Travel Insight and Advice for Senior Travelers
Traveling around the United States and the world offers a glimpse into the lives of others and is an opportunity to be exposed to various languages, cultures, food, and nature. It is often something that one does not just experience once and is satisfied; traveling becomes a way of life to continue learning and exploring. Do you have a list of places or experiences that you desire to see or complete?
Senior Living Link had the opportunity to speak with Pat, an American who has resided in France for the past forty years about her traveling experiences. Pat is now in her early seventies and she frequently makes trips back to the States, around four times every year, to visit her family (especially the grandchildren!). Pat and her late husband have been to many different countries around the globe especially in Europe, Asia, and various islands in the Caribbean.
Traveling has always been something that has been important to Pat and something that she enjoys. When she was a young girl she remembers going along to pick up a family friend at the airport with her parents. This was back in 1958 when passenger plane travel was not as common or as easy as it is today. She remembers telling her parents that one day she would fly in planes for travel like others take buses.
Pat’s recent adventures and experiences include a trip to Malta, Sardinia, and this past December she traveled to Germany. In the past few years, other travels have included a trip to the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi where she went on a day trip’s jeep tour up and down the sand dunes and a camel ride. A trip to China included the experience of seeing one of the ancient wonders of the world; the Great Wall of China. Pat mentioned that it was surprising how much harder it was to go down the steps than up when walking along the wall because of the differences in measure and level. Pat loves to travel to gain new experiences, seeing a different way of life, and she tries to avoid eating French or American food while abroad so eating becomes an adventure when trying different local cuisines such as scorpions in China!
Advice and Insight for Seniors for International Travel
Pat was able to come up with many helpful tips for traveling internationally and some special guidelines for seniors going abroad. Check out the following for things to think about when planning your next adventure:
- It is great to look at third-party websites, but it is often good to compare and buy plane tickets directly through the airlines themselves for international travel. A third party site will not be helpful if a flight is canceled or delayed for weather whereas an airline would take the measure of putting you in a complimentary hotel room for a night if needed.
- When choosing a hotel, using a third-party website and help sites such as TripAdvisor become helpful to look at the reviews and comments of others who have stayed in the places before. Pat mentions the importance of realizing the cultural differences even between Europeans and Americans of how someone will review a room and keep this in mind.
- Think about what you want to do when you are visiting a location and geographically plan where you will stay. It is to your disadvantage if all your activities are in one spot and your hotel is across the city which costs time and money getting to and from your day’s itinerary! Hotels are often easier to work with and offer more flexibility than staying in an Airbnb, but it is also preference! It is also a good idea to have a good restaurant near your hotel you can ensure there is a place to eat after a long day.
- Remember that when you are traveling abroad, you are not in your own country, but you are still representing your country. Pat remembers a trip to Italy when an American rudely demanded to know in a local shop how much something cost in “real money” aka the US dollar. Be respectful and courteous. It is even a good idea to learn phrases in the local language including hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. A little effort can go a long way in communication!
- If you are traveling and booking everything on your own, consider what your credit card can offer you for travel. You may be reimbursed for emergency situations or canceled flights (so your tickets can be modified without the increased cost); it is worth looking into.
- For seniors, it is a good idea to purchase travel health insurance. A small accident could end up becoming a difficult problem and cost a fortune without it.
- If you are going someplace that you don’t feel as comfortable with the language or the culture, going through a travel agent or group can be helpful in travel and itinerary plans. Pat said that she and her husband did this when traveling to China and to Russia and it was extremely helpful getting around different cities and were glad to have good advice, directions, and plans for their trip.
- For cellphone usage, there is a recent law in the EU about smartphones working in any EU country without any extra costs. For American network phones, take advantage of WIFI at your place of stay to make calls or connect to the internet for usage. The navigation may even work if it is just used as a map and not necessarily providing in route directions.
- Although Pat does not do group travel, this could be a good idea for seniors wanting comfort in numbers and not have to worry about directions and planning.
- Seniors should also be reasonable about using their dollars instead of watching it; it is important to remember how much a plane ticket cost to get abroad and if you are too careful at counting costs, it can hurt in the long run. For example, if a senior wanted to save money by taking various routes of transportation like walking, a couple buses, and a train they may have saved a few dollars but will be completely exhausted at the beginning of their day for their itinerary plans when taking a taxi may cost more but can be more efficient in certain situations.
- At the same time, if given time and studied properly, public transportation is often easy to use too and people should not be afraid to try it!
- Most importantly, remember to have fun and give everything a try at least once.
Pat’s future travels include coming back to the States in the summer to visit family and take her grandchildren to Florida to visit the beach! Traveling can put anyone out of their comfort zone but offers exciting experiences and if some safety measures are taken, can make wonderful memories!
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