Plan Ahead, Be Safe: Travel Tips for Seniors

Seniors benefit from travel in many ways. It’s an intellectually stimulating activity that broadens perspective and appeals to one’s sense of wonder and discovery. Getting the most out of travel means being prepared and staying safe, which can be done by taking a few simple precautions and being aware that traveling requires careful planning.

Driving cross country or traveling abroad without your medications can be an unpleasant experience if you have to take time out to get prescriptions refilled or coordinate having an important travel document faxed to a remote location. Do yourself a big favor by planning ahead.

Secure the Fort

Whether you’re traveling a couple of hours away or to the other side of the world, make sure your home is set for your departure and that you won’t come home to any unpleasant surprises. Lock all doors and windows, secure your garage, and move anything valuable in your yard somewhere safe. If you’ll be gone for a month or longer, it may also be worth the investment to install a monitored security system, which will allow you to watch the goings-on of the homefront from afar and get in touch with the proper authorities the minute something looks amiss.

Traveling Overseas

Going abroad means your passport may need to be renewed or updated, and you’ll need to get any necessary vaccinations. You’ll need to be up-to-date on your measles, rubella, mumps and flu shots, and consider getting a tetanus booster. Depending on where you’re headed, it may be necessary to get shots for hepatitis, polio, typhoid and/or yellow fever as well. Remember to check with your doctor if you have a condition that requires special arrangements. Coordinate with the airline if you’re in a wheelchair, use a walker or require help with some other mobility-assistive device. Always check your insurance policy or consult with an agent to make sure you’re covered for travel, and make copies of important documents.


Take along enough of each medication to cover the length of your stay, plus a little extra in case you’re delayed. Bring along pills for motion and altitude illness and diarrhea, just in case, and be diligent about maintaining your prescription medicine regimen – a busy and exciting travel schedule can easily cause you to forget to take daily medications. Be mindful that counterfeit drugs are a problem in many foreign countries, so only take medications bought at home.

Getting Help

As a senior, you’re entitled to special assistance as soon as you enter the airport. Simply ask at the check-in desk if you require help with a wheelchair, a cart to carry you to the gate, or need to find a short security line. Those who are unable to stand can opt for a modified version of the screening process (if you have a pacemaker or other medical device, request a pat-down instead of going through the body scanner). Take full advantage of your right to board first if you require special assistance.

If by Car

Always travel wisely if going by car. Wear a seatbelt, limit driving time at night as much as possible, and avoid questionable areas. Make sure your auto insurance policy covers you fully for long-distance travel. If you’re planning a trip to a remote area, think about buying evacuation insurance, which pays for emergency transportation to a qualified hospital, and consider supplemental travel health insurance, which covers injury or illness overseas. Be aware that many health insurance plans don’t cover medical services provided outside the country.

There are lots of details to take care of when going on an extended trip. Travel, especially travel abroad, requires forethought and detailed planning so that you’re fully prepared for an enjoyable, stress-free experience. Always consult with your primary physician in case there are special medical concerns or dispensations to be made in advance of your trip.

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