One of my first baby boomer travel blogger friends, Irene S. Levine, is now also the publisher of Getting On Travel, a website providing “a fresh take on luxury for travelers over 50”. Irene has given me permission to share some of her contributing writers’ travel tips for midlife and beyond.
Uncle Sam issued me my first passport when I was 9, in 1963. That’s when my father decided he should pile our family of 5 into a 1957 Chevy and drive to God Knows Where in Mexico to live for a year. I’ve been traveling as much as possible ever since. By age 21, I had lived in 3 countries and visited four others. Fast forward
many many many years, and I’ve visited 45 countries, and 6 of the 7 continents. (I really really really want to go to Antarctica). However, I’m always still on the look out for travel tips because there is no such thing as knowing too many travel tips, IMHO.
Travel Tips for Midlife and Beyond
I’ll start with four travel tips from Irene Levine herself.
1) Always carry a nylon shopping bag in your purse
Whether you find some interesting foods in a public market or postcards in a museum gift shop, it’s useful to have an eco-friendly, reusable shopping bag on hand to haul your “stuff” back to your hotel or apartment.
(Suzanne’s note: In more and more places, you will be charged for a bag if you need one for your purchases).
2) Organize your trip itinerary online
TripIt.com is a free and easy-to-use tool for organizing trips. Irene uses it to create online trip itineraries to share with family and friends. Especially useful is the feature that syncs the airline/hotel confirmations in your email inbox with your TripIt itinerary. TripIt also allows you to archive past travel itineraries with all the details.
3) Pack a shawl or pashmina
Irene always carries a shawl when she travels, noting that airplane cabins, cruise ship dining rooms, and theaters can be chilly. She prefers them to a cardigan or sweatshirt, because they add a touch of elegance!
(Suzanne’s note: I make sure to have a pashmina AND a no wrinkle black cardigan in my carry on. In fact, I have lost so many black travel cardigans that they have sort of become a Facebook meme).
4) Avoid taking new shoes
It’s never prudent to bring along a new pair of shoes you haven’t tested (and broken in) at home. Getting a blister from an ill-fitting shoe can “cramp” your style and spoil your trip. Another tip: Travel with at least two pairs of footwear, in case one pair gets wet.
5) Prepare ahead in case the airline loses your checked baggage
John and Sandra Nowlan of Nowlan Travel note that lost luggage is a major downside of airline travel. The odds increase when you book connecting flights, so be prepared for travel emergencies. When reporting a missing suitcase, it really helps to show the airline representative a photo of the missing suitcase. So, before handing your luggage to the “safekeeping” of your airline, “shoot it” with your smart phone.
(Suzanne’s note: Make sure your cell phone number and email address are on your luggage tag and somewhere in the suitcase itself.)
6) Keep it light
John and Sandra also have a tip to help you find the nighttime route to the toilet in a strange hotel room. They always pack a little nightlight that plugs into the razor outlet in the bathroom. In addition, a small bedside flashlight prevents banged shins or stubbed toes.
7) Carry authorizations when traveling with children
Barbara Radcliffe Rogers of WorldBite offers advice for those traveling with grandchildren. Take along 2 notarized documents: 1) a statement signed by the parents giving permission to travel with the child(ren); and 2) a statement of medical authorization. The first sets to rest any questions of kidnapping (Barbara was asked for this proof when boarding a flight to South America). The second gives you permission to make emergency medical decisions and authorize treatment.
(Suzanne’s note: Even if you are traveling alone with your own child, it can’t hurt to have something in writing from the other parent authorizing the trip. My last name is different than our sons’. When they were young enough not to have their own photo IDs, this was a problem on one trip until I could produce my medical insurance card with my husband’s and their last names on it.)
8) Pack a change of clothes in your travel companion’s suitcase
Barbara also shares that given the new smaller carry-on size and weight limits of some airlines, it is more likely that you will have to check suitcases. She and her husband exchange a full change of clothes when packing for a trip. That way, if one piece of luggage is lost or delayed, they at least both have one change of clothes.
(Suzanne’s note: I learned this the hard way. I’d even go so far as to also have an extra shirt, underwear and toothbrush in your carry-on bag.)
9) Don’t forget to check opening hours for sites and the calendar for holidays
Barbara & Jim Twardowski remind travelers to “always, always, always” check an attraction’s website for hours of operation before planning your itinerary. Did you know the Louvre in Paris is open every day except Tuesday? In the U.S., many museums are closed on Mondays. Avoid having your travel plans derailed by knowing when a country celebrates public holidays.
(Suzanne’s Note: In some countries, museums and other attractions might be closed during extensive lunch breaks. We had this experience in Laos.)
10) Save money by investigating passes and discounts for various attractions
Barbara and Jim also point out that they save up to 50% off admission fees to major attractions and frequently bypass long entrance lines by purchasing a CityPASS. CityPASS booklets are available in a growing number of North American destinations.
(Suzanne’s note: Look on line or contact the local official tourism bureau to ask about possible deals. Also, many museums have one or more free admission times if budget is an issue.)
11) Take advantage of restaurant week deals
For foodies, Barbara and Jim recommend timing your touring to coincide with restaurant weeks. One of the most scrumptious food destinations in the world, New Orleans, has restaurant weeks in September and August. Most restaurant weeks occur during the offseason. A simple Google search is all you need to find the best time to dine at a favorite location.
12) Mind your manners, especially in France
Janice Chung of France Travel Tips cautions that if you don’t follow a country’s rules of etiquette (anywhere around the world), you may not be treated well. What you say and when you say it makes all the difference. In France, “Bonjour” (hello) is the first thing you should say when entering any establishment, such as a store.
13) Be aware of extra fees when using frequent flyer tickets
Janice also points out that while it’s wonderful to be able to accumulate enough frequent flyer points to fly “free” to Europe, the flight will likely cost you more than you expected, depending on the airline you choose. Particular airlines charge taxes and surcharges even on award tickets. So, for example, a 60,000 point return round trip flight could have a $650 tax with one airline and only $58 with another—-a savings of $592 on the former.
14) Protect yourself in hotel rooms
Jan Schroder of Girl on the Go notes that not every hotel room has a deadbolt. She travels with an inexpensive door stopper. It’s also helpful to keep out housekeeping staff who believe in the “knock-while-entering method” that caught her by surprise a few times.
15) Download podcasts for long road trips
Laura Byrne Paquet of OttawaRoadTrips.com downloads podcasts onto her smart phone to play through the car radio for long road trips.
(Suzanne’s note: I’ve recently tried this. It really comes in handy as you cross in and out of various radio stations’ broadcast areas and through some radio wastelands. Other friends of mine swear by audio books for long rides.)
16) Organize your travel documents
Laura also recommends printing out itineraries, etickets, vouchers, maps, hotel and car rental confirmations, contact information for essential people, insurance policies, etc., especially for complex trips. Have a photocopy of your passport and visas. Most of us have this information available in our smart phones, but this way, if you lose your phone, your battery dies or you can’t get online, you’ll be prepared.
(Suzanne’s note: I do this and keep the documents in the order I’ll need them in a folder. I then did a master list which serves as a good check to make sure I haven’t forgotten to do something. )
17) Wear compression socks on long flights
Sue Reddel & Diana Laskaris of Food Travelist share that a simple product like compression socks or stockings improves circulation in your legs, which is especially important on long flights. Lack of movement creates the opportunity for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when blood clots form in one of your deep veins. This can cause leg pain, swelling or worse. While DVT can happen at any age, as we get older it’s even more of a problem.
18) Carry a surge protector
Sue and Diana also recommend traveling with a multi socket mini surge protector. They recommend the Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB charger. They’ve had theirs for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles. It’s small and you can plug in three AC devices and charge two more devices through the USB ports. Best feature: No need to worry about power fluctuations or outages. The surge protector will ensure that all your devices are safe and sound no matter where you are. Don’t forget to also bring a a device to convert to different style electrical sockets and voltages.
Suzanne’s note: We travel with one of these. They are a big help in older hotels and Bed and Breakfast places that were built before a couple needed to recharge 2 laptops and 2 smart phones when traveling.)
19) Before leaving home, download maps on your smartphone
Debra Smith who you can find on Instagram at where.to.lady , shares a tip for getting around without a paper map. Before you leave home, download a map of your destination on the Maps.me app. It works offline worldwide, saving you a fortune in data fees. The app also shows restaurants, attractions and points of interest and you can bookmark your favorite places. Maps.me is free and available for both Android and iPhone.