The retirement years is a time that many take to explore the world. With a little planning and some caution, senior travelers can prepare themselves for international trips.
Before you go
All travelers, including seniors, should see a doctor at least one month before they travel. Tell your doctor about any medical conditions or medicines you are taking, since this will influence medical decisions.
Before travel, you should be up-to-date on routine vaccines, such as measles/mumps/rubella, seasonal flu, and tetanus. More than half of tetanus cases are in people over 65, so consider getting a tetanus booster before you travel.
You should also receive other vaccines recommended for the countries you are visiting. These may include vaccines for hepatitis, typhoid, or polio. See CDC's destination tool for a full list of vaccines for each country.
Use of some vaccines may be restricted based on your age or other illnesses. For example, if you are older than 60 or if you have underlying health conditions, and you have never before received yellow fever vaccine, talk to your doctor about the advisability of getting this shot. Discuss your itinerary and the details of your travel plans with your doctor and, if necessary, alternatives to vaccination.
To watch out for possible interactions with travel medications, make sure the doctor knows all the medications you take routinely. A doctor may prescribe medicine for malaria, altitude sickness, or travelers' diarrhea. Travelers' diarrhea is common and may be more serious in seniors, so carefully follow food and water precautions.
For any medication you may take, plan to pack enough for the duration of the trip, plus a few days' extra in case of travel delays. Counterfeit drugs are common overseas, so take only medicine you bring with you from the United States.
Carry prescription medicine in its original container, along with a copy of the prescription. Pack medicine in your carry-on luggage, in case checked baggage gets lost.
Although exotic infections make the headlines, injury is the most common cause of preventable death among travelers.
You can minimize your risk of road accidents by following these tips:
- Always wear seatbelts.
- When possible, avoid riding in a car in a developing country at night.
- Do not ride motorcycles. If you must ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet.
- Know local traffic laws before you get behind the wheel.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Ride only in marked taxis that have seatbelts.
- Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
- Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
Consider your physical limitations, including things you may not think of like recovery from jet lag, motion sickness, and be aware that seniors may be at a greater risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots related to long distance travel.
Research your destination in advance to see what factors can affect your health, such as the elevation, climate, and risk of natural disasters. Senior travelers may have more problems in those extreme situations.
Consider Travel Insurance
Consider purchasing supplemental travel health insurance in case of injury or illness overseas. Many health plans, including Medicare, will not pay for services received outside the United States. Also, consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance, which will pay for emergency transportation to a hospital.