Planning travel for the Aged

Old age is the right time to travel, and see the world. Retirees have both time and money at this stage of life. The rat race of the younger days is over. Usually, children are settled by then. One is free, and is ready to reap the harvest of earlier toils and struggles. One may travel to meet children, friends, or just for sightseeing. Whatever the reason be, a hassle-free enjoyable travel requires meticulous planning in advance.

Preliminary Planning: Planning for travel should commence at least two to three months in advance. The first step is to decide the itinerary. Where all you intend visiting, for how long, the route, and when? How strenuous shall it be? What is the overall budget? Budgetary limitations and health considerations may force re-scheduling of the travel plan.

Health Check: The next step is to have a health check-up. Traveling can be very tiring, especially for the aged. It requires a lot of stamina and energy. Confide your travel plans to your personal physician, and get his clearance. While traveling, do follow the physician's instructions. Medical treatment, besides being extremely inconvenient on a tour, can be exorbitantly expensive. A comprehensive health insurance, covering all the countries of your visit, is absolutely imperative.

Travel Documents: Do check validity of your passport. You will need visas for all the countries that you visit. This process may be time-consuming, and one should commence this activity at the earliest. If you plan to drive yourself at some stage of your tour, check your international driving license.

Detailed Plan: At this stage, one should indulge in a detailed study to collect information, and finalize the finer details of the itinerary. What airlines to take? Where to stay? Are there any pick-up arrangements? What sightseeing tours to take? Will they be over-straining from health point of view? Entertainment plans? A few hours spent in researching on the Internet can be very rewarding. There are websites that give information about countries, their weather, culture, currency, tourist spots, hotels of all types, road/city maps, adventure/sports opportunities, historic places, museums, art/cultural centers, conducted tours, night life etc. Then, there are exclusive online sites/packages for airlines and hotels. You can check on timings, connectivity, availability, relative tariffs etc. Some tourism offices, travel/ticketing agents, and tour organizers also give very useful information, and are very helpful.

Bookings: Having finalized your detailed plan, do bookings for the selected airlines and hotels. You can do it online, or through tour/travel agents. Ticket-auction facility, offered by some airlines, may also be availed. It is wise to book conducted tours, theatre tickets etc. also in advance. If you plan to travel by train to see the interior of the countries in Europe, you can buy tickets for Euro-rail. They are the cheapest outside Europe. Similarly, some domestic airlines in some countries offer heavy discounts on tickets purchased outside the country. There are plenty of incentives/concessions available for the aged. Watch out for these, and do avail the senior citizen discounts, wherever possible.

Currency: Currency changes from country to country. Every time you exchange it, irrespective of buying or selling, you are the loser. Depending on your travel plan, estimate your requirement for each type of currency, and try to exchange just once only. Travelers' checks, though a little more expensive, are safe to carry. International credit/debit cards are another alternative.

Clothing: Being comfortably dressed is very important on a tour. The clothing should be commensurate with the weather of the places to be visited. The intended sports activities, such as golf, skiing, swimming, mountaineering, hiking etc., also dictate the items to be carried. The apparels should preferably be the old, tried-out ones. They should be bare minimum to travel light, easily washable, drip-dry type, and should not require frequent ironing. Carry plenty of undergarments to avoid need for frequent washing. Do include one or two sets of formal wear, too. You never know when an occasion for these arises.

Footwear: Only sturdy, used shoes should be worn. An additional pair each of shoes, socks, and spare laces can prove to be very handy.

Miscellaneous Accessories: An umbrella and sunglasses can be very useful. A needle, thread, and a few buttons can meet sartorial emergencies. Women should refrain from carrying precious jewelry. Inexpensive artificial jewelry can be equally effective. Adequate stock of toiletries, like pastes, lotions etc., should be catered for the entire duration of the tour. Ensure that liquid items do not leak. Though smoking is injurious to health, the hard-core, incorrigible addicts may consider packing a few cartons of their favorite brand.

Medicines: A medicine box is a must. Besides the regular prescribed medicines, pack the basic first-aid kit, and a few over-the-counter common medicines for headache, indigestion etc.

Baggage: Aim should be to travel as light as possible. Organize your packing such that the items required only at destination are booked, the items required in transit go in a bag that can fit in overhead bins, and the items of immediate use in flight, such as cosmetics, toiletries, and medicines etc., be carried in a handbag. Some veteran travelers put some markers, such as colored ribbons, on the baggage for quick identification. While returning, you may be surprised to find that the items to be packed have increased. They invariably do! It would, therefore, be discreet to pack an empty collapsible bag also for the onward journey.

Photography:Photography is an important aspect of any tour. Check your camera, camcorder, or any other gadget that you have. Procure sufficient number of film rolls, if required.

Gifts: Plan gifts for friends, relations, and other people whom you meet during the tour. These need not be expensive, but should convey your sentiments. The recipients should like to cherish these as mementoes. It is good to carry a few spare gifts.

Safety: Next to your own life, your passport, currency, and air tickets are the most important things to safeguard abroad. Except for occasions like checking-in at airports/hotels, passport and air tickets can be safely stowed in the pockets of the innerwear. Similarly, except for the immediate requirement of cash in the wallet, the rest could be tucked inside. Never leave these items in hotels or anywhere else. Do carry them with you always. It is better to stitch the secret pockets in the innerwear before setting out on the journey. Be careful with your wallet and credit cards. It is best to distribute your cash in different pockets.

Contingency Plans: Even though in normal course, you may have no intention of meeting some friends or acquaintances; you must have their contact telephones and addresses to cater for an emergency. It is also prudent to note the contact details of your country's embassies/offices in the countries that you visit. You shall not also regret, if you pack some emergency rations, like biscuits, in your handbag.

Shopping: Though the motto on a tour should be to see more, and more! but some shopping is inevitable. One should budget, plan, and make a shopping list for each place, and try to stick to it. Seek out the cheaper but reliable markets. Beware of being cheated!

Arrangements at Home: Last but not the least, before you commence the journey, you have to plan arrangements back at home in your absence. Security of the house, looking after of plants and pets, if any, disposal of mail etc. are some of the issues to be taken care of.

Traveling by the aged is becoming increasingly popular. It can be real fun for them. They have the means - both time and money. For successful tours, meticulous planning and preparation in advance, however, is a must.

author: Rajiv Varma

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