Dr. Karl Pillemer, professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Cornell noted that many of the elderly he interviewed in his research said that if they could do it over, they would have worried less and traveled more. Fortunately, being elderly does not preclude travel in this day and age! Folks of baby boomer age and older have many options for getting out in the world. As they should. Keeping active and pursuing life experiences, when done safely, can do wonders for individuals and their families. As our Minnesota winter sets in, the idea of escaping or even permanently relocating grows like the snowbanks. There are several ways to achieve your destination.
Several groups can take you almost anywhere. Cruises, Elderhostel, AAA, travel agencies and airlines can provide good options for finding a tour to many wonderful locations. Say you have found just the right trip to take. How do you get ready? A few tips to get started:
• First, make sure you have a passport which does not expire in the next six months. Keep it in a RFID body pouch with a small amount of local currency (in case you need a snack or taxi immediately upon deplaning).
• Bring your medications in your carry-on in their original bottles (a pill box is usually fine for domestic travel), along with enough clothes and personal items to last a day or two in case your luggage travels elsewhere.
• If you are 75 or older, you don't need to take off your jacket or shoes to get through security. Or your earrings. Leave the corkscrew and the pocket knife at home.
• Baggage check your liquids or bring them in bottles of no more than 3.4 ounces. Even if your large perfume bottle is only half full, the TSA may take it. Put the liquids in a quart-size Ziploc bag.
• Pack lightweight, microfiber clothes that can be easily cleaned and don't wrinkle. A versatile wrap or sweater is a must, as are broken-in shoes.
• Leave copies of your credit cards, passport, medical records, etc. in your checked bag and with your emergency contact information. Better yet, go to DepartSmart.org, download and follow their comprehensive Safe Travel Checklist. It's good info for all ages.
No family or friends able to accompany you? Solo travel may be daunting due to lack of recent practice, medical issues or mobility limitations. In that case, a senior travel companion may be your ticket. That individual can make the travel arrangements, help you pack, provide escort service to and from the airport, and companionship to (and at) your destination. How do you choose such a professional?
Start by meeting the companion to be sure your personalities fit. Determine if the person is background checked and has great references (there is no MN licensing). Choose a travel companion with the patience for, and experience of working with seniors, who is skilled in navigating airports, rental car agencies, and can arrange travel insurance and handicap-accessible hotels. A professional should be familiar with geriatric illnesses in general and your situation in particular. Most work for expenses plus a fee and/or tip, and trips can be customized to your budget. Relatives sometimes can be motivated to financially support their seniors, especially for big family events. Finally, senior travel companions run a business, so you should get receipts of the travel expenses as well as follow-up communications. In short, be wise. Whether it be solo, group or companion travel, the world awaits our Minnesota seniors. It's time to plan a worry-free adventure!
Carol Giuliani, owner
Senior Travel Companion Services, LLC/952-946-7997
EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org