Be prepared! Travel with peace of mind and all the essential tools for an enjoyable vacation. Links included!
What better time to travel and see the world than during your Golden Years? For the Baby Boomers out there who are fortunate enough to be in retirement, my advice to you is to enjoy it to its fullest!
Seeing new places both near and far can help you feel refreshed and renewed. You may even be able to pick up a new skill while visiting a different culture!
While travel has its many perks, let’s be honest: traveling can also be a pain in the behind. Murphy’s Law, right?! Lost luggage, canceled reservations, delayed flights….we’ve all experienced headaches while traveling. But rarely do the hiccups prevent us from longing to visit another destination. It’s best to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and have an amazing time while traveling.
It’s inevitable you’ll be traveling somewhere in the near future, so the make the most of it by preparing for smooth travel! We know there’s a million travel tip blogs out there, so this one thinks a little outside the box, if you will. I swear by some of these tips myself; learn from my mistakes and plan your next awesome vacation today!
Planning and Booking Tips
- Plan ahead! Booking excursions and trips in advance may not only help you save money — it also saves you the stress of having to book fun things to do at the last minute. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your must-do trips being sold out!
- If an excursion or site is sold out, ask if there is a waiting list. People’s’ plans always change and there’s a chance you could still make your desired trip!
- Go ahead, pay for that checked luggage. Every time I want to save money by carrying n luggage, I quickly regret it: fighting for overhead space and lifting heavy bags is not a great way to start vacation!
- Plan ahead to have a neighbor keep an eye on your home. Setting automatic timers and making sure packages aren’t waiting at the front door help make it seem you’re not out of town. You can even ask the Post Office to place a hold on your mail while you’re gone.
- Make sure you bring plenty of medications. Call your pharmacy in advance to make sure you’ll have enough medications for your entire trip, plus a few days extra. If you’re due for a refill while you’re out of town, see if your doctor will authorize an early refill.
- Get your customizable My Daily Health Tracker. It’s a great resource — you can bring a copy with you and leave a copy with a loved one back home — and will help keep your doctor’s’ information and medication list organized.
- Talk with your doctor or pharmacist in advance about motion sickness medications; some are prescription strength. Beginning the medications before you need them is key! Learn from my mistake and don’t wait until you feel queasy!
- Plan some “down time.” Trips that are all go-go-go can be exhausting. Plus, who doesn’t love a good nap?
- Double check your passport and identification expiration dates.
- Travel in the “off season” — any time children are not off of school. You’ll save time and will face fewer crowds.
- Notify your credit card companies and banks you’ll be traveling, even if you’re not traveling out of the country. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Get in shape before your trip! Stretch and go on longer walks so you’re better prepared for days filled with activities. You can even get a low-cost pedometer to track your steps at home vs your steps while traveling.
- Bring cash! You can rarely have too much cash handy. Be sure to keep it securely hidden in a fanny pack or travel money belt.
- Purchase space saving bags. The remove air from luggage, more than doubling the amount you can fit in your suitcase. But be careful – more space can equal a heavier bag, and many airlines charge more for overweight bags. (Learn from my mistake!)
- Pack outfits together: your shirt, pants, undergarments, etc. for Day 1 altogether can make unpacking and deciding on outfits easier.
- Pack zip-lock bags (or splurge for a fancy waterproof bag)! They are a lifesaver for unexpected rainstorms or wet-weather excursions. Your phone and important documents will stay dry!
- Pack extra plastic shopping bags to store dirty clothes and shoes so they don’t mix with clean clothes when you return.
- Put something on your luggage that stands out. Some people use straps, ribbon, or unique luggage tags. Whatever you use, just make sure it doesn’t fall off!
- Pack a spare change of clothes in your carry on, just in case, preferably your outfit for the following day’s activities. We’ve all heard horror stories of lost luggage!
- Pack neutral-colored clothes. Blacks, tans, grays, and whites match almost everything. Get as much wear as you can out of each piece of clothing. Except your undergarments! Please, don’t re-wear those 🙂
- Pack for your destination: Beach and tropical vacations can be ruined by bug bites — bring bug spray. Cold-weather locations can be warm in the heated indoors — wear layers. In certain places, “formal wear” includes jeans. Think of what you’ll actually need and be prepared without overpacking. (No, you don’t need a ballgown for your beach vacation in the Islands!)
- For any type of travel, bring earplugs. They will help cancel out a noise plane, talking in the car, cruiseship announcements, etc.
- Don’t forget sunscreen! Snow and water can reflect the sun’s rays, and sunburns can happen even under an overcast sky.
- Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plan. It’ll save you space in your luggage.
- Wearing shoes without socks? Bring a spare pair of socks: no one likes walking on the dirty carpet through Security, plus your feet may get cold on the plane!
- Book flights in advance, using the “private” or “incognito” feature on your web browser. Believe it or not — airlines know when you’ve looked at a flight previously and have been known to raise the rates! Clearing your browser’s cache can also help.
- If you need assistance at the airport, just ask! Airport staff can help bring you from one gate to another if you are wheelchair bound. If you have difficulty walking, don’t be scared to ask for a wheelchair.
- Don’t be “that person”: don’t overdo your perfume or cologne, don’t pack a smelly tuna sandwich, and be pleasant to other travelers and airline staff. Peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches are filling and don’t stink up the plane; some travelers have allergies to certain scents. Help make others’ travel as pleasurable as you would like yours to be!
- Give the flight attendants a special treat by bringing them a big bag of candy. And we mean a big bag — not a little snack-sized one. Some frequent travelers swear by this!
- Save money on expensive drinks in the airport terminal by packing a refillable water bottle.
- Check the cruise ship’s map before selecting a room. You may think a room has a great location on that particular floor, until you realize it’s on top of the Casino — you will get no sleep! You can find a full floor plan on the ship’s website.
- Last minute cruises are often cheap — but don’t expect the best room on the ship. Saving money sometimes mean sacrificing luxuries like having a room close to an elevator.
- Before you book a Balcony or Window room, think about it: How much time will you actually be awake and in the room, enjoying your balcony or window? If you plan to do a lot of excursions, the room with a view may not be worth the extra expense.
- Bring ginger candy, peppermint tea, or gum to settle upset stomachs. Mints and gum work well for sea sickness and to settle an overstuffed belly (hello, buffets!)
- Interior walls of ships are metal. Bring magnets to post notes to family members, to easily view your daily itinerary, and to decorate your door!
- Bring cash to tip your room service attendant!
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator if you’re able.
- Wait to book spa and salon pamperings. Usually the ship will offer daily specials.
- Staying on the ship rather than exporting the port of call can be a great way to experience the ship’s offerings without the crowds. We especially recommend this on the newer, huge ships that have tons of activities!
Road Trip Tips
- Get your car serviced before your trip. Check your tire pressure and oil levels. Be sure to pack a car phone charger and buy an inexpensive emergency car kit. If you’re going somewhere cold, don’t forget an ice scraper. And don’t forget to check your spare tire and tire changing tools!
- Print out a copy of your directions. Sometimes GPS signals can get spotty and you don’t want to be lost on a long road trip.
- When scheduling your travel, be sure to build in bathroom and rest breaks. It’s important to stop every few hours to stretch and get your blood circulating.
- Plan your overnight stops ahead; you will likely pay lower rates online. Especially if you have pets, you may need to research hotels that allow your furry friends.
- Sign up for roadside service. But first, check with your car insurance or car manufacturer to see if they offer complimentary roadside assistance. Be sure to store the number in your cell phone and write it down!
- Pack a cooler with water, caffeinated soda, and some healthy snacks. It’ll keep you from stopping for unhealthy fast food — and also save you time and money! If you have medications that need to be refrigerated or are traveling with special treats, try a mini fridge for your car.
- Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. If you’re getting sleepy, safely pull over for a nap or let someone else take the wheel.
- Speeding is never as important as safety. Driving a little faster won’t shave significant time off of your trip.
- Ask the locals for their must-see spots and restaurants. Remember, the hotel staff are locals, too!
- Keep a travel journal of the places you visit and the favorite thing you did or saw there. Also keep track of the sights you missed that you’d like to return to see. Be sure to snap photos! Then, use your pictures and journal to create the ultimate scrapbook.
- Check out state and national parks along the way. Many offer senior discounts!
- Get car sick from reading? Listen to a book on tape or a podcast instead. Plus, that’s something everyone in the car can enjoy!
- On the other hand, not everyone will agree on the same music or entertainment in the car. Bring your own source of music and headphones.
International Travel Tips
- Always keep your passport and ID nearby. Keep an extra photocopy in your carryon bag.
- Scan and email yourself a copy of your passport. Also email the copy to a family or friend back home. If you ever lose your documents, saving a copy elsewhere can be a lifesaver!
- Long flights can be tiring. Make the flight go by faster by bringing everything you need to feel at home: something to read (the newest mystery novel should hold your attention), something to do (crossword puzzles are great), something to snack on (fruit will fill you up and replenish your water), something to drink (flights dehydrate you, so grab water instead of coffee or tea), something to listen to (your favorite music or podcast) — anything you need to keep yourself occupied for a few hours. Surprise your travel companion by making them an in-flight kit, too!
- Put your cell phone on “airplane mode” or simply turn it off to avoid excess charges. If you plan to use your phone to take photos, bring a portable battery charger.
- Grab some brochures or cards from your hotel so you can easily navigate back to your hotel. This is especially helpful when there’s a language barrier and you need a driver to bring you to the correct hotel!
- Eat the local food, both their delicacies and their “everyday” meals. One of my favorite things to eat while vacationing is the local traditional breakfast — each country begins their day differently.
- Make a bucket list of your must-see places and cross them off as you visit. Nothing feels as good as crossing off a to-do item on a list! Check out my made-for-you Baby Boomer Bucket List for unique ideas!
What are your must-have but often-forgotten travel tips? What travel mistakes have you made? Comment below!