tightly-rolled newspaper
- Kitchen knife
- Meat mallet
- Leather belt
- Pens or pencils
- Sports equipment like a golf club
What Are The Advantages Of Traveling Alone?
Some may think that traveling alone would just be a lonely excursion but the truth is that many people really enjoy it. Here are some reasons why…
- You have total control over your free time, scheduling tours, etc.
- The trip can be less stressful
- You can indulge in your favorite activities
- You may feel a boost of confidence
- You can meet and make new friends
If you’ve never traveled alone, it may seem a bit intimidating. But once you do it, you may find that you’ll have a wonderful time.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Traveling Alone?
While traveling alone can help you explore and feel free to do what you want, there are some disadvantages for a woman who is traveling by herself. These include being less safe, incurring extra costs, and feeling lonely.
When you travel with someone else, you have someone who can help protect you. Even if you travel with another woman, you can protect each other. And if something happens to one of you, the other one can seek help.
If you’re alone, you don’t have that protection. When walking alone, you may be at risk of harassment, assault, or worse. You have to be aware throughout the entire trip to stay safe.
Traveling alone also comes with added costs. You have to pay for everything that you use since you aren’t sharing it.
In addition, some modes of travel (cruises or all-inclusive resorts, for example) may require you to pay from half again as much to double the price of the cost for double-occupancy accommodations.
Things you have to pay for include:
- Hotel room
- Individual activities
If you travel with someone, you can usually split the cost of your hotel and ground transportation, like taxis.
It doesn’t matter if you travel alone or with three other people; the prices for those things can stay the same.
Another risk of traveling alone is that you can feel lonely. This can be a big problem at the start of your trip before you meet people around you.
If you’re an extrovert, you may feel especially lonely when in your hotel room or otherwise alone. You can meet people and get over the loneliness, but it’s something to consider.
The benefits of traveling as a senior solo are greater than you might think. After years in charge, being free from responsibility can be deeply rewarding and liberating!
This is a great time to get away from your worries and live in the moment. You deserve it, so go on that trip you’ve always wanted!