With winter in full swing, many retirees are looking to head overseas to soak up the sun and take in some new surroundings. Whether you’re heading to a sandy beach resort in Thailand or you’re joining a bus tour across Western Europe, there are some things that can help make your holiday the safest and most enjoyable yet.
Not only have we compiled a list of the top 10 most common travel mistakes made by seniors while travelling abroad, we’ve also provided some easy solutions so you can avoid these mistakes and simply focus on making this your best holiday ever.
1. Not having travel insurance
Regardless of your age, you should never travel without travel insurance. From losing your luggage to landing yourself in hospital, insurance coverage can get you out of many sticky situations, especially when you don’t speak the language or you’re stuck with a costly bill.
Solution: Age and existing medical conditions play a big role in the cost of your travel insurance. Although travel insurance can become more and more expensive the older you get, shop around and compare your options before you settle on one company. Ask for special discounts and have your medical history handy in case you’re asked any personal questions.
2. Packing way too much
It’s easy to pack your bag full to the brim and convince yourself you’re going to wear and use everything in it. As you get older, it can become more and more of a struggle to simply handle your luggage, whether it’s lifting it into your car or trying to tug it off the luggage carousel at the airport.
Solution: Look up the weather for your destination and only pack exactly what you’ll need. Use packing cubes to organise your belongings. You can roll your clothes inside the cubes to maximise space or pack similar items inside one cube so you can find your things easily. Anything that you’re unsure of taking you likely won’t need, so instead of cramming more into your organised cubes, simply leave it at home.
3. Travelling with too much cash
Remember the days when we used to travel only with cash or traveller’s cheques? Unfortunately, those days are long gone. It’s no longer common to use traveller’s cheques and travelling with too much cash in hand can be dangerous. You could lose your cash or have it stolen, even if you plan on leaving it inside your hotel safe.
Solution: Try and use your credit or debit card more frequently when you travel abroad. With state-of-the-art fraud protection, you won’t need to worry as much about becoming the victim of a crime - as long as you keep your credit card in an RFID protected wallet. Have some cash on hand in case you wind up in a small town with limited credit card usage or you need to tip someone or pay for public transportation.
4. Looking like a tourist
Everyone always tells you that the worst thing you can do abroad is look like a tourist - but what exactly does that look like? Sometimes it’s hard to blend in when travelling overseas, however there are a few things you can do to minimise sticking out like a sore thumb.
Solution: Avoid taking out maps or guidebooks in the middle of a busy street. Instead, dip into a shop or restaurant and ask for directions. Always keep your belongings close to you and be aware of them at all times. If you feel like someone is standing too close to you and you might be the target of a robbery, simply move away and head into a nearby shop to check your belongings. Try and dress similar to the locals and you’ll fit in as much as possible.
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5. Planning your every step
This is a common mistake made by seniors. Although a holiday is supposed to be relaxing and having a solid plan is a good way to set your mind at ease, sometimes it's a lot more enjoyable to be spontaneous. After all, you want to come back with some stories to tell!
Solution: If it sets your mind at ease, simply plan the first couple of days. Have a reliable source of transportation lined up on arrival in your destination and book your accommodation ahead of time. If there are some sights you simply must see, make plans to see them once you arrive but leave plenty of time to wander off the path before, during and after these experiences. You never know what delightful experiences you’ll have when you stop planning and start enjoying!
6. Forgetting to ask for seniors discount
Asking for seniors discount might not cross your mind, especially if you are in a country that doesn’t speak English as their first language. However, there are plenty of countries around the world that offer special discounts to seniors over a particular age - and usually it doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a tourist.
Solution: If you head to a museum, movie, or a popular tourist spot, always ask if a senior discount applies. Have your Aussie ID handy in case you’re asked for it. Many countries also subsidise public transportation for seniors, so if you’re planning on travelling like the locals, always inquire into a discount. You’d be surprised at how much money you can save!
7. Always going on tours
It’s common for seniors to travel in groups, whether it’s joining a bus tour or heading to a resort and opting to go on the hotel-run tours. While these can be a great way to meet other people, they tend to be overpriced and rushed. Tours are always on strict schedules, which means you can’t take your time to see things at your own pace.
Solution: Instead of jumping on the tour and booking it in advance, simply head to your destination and find out how you can see what you want to see by taking public transportation. Not only does this broaden your horizons and give you a more authentic experience, it’ll also give you the chance to save some money and spend as much time as you like at the destination. You won’t have someone telling you when it’s time to leave and you can properly enjoy your trip. This experience will likely be more relaxing than knowing you have to abide by someone else’s schedule.
8. Forgetting to take photos
This isn’t common among our millennial counterparts, however it is common among the older generations. It’s easy to forget to take photos, especially when you’re simply trying to enjoy the moment, but your friends and family are going to want to see your holiday photos - and you want the memories too, of course.
Solution: Always have your camera or mobile phone on you and stored safely inside your anti-theft bag. Whenever you visit a tourist site, restaurant or even a new beach, you’ll always have your camera within reach, which means you can snap a photo to remember the moment forever.
9. Not leaving the resort
Do you wish you could skip the whole airport thing and simply land yourself in the resort? Although resorts are beautiful and offer you every amenity you may need, they simply don’t offer you an authentic experience.
Solution: We know a holiday is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever leave the resort. After all, relaxing experiences can be had outside of the resort too! If you’re not keen on leaving the resort, make a pact with yourself that you’ll do it at least once a week. If you head overseas for two weeks, that means you need to aim to leave the resort twice. If you don’t feel safe doing it alone, try and organise a small group from your hotel.
10. Failing to try local foods
This goes hand in hand with the above mistake. After all, if you don’t leave the resort, you likely won’t be trying any local foods. Most resorts are located close to small towns, villages and cities that will offer you a more authentic experience. This means you likely won’t have to go far to try some local cuisine.
Solution: Ask your hotel to point you in the direction of a local street market or a section of the city or town known for it’s local cuisine. If you’re nervous to hit the streets alone, gather a small group together for the experience. Not only will the food likely be cheaper than your hotel, it will also be surprisingly unique - and hopefully delicious!
If you have plans to escape the Australian winter, you’re likely counting down the days until you head into warmer climates. While you may have already booked and planned much of your holiday, it’s not too late to take into account some of our solutions to common travel mistakes. Now, we want to know what the most common travel mistake is that you make as a senior and what your solution is. Leave your answer in our comments below!