Travel Tips for Older Americans |
June 1, 2004
International travel can be a rich and rewarding adventure. Whether you have waited a lifetime to take the perfect trip or are an experienced world traveler, we would like to offer some advice to help you plan a safe and healthy trip.
PREPARATION FOR YOUR TRIP
Start Early. Apply for your passport as soon as possible. Three months before your departure date should give you plenty of time.
Learn About the Countries You Plan to Visit. Before you go, read up on the culture, people, and history for the places you will travel. Bookstores and libraries are good resources. Travel magazines and the travel sections of major newspapers tell about places to visit and also give advice on everything from discount airfares to international health insurance. Many travel agents and foreign tourist bureaus provide free information on travel abroad.
For information about travel and consular services now available on the World Wide Web, click here. Visitors to the web site will find Travel Warnings and a link to the State Department's main site on the World Wide Web that provides users with current foreign affairs information. To visit the State Department's site click here
Leave a Detailed Itinerary. Give a friend or relative your travel schedule. Include names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons and places to be visited; your passport number and the date and place it was issued; and credit card, travelers check, and airline ticket numbers.
What to Pack. Carefully consider the clothing you take. Don't pack more than you need and end up lugging around heavy suitcases. Wash-and-wear clothing and sturdy walking shoes are good ideas. Consider the climate and season in the countries you will visit and bring an extra outfit for unexpectedly warm or cool weather. Include a change of clothing in your carry-on luggage
Flying. On overseas flights, break up long periods of sitting. Leave your seat from time to time and also do in-place exercises. This will help prevent you from arriving tired and stiff-jointed. Also, get some exercise after a long flight. For example, take a walk or use your hotel's exercise room.
Health Insurance. It is wise to review your health insurance policy before you travel. In some places, particularly at resorts, medical costs can be as high or higher than in the United States. If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a policy that does. There are short-term health insurance policies designed specifically to cover travel
The Social Security Medicare program does not provide for payment of hospital or medical services obtained outside the United States. However, some Medicare supplement plans offer foreign medical care coverage at no extra cost for treatments considered eligible under Medicare. These are reimbursement plans. Many of these plans have a dollar ceiling per trip.
Medication. If you require medication, bring an ample supply in its original containers because of strict laws concerning narcotics throughout the world.
If you wear eyeglasses, take an extra pair with you. Pack medicines and extra eyeglasses in your hand luggage so they will be available in case your checked luggage is lost. If you have allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods, or insect bites, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing a "medical alert" bracelet. You may also wish to carry a letter from your physician explaining desired treatment should you become ill.
Medical Assistance Abroad. If you get sick, you can contact a consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a list of local doctors, dentists, and medical specialists, along with other medical information.
Health Precautions. Air pollution and high altitudes are a particular health risk for the elderly and persons with high blood pressure, anemia, or respiratory or cardiac problems. If this applies to you, consult your doctor before traveling.
If possible, drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled for 20 minutes. Be aware of ice cubes that may not have been made with purified water. Vegetables and fruits should be peeled or washed in a purifying solution.
MONEY AND VALUABLES
Don't Take Your Money in Cash. Bring most of your money in traveler's checks. Have a reasonable amount of cash with you, but not more than you will need for a day or two. Convert your traveler's checks to local currency as you use them rather than all at once.
You may also wish to bring at least one internationally-recognized credit card. Once you are abroad, local banks generally give more favorable rates of exchange than hotels, restaurants, or stores for converting your U.S. dollars and traveler's checks into foreign currency.
PRACTICAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Guard Your Passport. Your passport is the most valuable document you carry abroad. It confirms that you are an American citizen. Do not carry your passport in the same place as your money or pack it in your luggage.
Be Alert. Move purposefully and confidently. If you should find yourself in a crowded area, such as in an elevator, subway, marketplace, or in busy tourist areas, exercise special caution to avoid theft.
Robbery. Help prevent theft by carrying your belongings securely. Carry purses tucked under an arm and not dangling by a strap. Carry valuables hidden in an inside front pocket or in a money belt, not in a hip pocket.
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