In 2019, before the pandemic, older adults constituted the lion’s share of the travel market. However, when Covid hit, that number plummeted. Because we knew early on that older adults were more vulnerable to this plague, many put their travel plans on hold. Fear, coupled with the freedom of choice that most older adults possess, culminated in a precipitous drop – to 16% in 2020.
Today, however, the share of travelers over 60 years of age has more than doubled over the 2020 numbers. These older travelers account for the largest travel demographic ever, continuing a trend that had started before the pandemic.
These statistics were compiled by Squaremouth.com, a travel insurance broker.
Clearly, older adults are feeling freer to go places and catch up on all those destinations they haven’t experienced yet, whether it’s by land, by sea, or by air. Those in the travel business and those who make their living from visitors are thrilled to welcome them back. After all, older adults have the spending power and resources that young people typically haven’t accumulated yet.
If you are one of those older adults who want to get out of town, or maybe have started your leisure travel already, here are some good guidelines we should all employ to stay healthy and safe.
Follow public health guidance for the area
As recently as December of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was recommending that everyone wear face coverings on any kind of public transportation and in airports and other terminals. Even though many of those restrictions have been lifted in most areas, it’s probably still a good idea, especially for more vulnerable older adults. After all, who wants a respiratory infection of any kind to spoil a much-anticipated vacation?
Choose a hotel that meets your needs
Most hotels today have ADA
-compliant rooms and good access for guests with mobility challenges, but use caution with historical properties and in more rural areas. Properties that have not been updated can pose fall hazards, like uneven floors and area rugs, and accessibility issues. It’s best to call ahead to check on whether the hotel has what you need, especially if a wheelchair is required. If the hotel does not have an elevator, ask for a first-floor room.
Pack medication and any other necessities in your carry-on
Know and follow the TSA rules for what can be brought onto the airplane. These have changed, especially regarding medication. If your medication is a liquid and/or you need syringes, pumps, freezer packs, or IV bags, TSA will allow you to carry all of this on the plane. You can check the TSA rules on medical conditions and disabilities for yourself at their website. Be sure to also carry a list of your medications in case you need to visit a pharmacy during your travels.
At most airports, TSA allows passengers 75 and older to go through the less restrictive “precheck” line where you are not required to remove your shoes, liquids, or laptop from your carryon bag. Another great reason to celebrate being an older adult!
Stay healthy in the airport and on the plane
If you have mobility challenges or a condition that limits your ability to maneuver onto the plane, it’s best to call ahead and reserve a wheelchair. You might also want to let the airline know if you have a chronic condition that requires a special diet or dietary restrictions on when you should eat. An airline rep can inform you whether or not they can accommodate those needs. If not, plan to pack food for yourself.
Be sure to stay hydrated onboard. Airplane air is drier than a normal environment and the risk of dehydration is greater. It’s also important on long flights that you stay active onboard. That will mean walking the aisle several times during your flight to prevent blood clots and muscle cramps.
Don’t be a target for theft
If you will be doing a lot of walking around in urban areas, plan to invest in some travel clothing. You can find pants, shirts, and jackets for both men and women online or at a store like REI if you have one nearby. Look for items that have hidden or hard-to-reach pockets. Keep money any valuables or ID (passports, drivers licenses, etc.) in these pockets or in a pouch around your neck. Avoid standard purses with long straps and avoid setting anything down on the floor when in public transportation. Hold items on your lap.
Before you leave, give a close friend or family member your itinerary and how they might reach you in an emergency. You will most likely want to have a cell phone with you on your trip, but not all cell phones work in every country you might visit. Check with your carrier and find out how you can set yourself up for cell phone usage at every point of your trip.
A LOT of people are traveling this year, so be prepared for airline delays, flight cancellations, and missed connections. They happen with regularity and you may be involved. Be sure to take contact information for every place you will be staying so you can keep the proprietors informed of your revised schedule.
You might also consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Your information is stored securely and enables the U.S. Department of State, U.S. or the Consulate or Embassy to contact your family or friends in an emergency, according to your stated wishes.
You will have lots of company if you choose to travel this year, but why wait? If you can be somewhat flexible with your plans, build in some (or a lot of) unscheduled time, and roll with the punches, it will be a grand adventure, no matter how it works out.