Are you a senior making your spring and summer travel plans? You’re not alone. In fact, AARP’s 2017 Travel Research reveals that the majority of Boomers travel during the spring and summer months. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, summer vacation, or a big family reunion, taking trips is a great way for seniors to get out of the house, socialize with others, problem solve, and check some life goals off their bucket list.
Travel doesn’t come without its own challenges, however; everything from cost, health, and security concerns to long lines at the airport and unexpected snafu’s with reservations can throw a wrench in your well-designed travel plans. These challenges are made even more difficult if you have mobility problems or another disability.
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that you will get equal treatment under the law and that all the accessibility standards and requirements in both public and private places are regulated. However, it does not always work out that way in real life, especially when traveling abroad. More than one-third of people with disabilities reported they experience difficulties, inadequate facilities, prejudice, higher prices, and other associated problems while traveling.
If you’re looking for effective tips to make traveling easier and more enjoyable as a senior, don’t miss this quick list:
Save time and money planning online
For more efficient cost-comparison and travel planning, technology can be your best friend. Websites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Hotwire can help you search for a great flight, hotel, and car rental deals as well as enlighten you about your destination. If you’re looking into potential vacation rentals, sites like Airbnb or HomeAway are your ticket. And use smartphone apps like Yelp and Zomato to check menus, pricing, and reviews of potential restaurants or other destinations on your itinerary.
Call a travel agent
If you have built up airline loyalty miles, are looking guided tour vacation opportunities, or simply prefer to coordinate travel plans with a real live person, give a travel agent a try. Travel agencies in the United States, Canada, and Europe offer niche services which can be tailored to your specific needs, i.e. if you have mobility problems. Since they deal with seniors regularly, they know all the potential travel pitfalls and hurdles you could encounter and how best to avoid them. Working with an experienced travel agent alone can make your travel more accessible and convenient.
Choose your flight wisely
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If possible, try to choose a direct flight and avoid connecting flights. Getting off the plane, waiting during a layover at another airport, and boarding again is nothing but an added hassle. However, if you have a hard time using the tiny restrooms on a plane, a long flight can be uncomfortable. In that case, you may want to opt for a connecting flight, but make sure that there is ample time for you to get from one gate to the other.
Be a smart packer
As a senior, there are a handful of items you want to be smart about packing. Take medicine, for example – always take more medicine than you might need, sort and store it in a pill organizer if possible, pack it in your carry-on (not in your checked luggage which has the potential to get lost), and keep your refill prescriptions with you just in case.
For avoiding aches and pains when traveling you may also want to bring items that offer greater comfort, cushioning, and support on your journey. Always wear proper-fitting walking shoes with smooth bottoms and consider getting gel inserts for added comfort and support, especially if you have sensitive feet or are not used to staying on your feet a lot. It makes your travel a lot easier, even if you get caught up in unexpected delays, long lines, and other unwanted situations.
Travel neck pillows and padded seat cushions can also alleviate neck, back, and hip discomfort on long plane or car rides by helping you maintain good posture and better distributing your weight in your seat.
If you use a wheelchair to get around, consider packing accessories (like your pedals) in a bag in your carry-on and bringing a small wheelchair repair kit along (or going ahead and looking up local repair shops at your destination) just in case. Moreover, if you are planning on traveling internationally, make sure you know your rights as a person with a disability by going to the website of the local border agency.
Contact your hotel early
Contact your hotel or other lodgings at least 24 hours before your time of arrival, so they have enough time to make necessary arrangements if needed. If you use a mobility aid like a walker or a wheelchair, make sure to share those details and verify you will be staying in a handicap-accessible room (they have wider doorways, grab bars, walk-in showers, etc).
You may even want to go so far as to bring a doctor’s note with you with their phone number, as well as a travel statement and a list of any special needs written down on a piece of paper.
Taking even just a couple of these steps in your travel planning can save you time, money, and stress. Good luck, and have a great trip!
Author: Joe Fleming
Co-Founder, Vive Health