Exploring the Country and the World: Travel Tips and Insights for Older Adults

Traveling as an older adult can be a rewarding experience. Proper planning and consideration allow for enjoyable, safe, and enriching adventures, whether exploring cultural landmarks, embarking on relaxing cruises, or pursuing other exciting travel opportunities.

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Exploring the Country and the World: Travel Tips and Insights for Older Adults
8 Min Read January 23rd, 2024

The world whispers of hidden wonders, and even with a few extra years on the clock, the urge to explore doesn't fade. But let's be honest: stairs can become mountains, and cobblestone streets feel like obstacles. 

As you or a loved one ages, the sense of adventure doesn't diminish; in fact, for many older adults, it blossoms into a newfound desire to explore the world. Traveling in your golden years can be an enriching experience, offering opportunities for discovery, relaxation, and precious moments with loved ones.

The open road, the scent of new cultures, the thrill of the unknown – travel holds its magic for people of all ages, including our beloved seniors. Yet, for older adults, venturing beyond the familiar can present unique challenges, from mobility and health concerns to navigating unfamiliar territory. 

Despite these hurdles, the number of older travelers is on the rise, with recent data from the Senior List revealing that nearly 37% of people aged 60 and above took or plan to take a leisure trip in 2023. This trend underscores the enduring human desire for adventure and exploration, irrespective of age.

According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, a U.S. Department of Commerce division, in 2021, over 42 million Americans aged 65 and older embarked on domestic and international journeys. This number is expected to continue growing as the population ages.

Older travelers may encounter unique challenges. Mobility issues can be a concern, making it vital to choose destinations and activities that cater to individual needs. Some may require assistance with walking, while others may need mobility aids. Travelers should research accessibility and accommodations in advance to ensure a smooth experience.

So, how do you or your loved ones, the seasoned adventurers with grey in their hair, keep wandering without the aches and pains? 

Move it Easy 

Let's face it, climbing the Eiffel Tower might not be on the agenda anymore. But that doesn't mean you can't explore! Cruise ships are like floating cities, with everything you need just a shuffle away. Guided tours for seniors keep the pace gentle, letting you savor the sights without getting worn out. These massive ships have medical facilities and doctors on board if needed. Travel agencies for older folks know all about ramps, elevators, and comfy beds, ensuring your journey is as smooth as silk.

Health First, Fun Always 

Think of your medicine bottle as your travel partner. Pack those pills and prescriptions like they're gold! Look up hospitals and doctors near your destination, just in case. Choose places to stay with grab bars in the bathroom and showers you can step into, not climb over. And remember, slow walks and sightseeing breaks are your friends, not enemies.

What if you have a travel medical emergency? If in the United States, your health insurance, or Medicare, will work just like at home. However, if outside the U.S., what happens?

Medicare typically does not provide coverage for medical services when you're traveling outside the United States. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. In some instances, Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) may cover services received while on a ship within the territorial waters near U.S. land areas. It's important to note that Medicare will not cover medical services if the ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.

In rare situations, Medicare may offer coverage for inpatient hospitalization, doctor visits, and ambulance services in a foreign country. These situations include:

  • You are in the United States when a medical emergency occurs, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital capable of treating your medical condition.
  • You are traveling through Canada, without unreasonable delay, on the most direct route between Alaska and another U.S. state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital equipped to handle the emergency.
  • You reside in the United States, and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital capable of treating your medical condition, regardless of whether it's an emergency or not.

Furthermore, Medicare may cover medically necessary ambulance transportation to a foreign hospital, but only when it is associated with admission for medically necessary covered inpatient hospital services. 

Reviewing your Medicare plan and consulting with the appropriate authorities when planning international travel is crucial to fully understand your coverage and options.

Resources for Medical Emergencies

Unfortunately, medical emergencies are a real possibility for older travelers. Medical emergencies are unpredictable, but preparing for them can ensure a quick and efficient response, reducing panic and potentially saving lives. Utilizing resources, such as medical escorts and travel companions, can provide reassurance and physical assistance during travel. Medical escorts are health professionals who accompany senior travelers, providing medical care if needed.

On the other hand, travel companions offer companionship and help with logistics like navigating airports. Older adults may consider commercial airline stretcher services for long-haul flights, which provide a flat surface to lie on. Air ambulance services, equipped with medical facilities, can transport older adults quickly to the nearest medical facility in extreme cases. Quick response times are among the many benefits of critical care medical transport services.

Long-Term Care

If you own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy and require care while traveling abroad due to an accident or a health event, some policies offer coverage for a limited amount of benefits. In certain instances, these policies may even provide complete coverage for benefits outside the United States.

Be sure to check with the agent or the company before you leave, especially if you plan on traveling for an extended period. If you have not purchased an LTC policy yet (most people do so in their 40s or 50s) and international travel is something you plan, be sure to ask the LTC Insurance specialist about international benefits. 

Traveling Solo or With Loved One?

Some love the freedom of flying solo, exploring at their own pace. Others enjoy sharing laughs and stories with a spouse or friend. Grown-up kids can lend a hand with luggage and translations, while group tours offer new faces and helping hands. No matter what, choose someone who fuels your wanderlust and makes you grin from ear to ear.

Traveling with a companion can significantly ease the journey for older adults, especially those with disabilities or health concerns. Having a travel partner provides an extra set of hands and eyes to assist with luggage, navigation, and managing potential health issues. 

Whether it's a family member, friend, or a hired travel companion, their presence can enhance the overall travel experience by ensuring safety, comfort, and peace of mind for the older adult. This companionship adds practical support and creates opportunities for shared memories and a more enjoyable travel adventure.

Life's Little Bumps

Even meticulously planned journeys can encounter unexpected challenges. While falling ill with a stomach bug while abroad may be unsettling, measures must be taken to ensure a smoother experience. It's advisable to select travel destinations that boast reputable hospitals and medical facilities in case of emergencies. 

Additionally, consider hiring a medical escort who can provide professional medical care while you're on the move, serving as a doctor on the go. Your travel companions can also play a crucial role in these situations, offering support by procuring necessary medications or locating a comfortable resting place to aid in your recovery, demonstrating that a little help from your friends can indeed make a significant difference in times of need.

Embrace the Adventure! 

Recent research from AARP reveals that nearly 70% of Americans 50+ are planning to travel in 2024, proving that wanderlust is ageless. But where do you plant your flag on this vast map of adventure? Let's explore some of the hottest spots for seasoned globetrotters, both domestically and internationally.

International Shores Beckon

  • Italy's Timeless Enchantment: From the Colosseum's grandeur to the Amalfi Coast's sun-kissed cliffs, Italy remains a top draw for its historical treasures, delectable cuisine, and charming villages. Recent data from Virtuoso shows Italy reclaiming its top spot as the most popular international destination for Americans, with its appeal holding strong for older travelers as well.
  • Emerald Isle Enchantment: Ireland's rolling green hills, friendly locals, and vibrant pubs offer a warm welcome and a chance to reconnect with ancestral roots. Explore Dublin's historic streets, hike the rugged cliffs of Moher, or sip a Guinness in a cozy pub – the Emerald Isle has something for every adventurer.
  • Latin America's Allure: Mexico, with its ancient ruins, vibrant cities, and stunning beaches, is a closer option for a taste of Latin America. Explore the Mayan temples of Chichen Itza, stroll through Oaxaca's colorful markets, or relax on the pristine beaches of Tulum – the possibilities are endless.

Domestic Delights Await

  • National Park Majesty: The United States boasts a treasure trove of natural wonders, perfect for those who crave fresh air and breathtaking scenery. Hike through the geysers of Yellowstone, marvel at the towering redwoods of Yosemite, or spot elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park – America's national parks offer endless opportunities for exploration.
  • Historic Cities Whisper Stories: Dive into the rich history of Boston, with its Freedom Trail and cobblestone streets, or wander the charming streets of Charleston, where antebellum architecture and Southern hospitality abound. These cities offer a glimpse into the past, with museums, historic sites, and delicious local fare to keep you entertained.
  • Sun-Kissed Shores: For those seeking relaxation and sunshine, Florida and California offer endless options. Soak up the sun on the beaches of Miami or San Diego, explore the vibrant coral reefs of the Florida Keys, or hike the rugged trails of Big Sur – the possibilities for coastal bliss are endless.

Remember, Age is Just a Number

No matter where your compass points, embrace the journey! Pack your comfortable shoes and a sense of wonder, and don't be afraid to stray from the beaten path. Chat with locals, savor regional dishes, and collect memories along the way. The most precious souvenirs are not trinkets, but the experiences that enrich your soul.

Planning for Peace of Mind

A little preparation goes a long way. Research your destination's health facilities and consider travel insurance for unexpected medical needs. Choose accommodations with accessibility features if needed, and pack essential medications and toiletries. Remember, slower travel often leads to richer experiences, so don't overschedule your itinerary.

Ensure your passport is still valid, and prepare to enjoy travel. Pack comfy shoes, always carry water, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Learn a few key phrases in the local language, and embrace the unexpected – that's where the best stories come from!

If your older loved one wants to travel but has reservations, go with them. An older parent will usually enjoy the time with their son or daughter and put them at ease during travel. For example, a cruise could be an easy and safe travel option, and multiple generations can enjoy together. However, there are lots of options. Just take the opportunity to take advantage of them.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

As you envision your retirement, thoughts of relaxation, travel, and cherished time with loved ones undoubtedly come to mind. However, as retirement approaches, it's essential to consider the potential challenges that aging may bring, especially concerning your health and future long-term care needs. Long-Term Care Insurance (LTC) should be a fundamental component of your comprehensive retirement plan, and here's why.

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