Safety Tips for Seniors Traveling Abroad
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Many senior citizens are regular globe-hoppers. After a lifetime of saving, and the freedom of retirement or semi-retirement, seniors often have the ability to travel more often and to more places than their younger counterparts.
However, traveling internationally as a senior citizen presents its own sets of challenges. You may be more risk-averse than you once were, more concerned with security, and have health conditions to contend with. So, how do you balance having a great time on your next vacation with staying safe? Read on to find out.
Consider Your Destination Carefully
Though it’s impossible to avoid all risks when traveling abroad, you can minimize them by staying informed. Regardless of what country you’re from, a good resource for doing so is the US Department of State. They publish and regularly update Travel Advisories, where they assign a risk level to different countries based on numerous factors ranging from natural disasters to political unrest. Department of State Travel Advisories are usually categorized as follows:
- Level 1: Exercise normal precautions
- Level 2: Exercise increased caution
- Level 3: Reconsider travel
- Level 4: Do not travel
You can view an updated list of Department of State Travel Advisories on the official government website, along with explanations for each.
Utilize the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
This program in particular is only for US citizens or nationals, but you may be able to find a similar program for your own home country with an online search.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is useful because it allows the US embassy or consulate to send you important travel and safety information that’s specific to your destination. Also, if a crisis does occur while you're abroad, the STEP can allow the embassy and your loved ones to contact you more easily.
Packing Medications and Health Records
Senior citizens should follow this checklist before any trip abroad:
- Bring copies of all of your current prescriptions and medical records.
- If you’re taking a prescription, pack enough supply for the entire trip duration, plus an extra 10 days in case you get delayed.
- Bring along OTC medications like antacids, cough drops, antidiarrheals, and NSAID pain relievers (check ahead of time that it is legal to bring all medications into your destination country).
- Pack all medications in your carryon bag, so you will still have them if your checked luggage gets lost or delayed.
- Make a list of generic and brand-name substitutes for the medication you take, as you may not be able to find exact replacements abroad.
Safety Tips Once on Your Trip
- Take two credit cards. If one gets stolen or lost, having a backup can simplify things significantly.
- Carry your cash and cards in a money belt instead of a wallet or purse to reduce the risk of pickpocketing.
- Always lock your hotel room door, lock your suitcase, and secure your suitcase to a bedframe or other solid object using a cable lock when you’re out for the day.
- Read the hotel’s evacuation information, usually located on the back of the door. It’s essential to know in case of a fire or other emergency.
- Don’t give your hotel name to strangers. If someone asks where you’re staying, just give a general answer like “near the airport” or some other well-known landmark.
- If you’re traveling to a country where your native language isn’t spoken, learn local words for things like “fire,” “help,” “hospital,” and “police.”
- Store the contact numbers of your hotel, the local police station, and nearest hospital in your phone for quick access if necessary.
Purchase Proper Insurance
Even if you follow all the safety tips mentioned above, certain things are out of your control while on an international trip. This is why it’s essential that you have the right insurance coverage.
If you’re traveling abroad to a destination outside the United States, buy travel medical insurance. It can allow you to receive treatment for new medical conditions that occur after the effective date of the policy, without being solely responsible for paying the full bill yourself. Certain plans can also include valuable coverage for things like emergency medical evacuation, which is especially important if you’re traveling to a destination with limited medical facilities.
If you’re traveling internationally to the United States, visitors medical insurance is the coverage you will want to purchase. A visitors insurance plan can help you avoid incredibly high US healthcare prices in case you get sick or injured while visiting. Some plans can even offer coverage for pre-existing conditions or acute onset of pre-existing conditions.
If you’re a US resident traveling internationally or domestically and you’re primarily concerned with benefits like trip cancellation coverage, travel delay coverage, and lost luggage protection along with emergency medical coverage, consider purchasing travel insurance.
Regardless of where you’re from or what your destination is, it’s important to remember that your domestic insurance coverage is unlikely to be accepted or provide sufficient coverage in another country. So, utilize the tips in this article and purchase an appropriate insurance plan for maximum protection in case the unexpected occurs.