Are You Planning To “Hit the Road” This Fall?
Fall is a beautiful time to travel with cooler weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. While travel offers opportunities to see new places, experience different cultures, learn about topics of interest, or just relax, there are important considerations to keep in mind so that you can make the most of your trip. Travel can create health and safety concerns, especially for seniors. Following are tips to help prevent some common pitfalls of travel.
The first question when beginning to plan a trip is where to go. When picking a destination, keep your health and physical abilities in mind. For example, folks with respiratory or heart conditions should check the climate and altitude of a potential destination. If you plan to travel overseas, check with your physician to see if any special vaccines may be needed. Keep in mind the amount of physical exertion that participation in a group tour or specific activity may require, especially if you have difficulty walking or have chronic pain. A physical exam by your physician can help ensure that your body is ready for travel.
Planning a journey to somewhere far away? Long car or plane rides can cause fatigue, stiffness, and tension in your body. When sitting for long periods, be sure to change position frequently, and massage your leg muscles to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps. Intermittent deep breaths can improve airflow and help reduce fatigue. A small pillow or blanket tucked behind your back and just above the beltline can help maintain the normal curvature of your spine and make you more comfortable. Stretching before and after a long period of sitting, and adjusting the airflow so that air is not blowing directly on you during the trip, will reduce muscle tension.
Is it time to pack? A common mistake made by travelers of all ages is over-packing their luggage. An overstuffed suitcase can lead to back, neck, and shoulder injuries. Remember to lift luggage by bending your knees and using your leg muscles. Avoid twisting motions, and keep your luggage close to your body while carrying it. If possible, the use of two lighter bags, carried one in each hand, will decrease the stress on your spine. If you have only one shoulder bag, be sure to switch sides often.
Are you taking medications during your trip? All medications should be packed in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage should get lost. In addition, all medications should be in their original containers. Be sure that you have an ample supply of medications for the length of your trip, plus a few extra days in case of delays. A list of your medications and medical history, as well as contact information for your primary care physician is helpful if care is required while you are away. Overseas travelers should be aware that Medicare does not cover health care outside of the United States. Additional insurance should be purchased to help cover the cost of emergency medical care in other countries.
Planning to use your credit card while you are away? Alert your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling. Some companies will freeze an account if they notice unusual activity, whether you are inside or outside of the US. Many experienced travel agents recommend the use of an under-the clothing money belt to carry cash and credit cards, return trip tickets and your passport. Thieves can strike anywhere, including on crowded streets, in your hotel room while you are out, and by breaking in to your car. Beware of scam artists when you travel, just as you would in your hometown. Don’t risk bringing back a case of identity theft as an expensive travel souvenir. Additional helpful information about financial considerations and emergency preparedness for overseas travelers is available on the US State Department website.
Mature travelers (those born before 1946) make up about 21% of all leisure travelers, and older boomers (born 1946-1954), about 15%. Both of these groups take an average of about four trips per year. If thinking about all of the details of travel makes you nervous, you may want to consider a trip planned by a tour operator. Travel companies are increasingly catering to older travelers with specialized tours and trips to fit a variety of budgets, interests, and abilities. If you want to take the grandkids, the number of intergenerational programs is also expanding. The rewards of travel are priceless, and some of the hassles can be avoided with the use of preparation and common sense. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to hit the road!
Karen Kaslow, RN
Elder Care Coordinator
Keystone Elder Law, P.C.