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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Planning safe and fun vacations with senior citizens

Rishabh Bahl   April 04, 2012
First Published: 14:04 IST(4/4/2012) | Last Updated: 14:04 IST(4/4/2012)
With age being just a number and fitness being a guiding mantra, especially for those above 60, travelling just became more fun-filled, exciting and adventurous. According to Rahul Dutta, who works in the Hilton in London, "our peak season in summer sees groups of seniors coming from the US and Europe, beating recession, opting for countryside tours and concert tours". A large chunk of their bookings are by the 60 plus who want to travel, experience new places, return to old favourites and pushing back the sunset years. His observation is that, they are extremely thorough in their travel plans. They know what they are going in for. They ask hundreds of questions before finalising the trip and are very budget conscious and price sensitive. He finds it strangely comforting working with this age group because they are so receptive to hospitality, good arrangements and happy experiences. They give instant feedback and loads of blessings. In a nutshell, "its nice to see them satisfied and happy and to strive to give them their value for money."


According to him, when elders travel they should divide their travel plans into four segments: Choice of destination; budget and financial management; medical profiling; packing; and safety/security concerns.

Choice of destination
  • Have an internal dialogue with yourself to see and understand what is it that you want, where you want to go, what your preferences are, what are you seeking from the vacation
  • Ask yourself if you want to go alone, in a group or with a companion
  • If with a companion, make sure that the person and you are in sync with each other and are seeking more or less the same things from the vacation; being like minded and on the same wavelength will determine how happy and satisfying your vacation will be
  • Do extensive home work on the destination that you have chosen
  • Try to find out if someone you know, preferably in the same age group, who has gone to the place and check out do's and don'ts
  • Carry a small folder with details on the place, buy a guide book if necessary, read up travel blogs and personal experiences, apart from travelogues, make a list of places to go to etc

Budget and financial planning

  • Hire a good tour operator or planner who can guide you and plan your itinerary
  • Do a thorough reference check on the tour company
  • Undertake your own recee, in terms of costing - air fare, hotel costs, transfers, in-country travel, food, cost of guides, tickets to operas etc and then compare it with the tour company is offering
  • Negotiate hard with the travel agents and tour planners and get whatever discounts you can manage
  • Carry the right combination of dollars, travellers cheques, credit cards with you
  • Have a back up plan in case you fall short of money by sounding friends/relatives in the country you are visiting (in case they are there) or sound a friend back home in case an urgent transfer needs to be made
  • Avoid making last minute cancellations since you could lose money
  • Carry a currency converter

Medical profiling

  • Check out the medical facilities available in the country that you are planning to visit
  • Sound the tour operator in case of any requirement relating to wheelchair, portable oxygen concentrators or any other medical equipment that you might be carrying or may need on flight or later during the trip
  • Get a travel insurance that will cover an existing medical condition
  • Before heading out, consult your doctor for a comprehensive medical investigation and get all clearances and list of precautions
  • Check for any vaccination that may be needed

Packing
  • Pack according to the climate in the country. Even if traveling to a tropical country, there is no harm packing an extra jacket as climate can change
  • Take enough medicines to last the trip; cater for unforeseen emergencies such as loss of luggage or damage to medicines; also provision for the fact that a particular medicine may not be available in the country you are going to
  • Keep your medical papers and medicines in the handbag; have a properly labeled preferably laminated sheet or card in your wallet that gives your blood group, medical condition and other details.
  • Make sure your cabin bag contains everything that you might require during the whole duration of the flight. Keep essential medicines in your carry bag - painkillers, regular medication, band aids and antacids
  • Carry a suitcase which has wheels so that you don't strain your back (the four wheel bags are convenient). Also have a small canvas zipped up bag inside for use during the day for sightseeing
  • Light travel is advisable; carry easy to wash, drip dry clothes; pure cotton, which allows the skin to breathe is better
  • Also carry hat, shades, sun block, moisturiser, hand towels, tissue, small scissor or knife
  • Spare photos, photocopies of ticket, visa, travel insurance would be good; also email all these to yourself so that they can be accessed from anywhere
  • Getting a local sim card works out cheaper than having an international roaming and you can do this as soon as you land

Safety and security concerns
  • Stay in groups and avoid venturing out alone at night
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewellery and carrying a lot of money in your wallet. Spread it out and keep some money in a belt, next to your skin, for emergency.
  • Carry your country's embassy phone number and any other emergency numbers at all times.
  • It is better to stick to bottled mineral water to avoid stomach infections.
  • While eating food, especially in take aways and road side stalls, verify what exactly you are eating and paying for.
  • Don't chalk out a hectic itinerary but keep enough time to relax and rest. And if you feel exhausted or unwell do not hesitate to sound your companion or tour guide; if need be skip an engagement, catch up on rest/sleep and be refreshed for subsequent travel
  • Avoid undercooked food, street food, unpasteurized dairy products and peeled raw fruits. This will lessen chances of food poisoning and microbial infections.
  • Ask your travel operator or Embassy for a list of doctors in the area of your visit
  • Talking to strangers and giving out too much information about yourself may not be very wise. Be discreet but no need to be paranoid

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