If you’re wondering whether to start or continue traveling in old age (depending on when you were bitten by the travel bug), the simple answer is yes. Exploring the world and meeting new people can keep you looking young and energetic longer. Also, there are more seniors interested in traveling nowadays.
How to travel as a senior depends on your interests, budget, personality, among other factors. With a few simple tips, senior travelers can figure out how to best explore the world. These include ways to cut costs, how to travel solo as a senior, and tips to ensure your safety while on vacation.
This article covers our detailed list of senior travel tips for saving, traveling solo, and ensuring your safety when on holiday. Read on.
Saving Tips for Senior Travelers
Your budget is a key factor to consider when planning any trip. Even though seniors probably have more disposable income hence a more flexible budget, that doesn’t mean you want to spend all your money on making bookings or paying for travel arrangements.
You can strategically save on cash when traveling then put the extra amount to some other use like buying souvenirs for yourself and loved ones. Here are some easy saving tips you can implement.
Inquire About Discounts
Being a senior has its perks. There are a number of hotels and airlines that offer senior travel discounts. But most of the time, these won’t be overly advertised. That’s why you should take the initiative and ask about such offers.
Before making a booking, compare the discounts available in various hotels. Then once you find the one that has both a high discount and offering great services, close the deal.
But apart from senior discounts, you can also look for other special offers that you qualify for. Find out about these opportunities for cutting costs. In the end, you’ll definitely choose the offer that allows you to save the most money in the long run.
Travel Out of Season
I know it can be quite tempting to succumb to the excitement of traveling when everyone else is traveling, too, i.e., during high travel seasons. But this is most often going to cost you more than you would want to spend. Hotel prices and airfares skyrocket during high-peak seasons. That’s why it’s better to plan your vacation during the off-peak seasons when price tags are much lower.
If you travel during shoulder seasons (just before or just after the high season months), you can easily save on your vacation costs. From discounted airfares to cheaper hotel prices and affordable entrance fees to attractions. This is just what you need if you want to travel within a budget.
What is more, why not take advantage of the fact that you no longer have strict work schedules that limit your flexibility. So it’s entirely up to you to choose when to go on holiday.
Join Organizations That Offer Senior Travel Discounts
There are different organizations in various countries that entirely focus on retired people. Such organizations may have offers for senior travelers to encourage them to travel. Take, for example, AARP in America.
This America’s Association of Retired Persons has a number of discounts for mature travelers. You can get hotel discounts, cruises with reduced price tags for seniors, and discounts on car rental services.
There are also activity and restaurant discounts. All this information can be accessed on their website. Make sure to check frequently because some offers are available for just a limited period of time.
Use Cheaper Modes of Transport
Traveling by air is often more expensive than other forms of transport. So if you want to pay less, you should definitely try out different means of traveling, for example, using the train. You may find yourself saving up to a few hundreds of dollars in the long run.
You can also opt to rent a car to travel to your destination or just get one on arrival at your vacation spot.
Traveling by train or car is obviously not as fast as taking a flight. But once again, that may not always be a big issue for seniors because of your flexible schedule.
Book Connecting Flights
If you still want to travel by air, then scout for ways of getting cheaper ticket prices. One solution is in connecting flights.
Direct flights are faster and generally cost more. On the other hand, booking connecting flights will take more time because of the long waiting hours at airports. But this is well worth it if you will end up paying less. Just carry a book to read when waiting.
Travel With a Group
Traveling with a group can allow you to take advantage of group discounts offered by different hotels or attractions.
You can either choose to form a traveling group with some of your senior friends or just travel with your family, including your kids and grandkids. This will give you time to also bond as a family.
If, by any chance, you aren’t a fan of huge traveling groups and just want a solo vacation, then read on for some more tips to help you out with that as well.
Tips for Solo Senior Travelers
For those who’ve never traveled solo, the idea of going to a new place alone may make you a bit anxious. But if you just look past your fears and plan well in advance, you’ll realize how interesting it is to travel alone.
For one, you get to do what you want, when you want. Being alone means you are also likely to meet and interact with more people. In the process, spending time alone on vacation can offer a great opportunity to discover new things about yourself.
All the same, we can’t overlook the few challenges that come with solo-traveling and especially for seniors. Here are some practical tips to help you travel solo like a pro and enjoy the experience.
Traveling alone means you won’t have someone to hold your bags as you dash to the washrooms or grab a snack. This is one of the reasons you should travel light.
Carry only what you need and nothing more so as to keep your luggage at a minimum. If all your belongings can fit into just one bag, the better. So, I guess you might want to check out this video that shows how to pack items for three weeks into just one backpack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqc4A3J5rWg
Whenever possible, carry items that can multitask or be compressed and fit in small spaces. For example, get a travel scarf with hidden pockets. A great example is the Elzama Infinity Loop Scarf with Hidden Zipper Pocket. It has hidden pockets where you can keep your passport, credit cards, hotel room keys, or even money. And the scarf itself will also keep you warm during flights.
For clothes, bring those that are easy to mix and match. Carry shoes that are comfortable to walk in so you won’t need to keep changing from one pair to another.
But more than just packing light, you’ll need to pack smart. Since seniors are easy targets of theft, ensure as much security of your luggage as possible, e.g., an anti-theft bag like Oscaurt Anti-theft Travel Backpack can keep your things safe when walking around. This backpack has hidden zippers, secret pockets, and is made of anti-cut fabric.
Volunteer on Vacation
Travelers can create unique itineraries that include offering some form of service to the communities in their destination. The idea of volunteering doesn’t mean your whole vacation has to be about helping others. You can set aside one day or even just a few hours and enjoy the rest of your vacation in leisure activities.
Volunteering on vacation is especially a great idea for solo senior travelers because of the opportunity to mingle with others. What is more, serving the local community will result in such a unique intimacy with a destination. You are not likely to enjoy such a close interaction if all you do is go sightseeing, hiking, and dining (not that there’s any problem doing any of these things).
In your retirement, you can offer the life skills you sharpened all through your working years—just partner with an organization that needs the specific skills that you have. You’ll be amazed at how fulfilling it is to offer your service for free and especially to people that are in dire need for them.
Get a Travel Roommate
This is a great strategy for socializing while traveling solo and, at the same time, cutting on costs. You may have noticed some hotels that charge more for solo travelers. To avoid this extra cost, organize to have a roommate for the time you’ll be staying at the said hotel.
Check out different tour operators that offer this option. If not, look into online forums that offer solo travelers the chance to pair up with other solo travelers who want to share a room.
Now, just so you know, having a total stranger for a roommate while on vacation can backfire on you if you get a not-so-easy-to-live-with kind of person. But on the flip side, you may match up with a really interesting individual who may end up being an amazing tour mate for the rest of your vacation.
So, take some time to weigh all your options before making this decision.
Go for a Special Interest Holiday
Special interest holidays are vacations designed around a particular interest, e.g., art, culinary, culture, etc. The point is to bring together people with the same interest for the sake of either learning a new skill or just enjoying their passion.
Solo trips are ideal for this kind of holiday. You may have put off learning a particular skill all your life due to your busy work and family life. Now that you have all this free time during your retirement, you might as well pursue that interest through a special interest holiday.
It’s never too late to learn a new skill if you just put your mind to it. For example, you can start salsa lessons, take a music course, or learn a new language in the country of origin.
The best thing about this type of holiday is getting to interact with people of similar interests. That means mingling with travelers of all age groups and cultures. It can be quite refreshing and enlightening.
Document Your Experiences
Even with the excitement of visiting new places, seeing amazing attractions, and experiencing diverse cultures, sometimes solo trips may actually get drab and lonely.
You are more likely to feel this weird emptiness during idle evenings with no activities planned. Or take, for example, the end of an exciting day when you sit at a table for one and realize there’s no one there to share stories of the amazing adventures you’ve had. But guess what, it doesn’t have to be that dull. These quiet moments are actually the essence of solo trips. Take such times to meditate and unwind.
You can also document your activities. Write in your journal the experiences you’ve had and maybe even include life lessons you’ve gained from your travels. It’s priceless to be able to refer to such documentations much later and reminisce about the wonderful time you had.
Whenever you travel alone, it’s important to be conscious of your surroundings and always think of your safety. This begins right from planning your vacation. For example, it wouldn’t be the best idea to travel to a destination whose security is questionable. Pick and choose your travel destinations wisely.
If you feel insecure about a place or a person while traveling, trust your gut, and distance yourself. Sometimes, in extreme situations, you may even need to raise an alarm so that other people can come to your rescue.
But it doesn’t have to get to that. There are ways seniors can keep safe while traveling or when on holiday. Let’s look at some of those tips.
Safety Tips for Senior Travelers
Get Travel Insurance
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even though you are extra cautious during your vacation, having travel insurance will come in handy in case something does happen.
As an older traveler, you are actually more vulnerable than your younger counterparts. Thieves see you as easy prey. So, your security measures need to be above that of the average traveler. Travel insurance is important for travelers of any age, but more so seniors.
You can get covered for medical issues. For example, the insurance can cover you if you get hurt while on vacation, or maybe you suddenly need extra medication due to unexpected situations like travel delays. If any of these things happen while in a foreign country, it may be harder or more expensive to get the necessary help. That’s when you’ll be glad you got insured.
You can also get insurance for your belongings. Reimbursement for lost luggage and replacement of stolen valuables are some of the benefits you’ll enjoy with such a cover. So you can at least be less anxious while walking around with, say an expensive camera.
All in all, look at the types of insurances available and identify the one that offers coverage that you need. Also, compare different insurance providers in order to get the best deal available.
And once you’ve got your travel insurance, remember to carry the details with you on vacation in case you need to make a claim.
Avoid Flashing Your Valuables
Now that you’re older, you probably own more items of high value than when you were younger. That’s great. But these valuables shouldn’t be carried around on each and every trip. If they are not very necessary during your holiday, it’s better to leave them at home where they are safe. That way, you don’t have to worry about losing the items to thieves and pickpockets.
Even so, there may be some valuables you want to carry with you on holiday. A good example is your camera for when you want to take some picture memories. Your wedding band may also be something you wouldn’t want to leave behind.
You’ll, therefore, need to be extra vigilant when moving around with such valuables. Don’t flash these items unnecessarily. If, for example, you are not using the camera, keep it inside your backpack.
The more people see your expensive stuff, the higher the chances of being a thief’s target. So investing in an anti-theft backpack, for example, is a great idea. Also, keep an eye on all your belongings at all times. This is especially necessary when in crowded places like airports and bus stations.
And in case you leave some valuables inside your hotel room, lock them up in the safe. You can’t trust anyone, not even the hotel staff.
Lock Up Important Documents
Apart from jewelry and expensive watches, your important documents are also very valuable and should be handled with great care.
To begin with, only carry the essential or necessary documents when traveling. Anything that you won’t need should be left back home. If you have several credit cards, you can consider just carrying two of them and leaving the rest behind.
Once booked into a hotel, lock up these documents in a safe. Only take them out with you on the days you truly need to use them. And even then, keep them as close as possible to you, e.g., use a belt pocket to carry IDs, cards, and money.
Keep a List of Emergency Contacts
One of the things that can really spoil an amazing holiday trip is getting scammed or having your belongings stolen. Any disaster, in general, is such a dampener of the excitement of traveling. What is more, it can throw you into a panic mode where you can’t even think straight.
Finding the phone number for an ambulance, the local police, or the embassy at such a time can be very hard. That’s why you need to prepare for such situations. Have a list of people you may need to call in case of an emergency—for example, your doctor, family, insurance, or your country’s embassy.
Save these contacts, preferably both in soft copy (in your phone) and hard copy (on a small card that can fit in your wallet or purse).
You can go a step further and create an “emergency plan.” Think out and note down the steps to take in case of an emergency. Have this information close to you in your wallet or purse.
Inform Friends and/or Family About Your Itinerary
According to AARP recommendations, you should inform others (family or friends) about your daily plans and whereabouts. This is especially necessary, but not restricted to when traveling solo.
For a thorough approach, send your itinerary to your family or friends back home. Ensure you clearly outline where you’re going, what you will be doing, and for how long.
Include emergency contacts, e.g., phone numbers of the embassy and the doctor.
Having all this information will be useful to your family if, for example, you cannot be reached for a long period of time or delay to get back home from a trip when you said you’ll be back.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Most seniors don’t really have the luxury of eating anything they want because their stomachs have grown a bit sensitive. Some travelers also have multiple allergies. The best way to deal with this is to be very careful about what you eat or drink.
If you are looking for a place to eat, opt for a popular spot with many customers and try and observe how your food is being prepared. This way, you can be almost sure the food is going to be safe for your consumption.
Keep Enough Meds With You
We all know that with old age comes illnesses here and there. So, if you’re on any form of medication, stick to the doctor’s prescriptions even while away on vacation.
Carry all your meds in a carry-on bag where you can easily access them. Another important thing to remember is to carry extra meds just in case you get stuck during your travels and end up going back home on a later date than you had expected.
But apart from carrying extra meds, have a written list of all the medications you take, both their brand and generic names, their dosages, and information on where to buy them in your destination in case you will need to.
Exercise Hotel Safety
Most people tend to really trust hotels and feel safe there. But the truth is, you still need to be vigilant at the hotel in order to ensure your safety.
First up, before booking a room, inquire if it has a safety box where you can keep your valuables. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s crucial that you keep your valuable items locked in the safety box whenever you’re not in the room. This is whether there’s a hotel staff in there or not.
Secondly, request for a room that’s close to the elevator. The proximity to human traffic will deter thieves from trying to target your room.
Another tip is carrying a doorstop. This may come in handy in case your hotel room door lock is not so reliable.
Lastly, avoid announcing your absence. For example, if you’re leaving your hotel room and want to inform the staff to clean it, do not leave the door sign that requests for room cleaning. This sign will notify any passerby that you aren’t in and so you can easily attract thieves. Instead, inform the receptionist personally as you head out.
As you settle into your retirement years, take the opportunity to travel and see the world or visit your loved ones. You totally deserve it after the many years of work that you’ve gone through.
But before you set out, make sure you arm yourself with the right information on how to travel as a senior. Learn the tricks of cutting on costs, including traveling during shoulder seasons, asking for discounts, and traveling with a group.
If you are one to go for it solo, then it will serve you well if you learn how to travel light to avoid too much luggage. You may also want to include a volunteer project during your vacation just to interact more with the locals and get that sense of fulfillment.
Lastly, your safety should be your number one priority as you roam the world. Get travel insurance and always be aware of your surroundings. Being older, thieves already think you’re an easy target, so don’t make yourself even more prone to theft by carelessly flashing your valuables. All in all, keep your family and close friends informed of your whereabouts. Travel safe.
- Smarter Travel: 6 Savings Secrets for Senior Travel
- Smarter Travel: 7 Safety Tips for Senior Travelers
- Rick Steves: Savvy Senior Travelers
- Love Exploring: Senior travel: 11 tips for traveling alone later in life
- Sunshine Retirement Living: Making Travel Safe and Easy as a Senior
- Travel And Leisure: 5 Tips for Traveling Solo After Retirement
- Expert Vagabond: 25 Important Travel Safety Tips Everyone Should Know
- Sixty And Me: 6 Ways To Find Amazing Senior Travel Discounts And Budget Travel Options