Bon Voyage, Seniors

By Sharon Naylor

August 18, 2014 6 min read

Today's senior citizens are traveling the world, taking trips of a lifetime to exotic lands and fulfilling dreams to visit more regions of the United States. Those seniors who have the time and money to travel and are Internet-savvy enough to research and book their dream getaways "strive to squeeze the most they can out of every moment of their lives," says Joe Marconi, author of "Future Marketing: Targeting Seniors, Boomers and Generations X and Y."

According to the Yankelovich Monitor report on consumer research, 58 percent of seniors take overnight vacations (usually guided tours) several times a year. Many seniors enjoy travel so much that they buy vacation homes or invest in timeshares to have a second home to enjoy.

And they're not traveling alone. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 36 percent of senior travelers not only travel with their pets, but they also invest in travel accessories for their pets: travel beds, bags, water and food bowls, seat belts and more.

While keeping pets safe during travel is a priority for any animal lover, it's of the utmost importance to keep yourself safe, as well. You may be far away from your doctors or a quality hospital, so practice smart self-care while on vacation and take smart wellness steps before you go on your getaway:

*Before Your Travels:

--As you decide where in the world to visit, think about the elements of the locale that could affect your health, such as the climate and especially the altitude. Some seniors with heart or respiratory conditions could find it harder to breathe at high altitudes, and heat and humidity can also affect health issues. Think also about whether the region is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

--Looking more closely at resorts or guided tours, check into the amount of walking that will be involved, especially if the resort or tour covers hilly terrain. Ask whether the resort offers shuttle service and whether you can have a room that doesn't require much walking or stair-climbing. "At Caneel Bay Resort, our eco-friendly shuttles run constantly, so you'll never have to wait in the sun to catch an easy shuttle bus ride over a hill, to the dining areas or to one of our beaches," says Patrick Kidd, director of sales for Caneel Bay Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

--Get a pre-travel checkup. Visit your doctor for a pre-trip checkup and tell your physician about any illnesses and medications you're on. Your doctor can provide you with the vaccines needed for the region in which you'll be traveling, as well as important shots such as tetanus. More than half of tetanus cases occur in people over the age of 65, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other important vaccines include those for hepatitis, typhoid and polio. Check the list of recommended vaccines and potential limitations for seniors at cdc.gov, which lists suggested vaccines by country.

--While visiting your doctor, get prescriptions for common travel illnesses, as well as refreshed prescriptions for medications you regularly take, and bring your medications in their bottles along with copies of your prescriptions.

--Consider getting travel insurance to help defray the costs of medical treatment. The CDC advises looking into evacuation insurance, as well, to cover the costs of emergency transportation to the nearest hospital or to a safe zone.

--Make sure your smartphone will work where you are. You may need to get an international phone or plan, and ask your resort whether they offer free wifi to make connecting to home easier and less expensive.

*During Your Travels

--Always wear sunscreen, even when you're not on the beach. The sun can shine on you regardless of where you are and increase your risk of skin cancer. Hats and UV sunglasses further protect you.

--Always wear a seat belt, no matter what mode of transportation you're using.

--Stay on paved pathways while walking around a resort. Some islands have red ant colonies in their lawns. Ant bites are painful, and you could be allergic.

--Use insect repellents while on vacation to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses and discomfort from bites.

--Use hand sanitizers regularly, especially before each meal, to protect yourself from germs and illnesses.

--Take food and water precautions seriously. In some regions, water can carry bacteria that lead to illness.

--Don't travel at night in questionable areas. It may be safest to stay on resort grounds.

For more travel tips for seniors, visit cdc.gov/travel.

And before you go away, make sure a loved one has your complete travel itinerary, as well as contact information for your resort or tour. If you have any health conditions, wear a medical information bracelet, and if your itinerary gets too challenging, slow down and relax.

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