With more free time and generally fewer responsibilities, your latter years are perfect for seeing the world and the travel industry is finally picking up on this. An increasing number of travel companies and organisations are catering for the “mature traveller”. While big steps have been made to help improve services for older travellers, it can still be a very daunting experience.
When planning trips, the destination is everything. With a bucket list of locations and glossy travel brochures, it can be easy to get ahead of yourself but it’s important to remember that some destinations may not be geared to accommodate for certain requirements such as wheelchair access or handrails.
A travel companion is highly recommended for anyone wishing to travel, who may need assistance with mobility or are simply just not very confident travellers. If you plan on travelling solo you may want to consider joining a tour group, these groups give you the freedom of travelling while benefitting from the support of a group of likeminded travellers. There are numerous travel companies offering tour groups for seniors giving you the best of both.
Make your needs known
Every traveller is different and everyone has specific needs but senior travellers or those with pre-existing medical conditions may have more specific needs than others. It is always best to make your needs known to make your trip as comfortable as possible.
Specific needs may include special seating requirements, mobility ramps, hearing impaired support, wheelchairs etc, all these things can be checked prior to travelling to avoid any unexpected problems later down the line.
Research medical cover
Travel insurance may not be the most exciting part of planning your globetrotting adventure, but it is certainly one of the most important. Travelling abroad means leaving the safety net of the NHS, something which as we grow older is more important than ever.
If you are planning a trip within Europe, you should consider a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). An EHIC provides state healthcare and will cover you in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland, at a reduced cost or even for free in some countries. It can also cover you in an emergency for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions.
However, an EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance and will not cover any private medical treatment or being flown back to the UK, so you should consider taking out travel cover as well which provides additional benefits such as lost or stolen property, cancellation or curtailment, travel delay or repatriation back to the UK.
Packing can be a dilemma, pack too much and you are left with the momentous task of dragging it around with you, too little and you will inevitably need the one thing you didn’t pack!
For people with pre-existing medical conditions, packing can be far more complicated. Medication, mobility aids and medical equipment are generally the most common problem items for passengers looking to fly. If you require syringes or injection pens as part of your medication, these need to be accompanied by a medical certificate if you wish to take them in your hand luggage. It is also a good idea to take your prescription for any medication you require with you in case you need to refill your prescription whilst abroad.
Strict airport security can play a huge part in what you take in your hand luggage. Gels, creams and other liquids in your hand luggage must still be in the containers and must not be bigger than 100ml placed in transparent, re-sealable plastic bags no larger than 20cmx20cm.
It is important to check luggage weight restrictions prior to packing. Each airline varies slightly but it is generally about 20-25kg (44-55lb). Exceeding this limit will mean paying extra for each Kg over the allowance, which can be very expensive. It’s always best to check the luggage regulations and restrictions prior to packing.
Let them do the leg work
Airports can be very stressful and disorientating places, with numerous gates, terminals and flight numbers, trying to track down your flight can be overwhelming.
Luckily all UK airports offer an airport assistance service for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). This is not exclusively for disabled passengers, but for anyone who has difficulty walking. Depending on your needs, you can receive assistance from your arrival to checking-in and through to boarding.
With travel companies, airports and destinations all taking big steps to help offer an inviting and welcoming service to all passengers, there should be nothing holding you back from enjoying your trip!