Summer vacation season is here, and many St. Louisans are hopping on planes destined for international locales and setting sail on cruises around the world. But before the big trip, area health and business experts warn seniors to stop and take stock.

From packing to boarding transportation and working with businesses along the journey, seniors will need a detailed plan to ensure their health and well-being are top priority, says Carolynn Hoffman, a registered nurse and founder of MediNurse. “We always say, Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Think about the What ifs?, and have a plan B.”

Before embarking on vacation, do your homework: Research your destination to determine if it can accommodate your needs, Hoffman notes. “If you are going out of the country, make sure your health insurance still covers you, or get travel insurance, and find out what types of doctors and health care facilities are in the area.” A travel agent also can assist in selecting a locale that is in line with your physical fitness, she says. “They can tell you if the trip is for strong walkers, or if it can be experienced at a leisurely pace.” And make sure in advance that all lodging accommodations are senior-accessible, she adds.

Prior to taking a trip, seniors also can benefit from a regular check-up with their physician to ensure they are in good health. Refill needed prescriptions, and receive any vaccinations your destination requires, Hoffman notes. For added safety, seniors also should inform family and friends of their itinerary.

Once you are ready to pack your suitcase, be sure to include your identification and passport, health history, and medications in their original containers, and lists of family and health care contacts. These important items should be placed in your carry-on luggage for safe-keeping and easy access throughout the vacation, Hoffman notes. “You can get your most recent medical records and list of medications on a flash drive,” Hoffman suggests. Insulin needles or other injectable medications require a doctor’s note, she adds.

If flying is your mode of transportation, the airport can help travelers in need of special accommodations. Attendants and transportation, such as wheelchairs or shuttle carts, can take you to your gate and onto the flight, Hoffman says. And when on the plane, she reminds passengers to walk around or pump your legs up and down every couple of hours to avoid a potential blood clot.

Once you have arrived at your destination, be wary of the food you consume: Drink bottled water and skip the street vendors, Hoffman cautions. And don’t over-book yourself: Take a rest day if you have traveled a significant distance, and schedule naps in the afternoons if needed, she adds.

Throughout the journey, be sure to stay hydrated, and wear sunblock, comfortable clothing, walking shoes, a hat and sunglasses. And last, but not least, enjoy the trip, Hoffman says. “Have a good time! With planning, it is possible.” Bon voyage!

Stay Safe

To help ensure a safe and secure trip, Bill Smith at the Better Business Bureau has these travel tips for seniors on-the-go:

  • Leave the light on. While you are away, make your home appear occupied by setting your lighting system to turn on at night, stopping your mail, leaving a car parked in the driveway, and having a friend or family member periodically check on your property.
  • Avoid announcements. Don’t post your trip dates and details on social media to further avoid making your home a target for burglary.
  • Elude potential scams. Be wary of travel clubs, which typically invite you to pay an upfront fee, but may have restrictions on travel times and destinations.
  • Deflect ID theft. Use your last name and phone number on luggage tags rather than your full name and address.
  • Evade excess fees. When booking hotels or rental cars, be sure to inquire about all add-ons and extra services to steer clear of unwanted fees.
  • Secure valuables. While away from your hotel room, place any cash and jewelry in the safe.
  • Deter damages. Take photos of your rental car before leaving and report any damages to the attendant to avoid unfounded damage fees.
  • Fight fraud. Set up a travel alert for your credit card account, use bank ATMs and only carry the necessary cards containing personal information.
  • Protect yourself. Consider travel insurance for protection in the event of an accident or illness, lost luggage, or a cancelled or interrupted trip.
  • Be business-savvy. Wherever your travels take you, the reputation of businesses along the way can be checked at bbb.org. If you feel a business has failed to disclose mandatory fees, complaints can be filed at bbb.org.
  • Promote fair-play. If you feel a business has failed to disclose mandatory fees, complaints can be filed at bbb.org.

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