Safe and healthy travel tips for seniors

Safe and healthy travel for seniors

Retirement is a terrific time to travel, whether you’re exploring new parts of your home state or hopping on the highway to cross the country. And with a little preparation ahead of time, you can plan for a safe and healthy trip.

Ready, Set, Travel!

Before taking an extended journey, consider a visit to your health care provider. Discuss any concerns you might have; make sure your vaccinations are up to date; and, if you’ve recently been sick, consider whether traveling might put you or others at risk.

Fatigue can be enough to derail a trip or turn a minor illness into something worse. Try to rest as much as you can before traveling and give yourself plenty of time to get ready in the days before you depart.

Don’t forget about jet lag if you’re crossing time zones. There are some tricks that can help minimize the effects. A few days before you leave, adjust when you go to sleep and wake up to match the time change in your destination. And while traveling, stay hydrated and avoid caffeine.

Finally, know your limits when planning your itinerary. For example, if you have heart problems, you may want to choose activities that aren’t any more strenuous than what you normally do at home.

Pack your bags

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends carrying all your prescription medications in your carry-on bag, in the event you and your checked luggage become separated or you need them quickly.

  • Keep prescription medicine in its original container. Make sure all containers are clearly labeled.
  • You do not need to place liquid, gel, and aerosol medications in a zip-top bag, and they may be more than 3.4 ounces. However, you should let security officers know about these medications when you enter screening.

Take some time before you leave to consider all the health and wellness items you’ll need away from home. This includes:

  • Medical supplies, such as glasses or contacts, insulin, or inhalers
  • Over-the-counter medicines, such as anti-diarrhea medicine, pain medicine, or cough drops
  • Important medical documents, such as copies of all prescriptions, health insurance ID card, and contact information for family or a friend

Use these suggestions from the CDC to create your own healthy travel checklist. 

On the go

Traveling with mobility issues takes additional planning. If you’re bringing any medical equipment—like a wheelchair or oxygen—call ahead to your hotel or transportation company to discuss any extra assistance you need.

When going through airport security, it never hurts to connect with TSA personnel. Let a TSA officer know about any special circumstances. There are particular screening procedures for travelers with diabetes kits or liquid medicines, as well as those with prosthetics or metal implants. You can also contact TSA Cares Passenger Support before leaving home. This is a helpline for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions, or other circumstances needing extra attention during screening.

Many people feel the effects of air sickness when flying, including nausea, cold sweats, or headaches. To lessen these symptoms, eat a light meal before you fly. If you can, choose a seat closer to the front of the plane or directly on the wings. If you still feel ill, try opening the air vents or asking for ginger ale.

According to the CDC, people with the flu can spread the virus up to six feet in any direction when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Steer clear of anyone who appears to be sick. Also consider carrying disinfecting wipes to clean off seat arms, tray tables, and other surfaces in your personal space. 

Be smart, stay safe

Injury is the most common cause of preventable death among travelers, according to the CDC.

Seniors can lower the risk of serious injury by following these guidelines:

  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Never drink and drive.
  • Don’t travel at night in unfamiliar areas.
  • Be cautious when swimming or doing other water activities.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating or making food and after using the bathroom, coughing, or sneezing. If you can’t find soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand gel.

As exciting as it is to travel, there are times you may need to cancel or postpone a trip. The CDC says in general, you should not travel by air if you:

  • Have recently had any type of surgery, especially stomach, brain, eye, or orthopedic (bone and joint) surgery, or a recent stomach, eye, or head injury. Check with your doctor to see when it is safe for you to travel.
  • Have had a recent heart attack or stroke.
  • Are suffering from:
    • Chest pain
    • Any disease that you can easily spread to other people
    • Swelling of the brain caused by bleeding, injury, or infection
    • Severe sinus, ear, or nose infections
    • Severe chronic respiratory diseases, breathlessness at rest, or a collapsed lung
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Psychotic illness, except when fully controlled
  • Have a fever of 100° F (38° C) or greater AND one or more of the following:
    • Obvious signs of illness (e.g., severe headache, weakness, skin and eyes turning yellow)
    • Skin rash
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Persistent, severe cough
    • Confusion, especially if it has just started
    • Bruising or bleeding (without previous injury)
    • Diarrhea that does not go away
    • Vomiting that does not go away (other than motion sickness)

You can find even more travel tips by visiting our Wellness page and searching “travel.”

Wander without worry

WPS Medicare supplement insurance plans give you the freedom to choose any doctors or hospitals that accept Medicare, anywhere in the U.S. So whether you’re soaking up the sun in San Diego or visiting family in Fargo, you’ll receive the same coverage anywhere in the United States. This includes all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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