Senior Travel
How to Stay Safe

By Leyla A.

As baby boomers come of age, senior travel is fast becoming the next travel boom.

A few short generations ago, anyone over 50 would have thought their travel days nearly over. But now, seniors travel into their seventies, eighties and even nineties, much as they did when they were younger. It’s not uncommon to see people in their eighties sharing dormitories with teenagers in far-off places.

Why is this? Cheaper flights, more accessible destinations, good medical care, more modern insurance plans, more organized tours specifically for seniors, and the sheer joy of exploring what no one had time for earlier in life.

As senior travel grows, so do concerns about senior travel safety – and safety concerns at 70 aren’t necessarily the same as those at 30.

Senior Travel Safety Tips

Planning your trip starts before you leave, and making sure everything is in order means your trip will be smoother and hassle-free. Here are some of the things you should look at:
  • Photocopy your important documents – and keep the copies in a different location from the originals.
  • Research the safety of your destination by joining forums before you leave and make sure you know all the facts – altitude, climate, medical care, vaccinations.
  • Visit your doctor and renew your prescriptions, and make sure you have everything you need (You never know whether you’ll find what you need abroad.) and that means spare glasses, vitamins, everyday medications.
  • Get your travel and health insurance (including accident and evacuation).
  • Inform the airline of any health condition that may require special assistance.
  • Buy a suitcase with wheels so you won’t have to lug something heavy around.
  • Make sure you arm yourself with useful safety gadgets. My two favorites are a good money belt and a portable lock for your hotel room door.

Once you’re on your trip, there are plenty of other things to watch for. Here are a few tips to planning a safe and enjoyable trip:

  • Be prepared for lengthy security checks and long airport waits.
  • In the plane, get up and walk around. (The incidence of blood clots is growing on long-haul flights.)
  • Put an office address (your daughter’s or son’s) on your luggage tags. There is no need to tell anyone you’re away from your house.

Once you get to your hotel, you might consider the following safety precautions:

  • Don’t let the staff call your hotel room number out loud. You don’t want the world to hear it.
  • Put the Do not Disturb sign on your door when leaving for a few hours. People will think you’re in your room.
  • Put your valuables in the hotel safe. Better yet, leave them at home.
  • Don’t take a room right next to the fire exit. That’s the most common entrance and exit for thieves.
  • Ensure your hotel is in a well-lit and relatively busy location so you don’t have to walk down any dark streets at night, especially if you’re staying in an old part of town.
  • Check the door locks and use your own if you’re not satisfied with the hotel’s

What about staying safe on the street once you’ve left the hotel?

  • Look at your map before you leave the hotel, not afterwards. You want to avoid looking like a tourist!
  • Don’t dress rich, and leave your jewellery behind. Thieves are often on the lookout for wealthy tourists.
  • Keep your valuables in a money belt.
  • Carry a flashlight. You never know when you might need one in an elevator or a subway.
  • If you must carry a daypack, wear it on your front rather than on your back.
  • Carry a whistle. If something happens, a whistle will stop traffic dead on most streets, mostly because no one expects it.

These are meant to be checklists to make sure your trip is safe. Be prepared and don’t worry – most of these precautions are just that – precautions. Better safe than sorry, and know that most trips are safe, event-free, and positively pleasant and fun.

And remember, maturing has its benefits, too. In many countries, especially in the developing world, age begets respect so being of a certain age may actually keep you safer! And if you’re a woman, you won’t have to worry as much about male attention -- unless you want it, of course! Finally, being over 55 or 60 will get you discounts in many countries for museums, shows and transportation.

The best way to stay safe is to simply stay aware of your surroundings. The more aware you are, the better your chances of spotting something that’s not right.

And isn’t being aware of your surroundings what travel is all about?

©2007 Leyla A.

Leyla is the owner of Women on the Road, a Web site for women who love to travel on their own.

If you have any senior travel advice, please share.

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