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A senior moment: Traveling as we age: plan, adapt, enjoy! – Chico Enterprise



This is the first of four columns on senior travel.

Do you have the urge to travel? It wouldn’t be surprising. A 2014 study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies showed that 36 percent of Baby Boomers want to travel when they retire, and on average, they spend about $11,000 yearly for their trips. (www.robinspost.com/news/travel-news)

Travel may include some risks, but the socialization and stimulation of travel result in positive health benefits. University of Arkansas geriatrician David Lipschitz reported to the Dallas Morning News that seniors who travel live longer.

To reduce the risks and heighten the enjoyment of travel, this column and subsequent columns include not only information from online sources, but also from my own experiences and those of local friends who travel frequently, many of whom participate in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute “Armchair Traveler” class where travelers share their trips and tips.

The following insights about how to choose the best type of travel for our current stage of life and how to make graceful age-related adaptations for easier, safer travel are offered in hope of encouraging readers to join those who travel so they can grow by broadening their experience in the world. While domestic travel offers many opportunities, these comments pertain mainly to international travel.

Destination and excursion style

One piece of excellent advice comes from OLLI member Mark Kowta, who points out that to have a really satisfying travel experience you should think carefully about your goals and expectations for your trip and choose a destination and method of travel that will help you meet those goals. Decide how much free time for independent exploring or relaxing you will want. Also make a realistic appraisal of your physical condition and limitations, perhaps with a doctor’s help.

If you want an adventurous, active trip and can handle high altitudes and heavy exertion, maybe hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu will be a good choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for relaxation, ease, and pampering with some interesting city visits, a cruise might be more appropriate.

Several friends I spoke with indicated that for this stage of their lives, cruises are in order. Nancy Gipson, who has been an avid traveler for most of her life, suggests that “As you get older, make your life easy.” Now that she has traded living on the East Coast for the West Coast, she avoids long flights to Europe and enjoys cruises out of San Francisco, often with OLLI friends. She enjoys the good food, good company, and interesting ports of call.

Nancy Loeffler agrees that unpacking once is a bonus. On the “If this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium” type of tours, with a new location every day or two, much time is wasted packing and unpacking. She prefers either sea or river cruises or a tour centered in one city where she can focus her time on other interests.

Lynn Wilson of Shared Travel (lynn@sharedtravel.com) feels great enthusiasm for the versatility of river cruises. “River cruises allow for seeing a country on the freeway of 200 years ago with the cities that are built around the river in Eruope.” She points out that most include excursions as well as meals and the smaller ships are more intimate than larger ships, allowing you to get to know your fellow travelers. “It is an easy way for singles to travel and not feel alone,” she adds.

River cruises do require travelers to have reasonable mobility because docking set ups can require walking over another ship to get to the dock. Some river cruises even have bikes for the use of passengers who wish to ride from one city to the next and meet up again with the boat.

For seniors who would like to leave all the travel arrangements to the experts, finding a reliable, compatible cruise or tour group can provide safety, access to out-of-the way places, and freedom from hassle. The services of a travel agent well-informed about the area of the world and mode of travel you choose can also be very valuable. Travel agents know the best bargains and can pass them on to you.

Wilson suggests it is possible to travel well as you age if you spend more time planning. Her experience shows that “Even people with cognitive issues can enjoy travel if you set up a trip that allows more time for rest.” If you can afford it, Wilson recommends that you upgrade plane tickets to first class, so you arrive more refreshed to begin your trip, because “Getting there is part of the trip and it should be as relaxing as possible, too.

Wilson also explains that to reduce stress, small, private tours allow for flexibility of schedule to accommodate individual needs. You should choose a hotel in an enjoyable part of the city where it will be safe for you to walk around and enjoy the sights.

For those wanting travel focused on learning about culture, history, or archaeology, many tour organizations feature smaller groups and stays of two to three days in each location. Road Scholar and Overseas Adventure Travel are two senior-focused groups that are recommended by those who value learning more than relaxation. Scott and Linda Perry have been on six OAT tours, most recently to Sicily, and are planning a seventh. They often choose OAT tours because of small sizes, hands-on cultural learning, and home visits with locals.

Others, like Nancy Loeffler, prefer tours offered by college alumni groups or organizations such as Smithsonian or National Geographic. Loeffler points out that you can sign up either through the participating organization or through vendors, such Academic Arrangements Abroad, who have developed the tour.

For Loeffler, it is important not only to have a knowledgeable tour guide, but also an excellent tour manager to attend to the needs of the participants and the smooth running of the trip. Recently she chose a river cruise based on previous positive experience with the tour manager.

For seniors traveling alone, a tour can provide safety and a chance to meet new people, but the single supplement that is often added can be costly. However, the websites for most tour groups will list some trips for which the single supplement is waived, which can lead to considerable savings.

Sharing travel expenses with a group of friends can also provide savings and companionship. Joyce Groshong reported that in years past she was contacted by someone she had formed a friendship with on an earlier tour who was organizing a group to share a house for a month in France. Groshong was only able to stay for three weeks, but the friend divided rent and utility expenses among the group depending on the length of time each participant stayed. The friend also rented a car and organized outings to a nearby language school and other day trips, creating an enjoyable trip at reduced cost.

Further savings are available if you travel during the off-peak or “shoulder” season, usually April through mid-June and September through October, when prices for transportation and accommodation are reduced, attractions are less crowded, but weather is still good. One caveat is that services and open hours for attractions may also be reduced so you should make sure that what you want to see and do will still be available.

Part II of “Traveling as we age” will feature information about trip preparation.

Leslie Howard is a retired English teacher and certificated gerontologist. She welcomes comments and suggestions at leslie.t.howard@gmail.com.

Article source: http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20170714/FEATURES/170719816

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