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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Cziprusz

Senior Travel Tips: A Physical Therapist’s Guide

Updated: May 2

Whether you are thinking about taking your dream vacation or visiting family across the country, careful travel planning is key to making the most of your next adventure.  As an avid traveler and physical therapist, I am excited to share my top tips for senior travel.  From meticulous planning and savvy packing to the best exercises you should do on the airplane, these insights will help ensure your trip is smooth and enjoyable.  With the right preparation and mindset, travel can open a gateway for enriching new experiences, connections, and personal growth. 


Senior couple at airport.

Planning: First and foremost, plan ahead! 

 

Destination and Accommodation: 

When selecting a destination, prioritize accessibility to accommodate any mobility limitations you or your travel companions may have. Opt for centrally located accommodations with easy access to attractions and/or public transportation.  Research accessibility of accommodations and transportation options, as elevator access and adaptive features like widened doorways, grab bars, and step-free access are not a given. 

 

Itinerary

When crafting your itinerary, remember to build in rest days! You will likely be doing a lot more walking than you plan for, so adding some cushion for downtime is a great way to prioritize rest and relaxation.  Another great strategy is to embrace the concept of slow travel, which refers to spending more time in one place.  Slow travel reduces stress and travel complexities, as well as promotes a more authentic and meaningful cultural experience.  

 

Health

To ensure you are physically prepared for your journey, gradually increase your exercise routine leading up to your trip.  A few months prior to your trip is a great time to start a walking program.  Work up to walking 30 minutes per day at a moderate pace most days of the week.  Add in two strength training sessions per week so you will feel confident climbing stairs to see all the bell towers, rooftops, and monuments your heart desires.

 

Logistics

Consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck or the Global Entry to expedite airport security screening. If you aren’t able to book a direct flight, make sure you have an extra cushion of time for layovers.  Research travel insurance so you are prepared in case you need to cancel your trip, your luggage is lost, or you have a medical emergency.  Many credit cards include travel insurance, so you won’t necessarily need a stand-alone policy.  You can check which cards include travel insurance here.

 

It’s also wise to share travel itineraries and copies of important IDs/documents with an emergency contact before you leave and to carry your medication list and emergency contact numbers with you.

 

Packing

Congrats, you have your trip planned and you are ready to get packing!  Packing is truly an art. With baggage allowance limitations that vary from airline to airline, packing can get tricky fast.  The best advice is to pack light. Prioritize comfort and convenience and bring two great pairs of walking shoes (wear one and pack one). Leave your valuables at home and make sure you have a good strategy to store your phone and wallet so you aren’t a target for theft. 

 

If you are going on a longer trip, book an accommodation that has a laundry option. Pack in a small rolling suitcase or carry-on and if you bring a second piece, add a backpack or tote so you can confidently manage your luggage wherever you go.  

 

Make sure to pack all medications in their original containers and keep them in your carry-on. If you wear eyeglasses, it is wise to pack an extra pair. Similarly, if you wear hearing aids, plan to bring extra batteries. Mobility aids, like a foldable cane or collapsible walking sticks, pack easily and can come in handy when navigating a new city.  Devices like wheelchairs and rollators can be tagged and checked at the gate. 

 

Flying

Your bags are packed and you are ready for your adventure!  When flying, use support services if needed. If you know you will have difficulty reaching the gate, you can request wheelchair assistance or an electric cart.  

 

It is important to stay well-hydrated before and during the flight.  You can refill a reusable water bottle after passing through security.  Pack nutritious snacks like nuts and granola bars to keep energy levels up throughout the trip.  Don’t forget your hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to help fend off germs.

 

If you can, select an aisle seat so you are able to get up and down more freely during the flight. Try to get up to walk or do some gentle exercises in your seat every 1-2 hours to help reduce stiffness and improve blood flow.

 

I’m sharing my Top 6 Airplane Exercises. Print these out so you have them for your next trip!

 

Age should never be a barrier to travel. With careful planning and an adventurous spirit, seniors can enjoy active travel experiences across the globe.  For more travel inspiration and resources,  check out the AARP website and start planning your next adventure today!

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