Is age stopping you from traveling? Recent conversations with women friends over 50 (many of us over 60) revealed that we all want to travel and we all have some concerns. Turns out, it’s these 7 worries that stop us from traveling after 50 or any age, for that matter. Here’s we can do about them.
When my husband and I met in our mid-fifties, we talked a lot about the things we still wanted to do in life and travel was high on the list. I confessed to a ridiculously paralyzing heights phobia, but also stated firmly that it would not stop me from going the places I wanted to go. (I reserved the right to opt out if he wanted to go places I didn’t!) My friends echoed this sentiment saying they would not let their fears, concerns, worries, or whatever stop them, but they did need to figure out how to address them.
Here’s our list of concerns to address when traveling after 50. Thankfully, most can be overcome with a little forethought and planning.
Lack of Funds
This topped everyone’s list. Though none of us are in dire straits, most viewed travel as a luxury and therefore last on spending priorities.
But being a bunch of smart chicks, we came up with some viable – and interesting – ways to reduce costs and perhaps even add to the adventure.
- Choose low-cost destinations - No one wants to give up their bucket list, but some places are simply less expensive than others. We quickly realized we could exchange some destinations for others without feeling like we were giving up a dream. Forbes has posted a list of 30 cheapest mostly international travel destinations for 2017 that includes some pretty delicious options. Travel and Leisure has posted a similar list for US destinations. Granted, cheap can be a relative term, but the point is there are lots of wonderful places to see that may not break the bank.
- Consider low-cost housing options – Decades of business travel taught me to choose when to stay in the thick of things, and when to stay away from the hustle and bustle and save money as a result. Look into hostels (no, they are not just for the young), Air BNB, camping/glamping, house/pet sitting, or budget chains for potentially less expensive accommodations. We’ve had good luck in our recent cross-country trips with Red Roof Inns. They’ve remodeled many of their properties and we found them mostly clean, comfortable, and affordable. We also have different criteria for a quick overnight on a road trip vs. a destination stay where the accommodation is part of the experience.
- Picnic anyone? It always surprises me that more folks don’t take advantage of picnic opportunities, especially on road trips. We’ve enjoyed some beautiful scenery and even met a cute mink (who kept a very polite distance). Though we personally don’t go for fast food, we do enjoy locally-owned restaurants and diners, with local flavors and atmosphere. They also tend to be less expensive.
- Are you leaking money? The classic example is coffee out. One a day can quickly add up to $150 or more per month for one person. Other examples are memberships you no longer use (gyms, store memberships) or premium services for internet and cable that may be overkill. Perhaps switching from a bookstore to the library for those books you aren’t likely to keep could be a significant saver. That one change alone saved me over $700 the year I tracked it. This isn’t about deprivation. It’s about cutting off unnecessary expenditures and using those funds for something more fun.
We laughed at ourselves over this one, and also admitted it was real. Pinterest is your friend! Search “capsule wardrobe” and be astounded. A capsule wardrobe is both art and science, but mainly it’s a lifesaver.
The term capsule wardrobe was originally coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called "Wardrobe," back in the 1970s. When it comes to travel, it means creating a compact wardrobe based on a few non-wrinkly staples (and I also prefer hand washable), plus a limited number of coordinating accessories and shoes. The key is sticking to a color scheme so everything mixes and matches into multiple outfits.
Back in my business travel days, I had two capsule wardrobes. One revolved around brown/tan shoes and accessories, the other revolved around black. I could pack enough for two weeks into one bag plus a carry-on for things I didn’t want to check. The other gals were schlepping the limit for carry-ons plus mountains of checked luggage.
For baby boomers, our concerns could be for our own health or, if we are caregivers, the health of our parents.
- If you are traveling internationally, you’ll want to determine whether your insurance will cover you should you have an accident or become ill. Talk with your agent and/or check into travel insurance to make sure you are covered for any eventuality. Group trips often include travel insurance in their package, but if you are travelling solo, you’ll need to take care of this yourself.
- Regardless of where you are traveling, and especially if traveling alone, you will want to have instructions for your care, information about allergies or medications, and emergency contact information where they can easily be found.
- When my parents were alive, my job within the family was to respond to their health needs – take them to the doctor, confer with medical and nursing home staff, and accompany them to the ER. When we traveled, we made arrangements for back-ups and for communications. That can be family or friends, but there are also services that can step in as needed.
- Perhaps the most important consideration is maintaining healthy habits. We love road trips, but they can be murder on getting enough exercise or eating well. We carry water with us, but can be hit-or-miss on remembering to bring healthy snacks. We also tend to get slack regarding our daily supplements and vitamins. Don’t do that! We promise to do a better job and encourage you to make self-care a priority. Good health habits may be even more important when the routine and environment are different.
War, Terrorism, Uncertainty, and the Unknown
Some things cannot be predicted, but we can take reasonable precautions. Especially when it comes to international travel, some destinations just are not smart choices right now, particularly for solo travelers.
In today’s climate of crazy attacks and fake news, it can be hard to tell what’s a genuine concern and what is being blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, I prefer to err on the side of wisdom, not fear. US travelers can subscribe to Smart Traveler through the US Department of State to get updated information on destinations. Many countries offer a similar service.
Fear of Flying
I have a love/hate relationship with flying. For trips that are all about the destination, I love arriving “quickly.” The view from aloft is splendid, but my crazy heights phobia kicks in sometimes, especially when there is turbulence.
Deep breathing and meditation can help. Reading or watching a movie can generally take my mind off of the circumstances. My doctor has also provided me with a script for breakout anxiety, if needed. That isn’t for everyone and I try everything else first. But in this case, I’m not Wonder Woman and am comforted that my doctor offered another option. You may also want to consider the anti-fear-of-flying programs offered by many airlines. For a fun rom-com spin on fear of flying, watch Meg Ryan in French Kiss.
I enjoy solo travel, but it isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, there are many options for group travel or planned solo travel.
If you like to combine learning with travel, look into Road Scholars. They provide both solo and group options. Or combine travel with teaching through WorldTeach. ElderTreks offers adventure travel to the over-50 crowd. Joining group trips has the added perk of meeting new friends.
Another option is to travel with one or two friends. Working out many of the details before departure helps. Do you want to make it up as you go or map a specific route and destinations? Do you want to do everything together or have some alone time plus joint adventures. Sort this out in your trip planning.
Weather and Other Acts of Nature
We have had to re-route trips because of storms and forest fires, but so far have not had to cancel.
If you are taking a group trip, the organizer will be watching the weather for you. For trips you’ve planned yourself, it’s as easy as paying attention to a weather channel or app. If planning a trip to somewhere known for weather issues, (the Caribbean during hurricane season, for example), consider trip insurance to cover cancellations. On a road trip, a GPS or good old-fashioned map (we use them often) can help you find an alternative route.
As the conversations continued, we gal pals – some single, some married; some solo travelers others strictly in pairs or groups - agreed that we were not going to allow worries to stop us. Instead, we were going to do our homework, tackle our obstacles, and hit the road. See you out there!