No matter what age you are, the travel bug is infectious. To ensure a trouble-free and safe trip, it’s important that mature travellers are aware of the travel precautions and limits they should take when travelling. Allianz Global Assistance has some recommendations – just for you!
Whilst you may have the spirit of a twenty-something year old, older travellers must listen to their body and be realistic about their health constraints and conditions.
Allianz Global Assistance, a leader in travel assistance services, has outlined a travel checklist for older Australians travelling; from considerations and careful preparations to general travel tips.
- Choose your destination well
There is no set rule for choosing your destination. It’s mostly a matter of common sense, and it all depends on your health and current medical treatments. In certain cases (for example people with a severe respiratory disease or a serious heart condition, complicated diabetes or chronic kidney failure, etc.), it’s best to avoid traveling to some remote countries. Generally speaking, you should know that:
- In warm climates, dehydration due to excessive heat can lead to serious complications.
- Staying at high altitude, including cities like Mexico City, Cusco or La Paz, may cause decompensation of a previously stable heart or respiratory condition
- Before you book your trip – visit your doctor!
- It is strongly advised that you visit your doctor before you book, or otherwise at least one month before departure. They are in the best position to judge whether or not you are able to do the trip you are planning, advise on appropriate activities (hiking, swimming etc.) and can share information on food and locally available medical facilities.
- Once your doctor gives you the green light, ask them to update the necessary vaccinations depending on the country you choose to visit. Elderly travellers are more prone to complications from many illnesses including hepatitis, influenza (the “flu”) (which is prevalent in the winter months across both hemispheres), pneumococcus or even typhoid fever. Getting the right vaccinations for your destination may not just contribute to a successful trip – it may also be life saving.
- Malaria: The oldest travellers are among the most vulnerable and should be sure to check with their doctor about the risks of malaria and how to prevent it.
- Ask your doctor to make a list of the medications you need to take with you. Mature travellers who are on regular treatment can be prescribed enough medication for the duration of their trip but it is essential to get a letter from your doctor, in English, with the names of the drug’s active ingredients, as brands are not the same in all countries. In some countries Customs may request to see such documentation. In case of a chronic disease (asthma, diabetes or heart disease for example) or a complicated medical history, ask your doctor to also prepare a summary of your medical history, again in English, if possible. This will be invaluable if you need to see a doctor whilst travelling.
- Tips for the journey
- The risk of thrombosis is higher during long journeys. Don’t stay still for too long and make sure you drink water as often as possible (at least one litre every four hours). When you cannot get up and move around you should do exercises that stretch your legs, in particular your calves and feet at least every two hours whilst awake.
- Wear compression stockings if you have varicose veins or a known venous deficiency.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol as it accelerates dehydration and can impact on many medical conditions.
- Remember to pack your regular medication in your hand luggage for the plane trip. For those with pacemakers think to bring along the technical characteristics of your device; generally speaking, wearing a pacemaker is no longer a cause to be concerned when you walk through the airport’s metal detectors, but just be careful. It’s better to let security staff know that you’re wearing one. For those with diabetes and who are insulin-dependent: Insulin will keep well at an ambient temperature for the duration of the trip but should not be frozen (do not put it in the baggage hold!) When travelling with needles show your prescription to the security personnel.
- If you’re driving, take regular breaks – at least one every two hours – and be wary when driving in the dark as night vision diminishes with age.
- General travel tips…
It’s important to keep in mind that older people recover slower and take a little longer to adapt. They can also be more vulnerable and sensitive to certain risks. To make the most of their holidays, elderly travellers would be well advised to follow these recommendations:
- Don’t do too much too soon. Stay active but also make time for rest. Put your feet up between visits!
- The effects of jet lag tend to worsen with age (fatigue, headache, insomnia). It’s recommended that you get on local time as soon as you arrive. When crossing time zones you will need to adjust when to take your medications. This is especially important for some medications such as insulin. Ensure you have discussed how to do this with your doctor prior to travel.
- Be careful to follow these simple rules: wash your hands often, only drink sealed bottles of water, peel fruit, avoid eating raw vegetables, ensure hot food is well cooked, protect yourself from the sun and avoid mosquitos. Not following these basic rules can lead to serious consequences for elderly travellers.
- As people get older, they become less sensitive to thirst. You should stay well hydrated. Most people should drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day. However, some chronic medical conditions require a more cautious fluid intake. Your doctor should be able to advise you accordingly in your pre-travel checks. Make sure to maintain a well-balanced diet with a sufficient intake of calories.
- And finally, safety: an elderly person can be a pickpocket’s easiest and preferred target. Do not tempt them or fate by wearing a nice watch or jewellery.