7 travel problems for older travelers and how to prepare for them

I returned from a trip to Portugal and England the week COVID entered the consciousness of travelers in early March 2020. The day I returned home, travelers were sneaking away coughing in waiting areas, people were rubbing their seats, and everyone was looking for non-existent hand sanitizers in airport stores. The scene at Heathrow cured me of going anywhere for over 2 years.

And now, as a high-risk (and fully vaccinated, 74-year-old traveler with a spanking new knee), I wonder if I have the physical stamina to return to travel. Like other travelers I connect with on social media, I have valid concerns about everything from crowded airports and canceled flights to being stuck overseas with COVID.

And yet, I have planned trips to London, India and Crete over the next year. Why? Because I really, really miss traveling and want to get started while I still can. I know a lot of people my age feel the same way, so I’ve compiled ways to address the real concerns about the physical and emotional challenges that older travelers (and maybe all) face.

1. Overcome reintegration anxiety

Feeling uncomfortable and anxious about resuming travel is normal, especially after 2 years of confinement and social isolation. In fact, a study by the American Psychological Association reported that nearly half of those surveyed felt nervous about returning to in-person interactions.

I find it helpful to remember that you can get back into the flow. After all, traveling has never been easy; going to another country or exploring another culture always means facing the unknown, and even more so these days.

Pro tip: After 50 years of solo travel, I have found that anxiety can be alleviated by small group travel. I tested group travel before the pandemic started and loved it, so I’m looking forward to being with a small group of women traveling in Rajasthan, India in the fall. It eases some of my anxiety knowing that I can rely on experienced guides and companies when I’m away from home.

I’ve also found in the past that getting back on the road relieves anxieties. Acting and facing what we fear is a good antidote to wasting energy imagining the worst. Besides, who has time to worry about traveling when you’re actively doing it?

2. Develop physical endurance

I stopped exercising in my gym and taking group classes during the pandemic. My friends and I have often joked about the “extra 15” we have gained during the pandemic and some of the health issues that come with it. But just as traveling helps us feel confident for future trips, exercise can help provide the stamina we need to get back on the road.

Pro tip: There are many ways to get back in shape after the physical isolation of the pandemic. We can all start small and slowly increase walking speed and distance. I recently started a water aerobics class nearby and friends have told me they are joining yoga, zumba, or other virtual or in-person classes.

3. Plan for transport chaos

Yes, transportation seems to be more difficult as we resume our travels, and we’ve all seen instances of canceled flights, chaotic airports, and expensive car rentals. But traveling doesn’t have to be busy if you leave plenty of time to get to airports, trains, and ships.

Pro tip: To make flying easier, consider getting a TSA PreCheck for expedited service for flights departing from the US and Global Entry for returning to the US from overseas. Global Entry members receive TSA PreCheck as part of their membership.

Also consider traveling out of season. There are fewer crazy crowds and airports are less chaotic. This can significantly reduce your anxiety level. I loved strolling the streets of Venice at Christmas and I loved being in sunny Portugal and Spain in winter.

4. Rethinking mobility challenges

For travelers who have difficulty walking or whose health is compromised, consider rethinking the type of trip you are going to take. Independent travelers can make getting around easier by researching accessible hotels, restaurants, and transportation. Here are some other ways to deal with mobility issues.

  • Many tours offer varying levels of activity. Accessible land and sea excursions (on Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruises, among others) are widely available.
  • Travel groups like Road Scholar, Smithsonian Journeys, Intrepid Travel and more give travelers the choice of activity level that’s best for them, some even on a day-to-day basis.
  • Especially if you are unsteady on your feet or worried about lugging heavy luggage from place to place, make sure your luggage and your load is as light as possible (ebags, Travelpro, Tumi, Delsey and Samsonite all have lightweight bags available). You could actually go to a store to test the weight of the bags and the ease of the wheels. You can always order a suitcase online if you find a cheaper deal.

Pro tip: I love picking up a cane/seat combo, and there are plenty of choices available on Amazon. Mine is light and seems solid.

5. Slow down!

Some tours (and individuals) make covering all the cultural and commercial hotspots part of their trip. But older travelers, travelers with reduced mobility, and those who prefer to stop and smell the roses along the way may choose to travel at a slower pace.

Pro tip: If you are traveling in a group, choose a route that allows you to stay in one place longer. If you are on your own (especially out of season), you may be able to rearrange your reservations so that you can just sit in a café and watch the crowds go by.

You can arrive earlier or stay later on an excursion so you can adjust to jet lag or just be able to relax before and after a trip. Many travel agencies will help you book if you ask.

6. Share documents with fellow travelers

Make sure you have all your documents well in advance of your trip. Gather your passport, tickets, travel insurance, medical insurance, phone numbers and important websites, to get started.

Pro tip: Do not hide your important papers. Learn from me: I had to get a new passport because I couldn’t remember where I hid mine. It’s only funny in retrospect. Give copies of your documents to a relative or friend at home. Or if you are traveling with a friend, exchange important information.

Also remember to bring with you plugs and chargers suitable for the voltage of the countries you are visiting. You might want to check with your mobile carrier to make sure your phone can be used outside the country and to choose a temporary international plan. Or you can buy or rent an unlocked phone and replace its SIM card locally or at an overseas airport. I also travel with noise canceling headphones; many of us have trouble sleeping and a good pair makes it easier to doze off in public transport or in hotels.

7. Be more patient

Remember that traveling is always a challenge. I’ve felt fear and excitement in equal measure on all the trips I’ve taken – because travel always faces the unknown, no matter how perfectly your trip is planned. You can (eventually) laugh at your travel disasters. And disasters make great stories for your friends or for your blog or journal.

If your train is a few hours late, you can always choose to perceive it as pleasant. Your attitude can change your travel experience and maybe even the way you face life when you return. After all, you may need to change the way you travel as you get older, but don’t let that stop you from seeing the glories of the world in your own way, at your own pace.

#travel #problems #older #travelers #prepare

Add Comment