Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, adults over the age of 60 accounted for around 46% of travelers. While that figure dropped dramatically in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, older travelers have been adventuring more in recent years. As of 2023, seniors are expected to make up about a third of all travelers.
There are many reasons older adults might choose to travel. After working hard for their retirement, they may finally have time to start checking off bucket list items. Or they may be the ones in their family who have the means and time for travel, so they decide to travel to visit children or grandchildren.
For independent seniors, travel can be a great way to live a vibrant life. But there are some considerations even active older adults should keep in mind when traveling.
Airbnbs and nontraditional options for lodging can offer flexibility and even reduce your travel budget. But they aren't the right choice for everyone. Think about your personal preferences and needs before you book any type of lodging.
If you have mobility concerns or need to be sure your lodging has accessibility features, such as a walk-in or roll-in shower, a hotel might be the better bet. Hotels are more equipped to meet these types of needs, and you can talk to staff at a specific location when you book your room to find out about services and accommodation.
Even if these aren't requirements for you, if you like to know exactly what you're getting, a hotel is often a better choice. However, if you have an adventurous spirit and enjoy staying in unique places, consider options on Airbnb and Vrbo.
Avoid packing your medications in luggage you're checking at the airport. If your luggage gets lost, your meds are also lost. The TSA allows you to carry medically necessary medication, including liquids, on your person when you board a plane. You can even carry such liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces, but you should always review the guidelines for your airport or airline before travel day.
If you have layovers during travel, you may need to make your way around a large and busy airport. Depending on your flight schedule, you might have to do so quickly. If you have any qualms about doing this without some assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to the airline ahead of time. Airlines and airports can often arrange transport via a wheelchair or golf cart.
Whenever possible, add extra time to every part of your travels. If a museum website says the average visit is 1.5 hours long, plan for 2 hours. If Google estimates a drive at 5 hours, plan for 7. When you bake extra time into your schedule, you can stop whenever you want, take plenty of rest breaks or simply spend more time with the things you find engaging.
Travel often involves a lot of sitting. You may have to sit for hours on a plane or in a car, and that can be bad for circulation. It can also contribute to general aches and pains.
To combat some of these issues, make sure to take breaks during travel to stretch your legs. If you're on a plane, get up and walk up and down the center aisle once or twice if at all possible. If you're in a car, stop often for 5-10 minute walking breaks.
Attend to blood sugar and other dietary concerns by packing your own snacks and drinks for the road. In general, it's hard to find healthy fare in convenience stores or fast-food restaurants along the interstate.
You can often bring solid food items in your carry-on when flying, but do check TSA and airline rules before you go. You can't go through security with beverages, but you can buy water or other healthy options in the concourse.
Traveling for days can be exhausting for anyone. If you're worried about the physical impact of traveling cross-country or across the ocean, try to schedule a longer stay at your destination. That way, you have time to recover a bit before you can enjoy your vacation and then fly home.
If you're traveling on your own and don't want to be burdened with heavy luggage, you might consider shipping it to your final destination. This way, you also don't have to deal with checking bags at airports or managing the crowded baggage claim area. Companies such as Luggage Forward specialize in this service.
Can't wait to experience adventure but don't want to explore solo? Consider traveling with a companion. Find a friend or family member with wanderlust, or ask a college-age grandchild if they'd like to see the world with you.
Oh, and while you're out, don't forget to make arrangements for someone to care for your home. They might water plants, check up on your property and bring the mail in, for example. If you've made a home in an independent living community, you can ask the staff or other residents to do this for you.