Travel can be an incredibly rewarding experience, especially for seniors. Exploring different countries and cultures can create lifelong memories and introduce us to new ideas and perspectives.
However, seniors must take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
From researching the destination to staying healthy while traveling, senior travelers should always have a plan in place before heading off on their journey.
How To Travel As A Senior
Here are our top travel tips for seniors to make the most of their travels:
1. Start planning early. Book flights and accommodations as far in advance as possible, so that you have plenty of time to research and compare your options.
Also be sure to familiarize yourself with the destination you’re traveling to, so you know what to expect.
Do some research on your destination, including climate information, any required vaccinations, and any other characteristics or requirements of the area.
Also, take some time to investigate the different transportation options available, both for getting to your destination and while you’re there.
If you’ll be traveling by public transit, ask about any senior discounts you may qualify for.
You should also plan ahead if you’ll need assistance getting around at your destination.
2. Make sure you have a valid passport/ ID card if you’ll be traveling outside of the country. Many countries require at least six months of validity left on your passport beyond when you’ll be leaving their country after your trip.
Check early to be sure you’ll have that much time left on your passport so you can start the renewal process if you won’t.
Right now, passport renewals are taking several months to complete. You can expedite the process, but it will cost you to do so.
Make at least two photocopies of your passport and keep one copy in your possession when you’re out walking or on a tour at your destination. Lock your original passport in the hotel safe and never carry it with you!
If you are pickpocketed, it will be a huge hassle and trip interruption if you have to go to the embassy in the country you’re visiting to replace it.
A friend of mine just went through that daunting experience on her birthday trip to Italy and she had to alter her travel plans to get her passport replaced. Don’t be that person!
What other important documents are needed? Bring a valid form of identification, such as your driver’s license and current insurance cards.
Keep them with you at all times during the trip, in case you need them for security reasons or other reasons.
It’s always a good idea to leave copies of them in your suitcase or in the safe at the hotel, and also with family or friends at home for added protection.
3. Pack light! It’s no fun trying to lug heavy bags around airports or through narrow train or bus aisles, so limit yourself to one checked bag and one piece of carry-on luggage, if possible.
When my husband and I travel – even to Europe – we take one carry on suitcase apiece. We’ve both spent enough time dragging our suitcases around from airport to hotel that we do not want to have to manage anything bigger than this.
In fact, this was just reinforced to us when we recently visited Iceland and took a family-sized suitcase instead (because of all that bulky winter clothing!).
Neither of us wore half of what we packed and hubby’s shoulder strain wasn’t worth it.
That said, if you’re traveling by air, be familiar with the airline’s baggage restrictions before packing. They have a weight limit and you’ll be charged if you’re over that weight.
Also, don’t forget all the essential items like prescription medication and copies of health records. Organize this paperwork and consider how you’ll store them during the trip.
TIP: it’s best to pack enough medication in a carry-on bag so you have them in hand if you go to London and your baggage ends up in Bangkok!
4. Check with your doctor before you go. Make sure you’re healthy enough to travel and that you have had the necessary vaccines and medications.
In the post-covid era, some tour groups and countries are still requiring copies of covid vaccination cards for entry.
Also, there are certain air travel risks that the elderly face, so you’ll want to be sure it’s safe for you to fly.
Your doctor may be able to suggest additional tips to help you stay healthy in your particular situation while traveling.
5. Check in advance whether your hotel room will have special services available like accessible bathrooms, ramps, elevators, etc, that may be needed due to mobility challenges.
Also, confirm what type of transportation service the hotel offers and if they have any discounts or special promotions for seniors.
6. Make sure your mobile phone is unlocked if you’ll be using it abroad. Purchasing a local SIM card at each of your travel destinations is a great way to avoid expensive roaming charges.
Also, make sure to inform your cellphone provider and your family back home of your travel dates and contact information in case of an emergency. And, turn your phone off when it’s not in use to save battery life.
7. Stay flexible. Don’t plan too many activities or sightseeing trips in advance, as this can make it difficult to adjust if something unexpected comes up. Leave time for spontaneous adventures!
8. Invest in travel insurance that covers out-of-country medical expenses in case of an emergency.
This is especially important for seniors, who are more likely to face medical emergencies on their trips due to age-related conditions. A comprehensive travel insurance policy can help protect you from costly fees and help ensure your safety while abroad.
TIP: Be sure it has emergency evacuation coverage in case you get sick in another country and must get home.
My 89-year old uncle recently had chest pains while on a cruise. The ship took him to a hospital when they docked in Panama City, Panama, where it was decided that he needed a heart bypass.
He didn’t want to do the surgery while overseas, but they did NOT have a travel insurance policy that covered evacuation, so they had to foot the (very, very expensive) bill for an air-ambulance flight back to the USA!
9. Be aware of your surroundings, just like you should do when you’re home. Stay alert while in crowded or unfamiliar areas and stay safe by avoiding late-night activities or walking alone at night.
10. In the event of an emergency, it’s important to know how to contact local help. Make sure you learn (or have at least written down and bought with you) the local emergency services number before traveling (hint: 911 is only the emergency number in the United States. Each country has its own emergency number).
Store it in a secure place where you can access it easily if needed. This way, you can quickly get in touch with local authorities if needed.
11. Let a family member and/or a friend know your travel details and when you’ll be back home. This way, someone knows where you are at all times if there is an emergency back home. And, they can check in with you if needed.
It’s also a good idea to keep in touch with them regularly so that they know you’re safe and having a great time.
12. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items with you. Use a money belt or pickpocket-proof purse or wallet for your money and valuables.
13. Only exchange money at legitimate businesses, like banks or currency exchanges. If you plan in advance, you can typically order foreign currency from your bank.
In addition, there are usually currency exchanges at the airport when you land in a foreign country (expensive) or you can exchange currency at a local bank in the city you are visiting (cheaper, but still pricey).
Just as at home, be careful about flashing cash (refer back to #12 on this list).
TSA Rules For Seniors
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a set of policies designed to make air travel safer and security screening easier and more efficient for seniors.
Make sure you are familiar with the rules before flying and always allow extra time for screening, just in case.
TIP: paying for Global Entry or TSA Precheck can by an excellent way for elderly travelers to avoid standing in the long lines for screening during holiday travel periods or other busy times of the year.
I personally have TSA Precheck and I’m always so happy to have paid the $78 (current cost in 2023) to have it when I see how long the regular airport screening lines are.
I typically get through security at the busiest airport in the world (Atlanta’s Hartstfield-Jackson airport) in less than 10 minutes, plus I don’t have to take off my shoes.
Older travelers over the age of 75 are eligible for an expedited screening process that includes not having to remove their shoes, light outerwear, or headwear at the security checkpoint.
However, they may need additional screening, in some instances, and still have to comply with all security screening processes – including body scans and pat-downs.
They can also keep their liquids and laptops in their carry-on bags, provided that they comply with all other TSA regulations, such as size restrictions for liquids.
Medications and medical devices are allowed but you may want to check with the airlines in advance for additional guidelines.
- Advanced imaging technology involves standing in a body scanner that can detect objects hidden underneath clothing.
- Metal detecting is done by sweeping an electronic metal detector wand across the body that can detect metal items on a person’s body or in their carry-on luggage.
- Physical inspections involve manual searches of individuals’ bags and belongings.
- Pat-downs involve physically touching an individual’s body with the palms of the hands to examine for any hidden prohibited items or contraband. If you are required to be physically patted down, the TSA screener will be the same gender as you (ie: a female TSA agent will do the pat down on a female traveler).
These procedures can be uncomfortable so make sure to let a TSA official know if you have any health issues that could affect your ability to go through these steps. You can request a private screening if desired, which is available on a case-by-case basis at most airports.
Cell Phones When Traveling
Be aware of potential roaming charges, overseas SIM cards, and cell phone travel plans. If you’ll be traveling internationally, you may want to consider getting a prepaid phone to use while abroad.
Here is a breakdown of what these aspects of cell phone use include:
Roaming Charges: When you use your cell phone outside of your network’s coverage area, you may incur roaming charges.
To avoid these additional costs, we recommend checking with your cell phone provider ahead of time about any available overseas SIM cards or international travel plans that could help reduce or eliminate these charges.
For example, I have Verizon and they currently have either a daily usage plan if you’re overseas, or a monthly plan. I used the daily plan when I was in Iceland and had unlimited texting and 2 GB data.
Let me tell you – roaming charges can especially add up.
A friend of mine went to Guatemala a couple of years ago and tried to call her husband in the US to let him know she’d arrived.
She couldn’t get through because the signal was bad, but her cell phone kept redialing his number off and on the entire trip. When she got home, her roaming charges were nearly $650.00!
Overseas SIM Cards: An overseas SIM card is a local pre-paid card that you can purchase and insert into your unlocked phone while abroad. This gives you access to local networks at lower rates than using roaming services from international carriers.
Many times, these overseas SIM cards come with data packages as well, so you can stay connected while traveling.
Cell Phone Travel Plans: A cell phone travel plan is a special package that provides discounted rates on international calls and data usage when traveling abroad, like the Verizon plans I mentioned.
These plans are typically offered by the major phone carriers, so check with your provider to see what type of international packages they offer. This way, you can stay connected without breaking the bank!
Staying Healthy While Traveling
Staying healthy on the road is just as important as staying safe. It can be a bit of a challenge, though.
Here are some tips for senior citizens to keep in mind when preparing for their next trip:
• Stay hydrated – Dehydration is one of the most common causes of health issues on the road, especially during long flights or days spent sightseeing. Make sure to bring along a reusable water bottle and refill it often throughout your travels.
TIP: consider bringing a filtering water bottle along like this one. Many countries have water that isn’t filtered the same as it is at home, meaning you can end up with diarrhea and stomach problems if you drink the water, eat a salad or other food that was washed in local water, brush your teeth, or have a drink containing ice cubes.
A self-filtering water can eliminate a lot of problems.
• Get plenty of rest – Traveling can take its toll on our bodies and minds, so factor in some rest periods during your trip. Wherever possible, try to book accommodations in quieter areas and don’t be afraid to take a nap during the day.
• Eat healthily – When possible, opt for fresh produce instead of processed snacks and drinks during your trip, but stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel (see the TIP under “stay hydrated” above).
• Be prepared – Make sure to pack any essential medications in your carry on that you might need during your travels. Also, check with your doctor before traveling to make sure you’re up-to-date on vaccinations for the countries you are visiting.
• Bring an emergency contact list with you in case of any medical issues that come up while you’re traveling. This should include the numbers for your doctor, your health insurance provider, and family and/or close friends you might need to contact.
You also should always carry a list of your current medication names and dosages, no matter if you’re at home or on a trip. This way first responders won’t give you anything that will interact with a medication you’re taking should you have a medical emergency.
Having this information accessible could prove invaluable in the event of a medical emergency while abroad.
Long flights can be especially exhausting, so it’s important to take steps to stay healthy and safe.
One of the most serious risks associated with long flights is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot forms in one of the body’s veins. This can cause pain, swelling, and even death if not treated quickly.
To prevent DVT while flying:
- Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol
- Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move around easily while seated
- During the flight, stand up and stretch your legs every hour or two – this helps get your circulation going again.
- Pumping your legs and moving your feet up and down and back and forth while seated can also help to keep blood moving.
- Consider wearing compression socks or stockings during longer flights to help reduce the risk of DVT.
If you experience any symptoms such as pain, tenderness, or swelling in your legs during or after a long flight, make sure to consult with a doctor immediately. These can be signs of DVT and should not be ignored!
In addition to the tips above, seniors should also avoid sitting in one position for too long throughout their trip. Try to shift positions and move around 20 minutes or so.
It’s also important stay away from caffeine and sugary snacks, which can cause dehydration, headaches, and other issues.
If possible you may want to consider bringing a pillow along on your flight – this can help keep your neck in a comfortable position during take-off and landing as well as during naps.
You also might consider bringing a light blanket on the plane, and maybe some noise-cancelling headphones or ear buds so you can listen to music or an in-flight movie over the noise of the plane.
Hotel Room Safety For Elderly
Seniors should always be mindful of their personal safety when checking into a hotel or motel.
Here are some tips for staying safe in a hotel room:
• Avoid staying on the ground floor as it makes your room more vulnerable to break-ins.
• Make sure the door has a deadbolt lock and is properly secured after entering the room.
• Consider using the hotel’s in-room safe (if there is one) to store valuables like credit cards, money, jewelry, phones and other items that you won’t be carrying with you in public spaces. And try to minimize how many of these things you carry with you when you’re out in public.
• Always check around the room for potential hazards, such as exposed wires or cords, slippery floors, broken furnishings, and any signs of water damage. If anything doesn’t feel right, contact the front desk immediately.
• Do your research before booking a room – be sure to check reviews and ratings of the hotel/motel you plan on staying at. This will help ensure you are staying at a place in a safe area.
• When out and about in the city, make sure to stay in well-lit areas with other people around. Avoid walking alone late at night or in any sketchy locations.
• Be aware of your surroundings when returning to your hotel room and always use the peephole before opening the door.
• Night lights can help make it easier for seniors with impaired vision to navigate throughout the room at night. Personally, I always bring either a battery powered or plug-in LED night light along in my suitcase.
Most hotel rooms will have a night light in the bathroom, but bringing your own means you have one if they don’t provide one.
• Keep personal items, such as IDs and passports or wallets and money belts, out of view of the hotel cleaning staff by using the in-room safe if there is one.
You might also consider bringing your own portable safe like this one that attaches to the bed frame.
Senior Travel With Mobility Issues
If you have mobility concerns, you don’t have to give up traveling. You can opt for taking vacations with little walking (read our suggestions for USA trips here) or relax at an all-inclusive resort like these.
Did you know you can even take European tours with limited mobility? We also have plenty more limited mobility vacation ideas coming up later in this article.
If you have mobility concerns when traveling, it might be helpful to bring a wheelchair or walker along during your travels – even if you don’t generally use one at home.
They can help make navigating public spaces, airports, and other areas much easier.
If you plan on bringing a wheelchair or walker with you, make sure to check with your airline in advance to find out their policies and procedures for traveling with such items.
Some airlines may require that the mobility aid be folded down and stored as checked luggage, while others may allow it to be brought on board as carry-on luggage.
Also, it’s worth the time to research any public transportation options that may be available in your destination city—many of these have access ramps and other features designed specifically for those with mobility issues.
Finally, if you need assistance getting around during your stay, consider hiring a local service like Uber Assist or Lyft Access – they provide rides from certified drivers who specialize in helping passengers with disabilities.
Hotel Rooms And Attractions
Try to reserve a handicap-accessible room, if available, as these rooms are often designed with wider doorways and grab bars in the bathroom that can create a more comfortable environment for seniors.
Plus, if you can get one on the first floor, you’ll avoid the elevators. This could be very beneficial if there was some type of emergency, such as a fire, that required you to get out of the building quickly.
For this same reason, I’d recommend only getting a cruise cabin on the main boarding floor if you have limited mobility. Otherwise, if there is a problem and the ship’s electrical systems go out, you may be unable to get up or down the stairs to evacuate.
When researching tourist attractions before arriving at your destination, be sure to check if those attractions have any special considerations for those with limited mobility such as elevators or ramps.
Also, does the destination have any special transportation options, such as buses and trolleys, that are equipped to accommodate wheelchairs?
Knowing these details ahead of time can help you plan a smoother trip and avoid any unexpected glitches.
General Tips For Traveling With Limited Mobility
- When traveling with mobility concerns, look out for uneven surfaces and raised thresholds that can be difficult to navigate.
- Watch out for narrow pathways and doorways as these can also pose a challenge if you are using a wheelchair or walker.
- Be aware of any stairs or large bumps in the ground that may require assistance when navigating them.
- Be sure there is enough space to turn around when using a wheelchair or walker so that you don’t get stuck in tight spaces.
- Ensure your hotel room has adequate accessibility features such as grab bars in the bathroom, ramps up to the entrance if necessary, and wide door openings for easy access with mobility devices.
Vacation Ideas For Limited Mobility
When planning a vacation for seniors with mobility issues, pick out destinations that have accessible attractions and activities. Here are 10 vacation ideas to get you started:
Cruises are ideal for people with limited mobility since they provide an all-in-one destination and activities.
Most cruise lines and ships offer wheelchair accessibility to all areas of the ship, assistive dining options, and a variety of entertainment with accessible seating, including live shows and dance nights.
Another great vacation option is a road trip in an RV, as these vehicles are designed with more spacious interiors that offer room to move around, accessible bathrooms, and plenty of storage space.
Plus, you’ll never have to worry about finding a place to stay since you can take it with you wherever you go!
Here’s my review of our trip in a CruiseAmerica RV:
For those who wish to stay closer to home, look for local day trips, bus tours, travel packages, or guided tours that cater specifically to seniors or those with limited mobility.
Many of these tours provide transportation and lodging that are already wheelchair accessible, as well as support staff available to help during your travels.
You might also consider visiting places that offer natural beauty, such as national parks (be sure to get the America The Beautiful National Parks Pass (it’s worth it). They have plenty of outdoor activities like bird watching or fishing that can be enjoyed with minimal physical exertion.
Read about how to get the National Parks pass here.
Some national parks also feature boardwalks to some of the most iconic sights, such as Yellowstone, which has paved paths and wheelchair-accessible boardwalks to places like the Old Faithful geyser.
Travel For Solo Seniors
If you’re considering solo travel but are hesitant because of your age, please don’t let it hold you back. Traveling solo as a senior can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
You have the opportunity to explore new places, meet new people, and create unforgettable memories. Plus, solo travel gives you the freedom to set your own pace and agenda without having to compromise with others.
Of course, it’s important to take safety into consideration and do your research beforehand, but don’t let fear or doubts stop you from embarking on a solo adventure. Life is too short to not explore the world on your terms.
Read our tips for seniors who are traveling solo.
Senior Travel Discounts
Older adults may be eligible for discounts on airline tickets, rail passes, car rentals, and travel packages.
Airlines typically offer discounts on flights for those aged 65+, while train passes often have discounts for those aged 55+ or 62+.
Car rental companies frequently offer senior rates to customers over the age of 50.
Additionally, many hotels and resorts offer special senior discount rates.
Travel package websites, such as Groupon or Expedia, also often feature exclusive offers or deals specifically geared towards seniors.
To capitalize on these opportunities, make sure you always ask about senior discounts when booking any kind of travel plans.
Although it’s not “exactly” a discount, some travel groups can get reduced prices on trips because of booking a large number of people.
Read more tips on how to travel cheaply here.
How To Safely Use Credit Cards On A Trip
When using credit cards at home and abroad, you’ll want to be aware of your financial security. Before leaving on a trip, inform your bank or credit card issuer that you will be traveling so they can monitor any unusual activity on your account.
It’s also a good idea to keep a list of all the cards you’re carrying, along with their expiration dates, plus the contact information for customer service in case of an emergency.
The easiest way to do this is to make a photocopy of the front and back of any credit cards you’ll be taking with you.
When making payments in foreign countries, just as at home:
- You’ll need to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks.
- Try to stick to established payment methods, such as major credit cards that are widely accepted around the world.
- Make sure to request a receipt for every transaction and check it thoroughly before signing off on any purchase.
Be aware that there could be potential fees or taxes that might be charged when using your credit cards abroad. Foreign transaction fees are typically charged by banks and credit card companies when making purchases in a foreign currency, and the rate can vary depending on the issuer.
Additionally, many countries also impose Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services purchased within their borders.
We recommend that you research these possible costs before leaving home so you can factor them into your budget accordingly.
Traveling With Elderly Parents
Traveling with seniors or taking elderly parents on vacation can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s an opportunity to create new memories together, but it also requires extra planning and you often have to “pack your patience” as the saying goes.
I’ve had the privilege of accompanying my senior parents on a couple of their adventures and my dad and I took a few trips to family function after Mom passed away.
We’ve explored national parks together, flown cross country, navigated theme parks, and taken a family cruise. All this traveling was done with age in mind.
A few things I’ve learned along the way is to prioritize rest, make sure to have plenty of snacks and water (and be sure your parent is drinking it!), and always double-check accessibility.
Being able to share these experiences with my parents was a wonderful blessing, and I encourage anyone in a similar situation to take advantage of it.
With proper preparation and a positive attitude, traveling with elderly parents can be a truly unforgettable experience.
Traveling as a senior can be an amazing experience if you go prepared. You have the wisdom and experience to navigate your way through, you can take advantage of senior discounts, and if you plan ahead for any medical conditions or issues, you’ll be able to enjoy your travels stress-free and with peace of mind.
Follow these tips and it’s sure to be a memorable adventure! Happy travels!