I know that you already know all of the tips. I mean, by the time you’re in your fifties you’ve probably planned and executed multitudes of family vacations, business trips, and assorted sports related team travel, like the time you chaperoned the college men’s Rugby team on a spring break trip from Virginia to California.
Because you’re an experienced frequent traveler, I’ll refrain from advising you to stash your shoes in a shower cap, roll your clothing, and pack a light scarf (All excellent ideas though), and will focus on things a bit more unique to us more mature travellers.
TIP # 1
Do your research.
My first tip may seem like an obvious one, but I don’t just mean for cheap airfare, or where the best restaurants are, but check to make sure the destination you are heading to is a safe one. The place to do that is:
This website has a searchable comprehensive list of travel “Advisories” for each of the 195 countries in the world. Simply click on the highlighted Country’s name and the advisory information for that country will pop up. Advisories range from a Level 1: “Exercise Normal Precautions,” to a Level 4: “Do Not Travel,” where the ominous pop-up directs you to write a will (I kid you not).
While on the site take a moment to enroll in the S.T.E.P. ; Smart Traveller Enrollment Program. This program links you with the US Embassy in the country that you are travelling to in case of an emergency.
Another travel tip regarding researching prior to booking: If you plan to travel via public transportation, check to make sure there are no planned strikes for your time frame. Train strikes are especially frequent in European countries, however most countries are also civil enough to warn you ahead of time.
TIP # 2
Familiarize yourself with technology in advance
I will highlight just two of the many travel tools that are available:
Google Earth is one of my most favorite tools of travel. If I want to see what the area looks like around a hotel or rental. I have scratched more than one possible booking from my list based off of what I discovered from my street view. The following are directions for use on your PC, when using your phone you are able to go directly to a street view from the satellite view on the map.
- Type your destination into Google search
- Click on the map in the search results
- Zoom in to the address or area you’re searching
- Locate the yellow “Pegman” (The figure’s actual name) in the lower right hand corner of the map. Hove over the figure until a hand appears
- Click on the Pegman and drag and drop him to the street you’re researching for a real view of the location
As an example, Pegman is showing us on the interactive photo below, that there is no Baseball game today at Camden Yards in Baltimore Maryland.
The second technology based travel tool that I would recommend is the Mobile Passport App. This app is an innovative new cell phone application that allows you to speed through customs at any of the twenty-five (And counting) participating airports, and two cruise ports in the United States.
-Download the app
-Upload your passport, (You only need to do it once if you store it on the app.)
-Upon arrival back in the United States, add your arriving flight information
-Answer five simple questions about your trip
-Submit your information to US Customs and Boarding Protection (CBP)
*Within moments, CBP will send you a receipt and a barcode. The code is good for four hours, and will allow you to proceed directly to the passport control line set up especially for mobile passport users. These lines are usually much shorter than regular passport control.
You can even do these few easy steps while sitting on the taxiing airplane after the Flight Attendants have given the clear to use cell phones again.
*You will still need to present your actual Passport to the TSA officer, so make sure you have it ready as you approach the Agent.
TIP # 3
Does your health insurance cover your emergency medical treatment while overseas? The only way find out definitively is to call the customer service help line and ask them about your specific plan’s coverage. If they don’t cover you for the country you are travelling to, or if your coverage is limited, it is best to have travel medical insurance as a backup.
A good tip is to check when booking your flight. Many carriers prompt you to add trip insurance to your ticket for a nominal fee, example: I recently added very decent trip coverage to my Croatia trip for just $27!
And are you renting a car? One of the more frequent questions that we received during the vacation season as insurance agents was, “Will my car insurance cover me if I rent a car in _________?” If they were heading from the United States to anywhere but Canada the answer was always, No. Our advice was to find insurance online or from a broker.
When you buy online coverage keep in mind that you are (Usually) only buying collision coverage. This will cover your vehicle in the event of an accident, however, it often does not include liability (Paying the other person if you injure someone with your vehicle.) So, give your policy a thorough read, if it is not an all inclusive policy, don’t hesitate to ask for liability coverage at the rental counter, or when setting up your reservation.
TIP # 4
Medical devices and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration)
Let’s face it, we’re not 24 anymore, and while we’re not dead yet (And why we’re heading off to yet another fabulous adventure) we may need just a little more self care to travel. Travel may involve CPAPs, canes, prescription medicine, etc.
The TSA in the United States has provided the traveler with a very easy to navigate website where most of your medical equipment questions should be answered. Please keep in mind that you will need to investigate the customs requirements for the countries you’re traveling to as well. It is always a good idea to have a copy of a letter from your professional care provider, on the Doctor’s letterhead, stating your medical care needs. I would recommend having a hard copy and a back up on your electronic device.
If you contact the TSA Cares helpline, 855-787-2227, within 72 hours of your flight, they will assist you with your screening concerns or to arrange for a Passenger Support Specialist to work with you at your airport for a smoother screening process.
You may also download and print out the TSA Medical Notification card. When this card is presented to a security agent, they will know that you need additional assistance and will direct you to an agent that can help you through the process, and depending on the airport, usually away from the curious stares of the teeming masses.
TIP # 5
About that passport. As of 2016 in the U.S. you can no longer purchase additional blank pages for your passport, instead you will need to apply for a new one. Passports come with either 28 pages-with 17 blank pages inside, or 52 pages-with 43 blank pages inside, currently they are the exact same price.
There are many countries that require you to have more than one blank page upon immigration so visit your destination’s Bureau of Consular Affairs web page at least eight weeks prior to your travel. If you do not have enough open pages, you will need to order a new passport.
While you’re counting your blank pages don’t forget to look at the expiration date on your book. Does it expire within the next six months? If so, you may need to get a new one before you travel. Most countries require your passport to be valid more than six months before they allow you entry.
If you don’t have any travel plans, yet your passport is set to expire within the year, go ahead and apply for a new one anyway. Due to the processing time of 4-6 weeks, it may be best to cross that task off of your list or else you may find yourself paying an expedite fee of sixty dollars, (In addition to the normal passport fee of $110), if a spontaneous trip abroad presents itself.
TIP: Did you know that your local Post Office may be able to help you apply or
By now we should know how to make sure we aren’t pickpocketed or purse snatched, leaving us destitute on the side of some back European alleyway, but everyone still loves a good tip, right?
Take care not to become a target to begin with. Unfortunately, we need our backpacks and tote bags during all day excursions. But be mindful that these are pretty big visual cues that you’re not a local. So keep your pockets snapped and zippered at all times. Also, think about the utility of your bag before purchasing, don’t just buy it based on ascetics.
I have purchased daybags specifically for their zipper placement. I like when the zippers line up together with a fabric loop on the bag because then I can use a carabiner to hook the zippers together or into the loop. A thief would have to be incredibly nimble to unhook the carabiner, unzip or unsnap the enclosure, and then open and remove my valuables. The odds of them being able to do that before being apprehended is small. Yet, the carabiner allows me quick and easy access into my own bag when needed; no messing about with lock combinations.
Additionally, leave a backup credit card in a safe place back at your hotel or rental home. Doing this will insure that you have a second source of coverage if you have to cancel your primary card due to it being lost or stolen.
From the social media posts that I have read recently, even the most savvy travellers have become victims of “The Jostle.” I’ve had several SM friends report that they have been elbowed, jostled, and pushed by groups of thieves working together on buses in various countries, only to find later that their cell phones had been stolen. Be very wary of people getting too close on public transportation, and definitely tuck your phones away in your secured bags during the ride.
And as many of you probably already do, keep a copy of your passport, ID, and a list of the items that were in your wallet as a printed hard copy. This will make it much easier for you to cancel the items. You may not remember all that you had in your wallet during the time of stress. Also, it probably goes without saying, only bring the items that you actually need on vacation, leave everything else at home!