For women planning a trip abroad, the days of overstuffing a clunky backpack with non-essentials and improvising food and shelter on the go are best left in the rear view.
Especially for women ages 50 and up, making travel plans should include concessions for safety and convenience, to ensure that an exciting adventure doesn’t become a complicated nightmare.
The process of planning a trip has never included so many options. Solo travel for women is on the rise and simultaneously it appears, so is traveling with other women. Whether it’s a solo journey or a group experience, there’s a hunger for new experiences.
Unfortunately, these trips can be easily derailed by suspect planning and a lack of common sense. For older women looking to travel this summer and beyond, what are some practical hints to keeping your trip on track?
Considerable spoke to travel experts and put together a list of five simple ways to make your trip more safe, comfortable, and fun.
Elizabeth Beekley, co-owner of CruNomade, a company that provides small-group food and wine adventures, thinks the first key to a successful trip isn’t logistical but mental.
“Pack a huge dose of ‘calm’ into your valise.” Beekley said. “When things go awry, as they most certainly will at some point, being able to assess the situation without losing your cool will help you get out of it more quickly. This attitude easily will help you deal with lost luggage, delayed or canceled flights, rude customer service representatives, lost restaurant reservations, injuries, and more.”
1. Pack smart
Do you really need to bring the designer handbag? The valuable jewelry? The expensive sunglasses? These items might look great but they scream out, “Steal me!!” and add additional risk you simply don’t need.
Besides, as far as bags go, you want something more functional that has enough room to comfortably carry your essentials (water, cash, phone, and umbrella) and won’t be awkward to lift or crushing to lose.
It’s also important that — whether it’s a handbag or larger luggage — you can carry it yourself. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere at night with two bags you can’t lift.
When you are out for the day, make sure to bring only the cash you’ll need that day, plus a credit card — but don’t forget to stash your remaining cash, a back-up credit card, and your passport in the safe box at your hotel.
This way if you lose your bag, your other money and travel documents will be safe.
2. Think strategically about safety
Considering safety must be a part of the trip plans. Beekley noted, “As women, we don’t want to put ourselves in a compromising position. It helps to feel at all times as though you know what you are doing, and where you are going.
To avoid uncomfortable or unpredictable scenarios, there are several ways to approach your trip.
3. Always have a solid first-night plan
Leaving space for improvisation and impulsivity can help make any trip more exciting, but it’s a good idea always to have the first night of the trip planned out well. Arriving in a new place after traveling for untold hours, and then having to secure a room can be risky and exhausting.
Jenny Smith, travel writer and blogger, told Considerable, “It is essential that you have a hotel reservation for the first night at every destination so that you do not risk not having a place to stay.” Knowing where you’re staying offers peace of mind and at least guarantees a bed and shower.
If you don’t like it? Go ahead and switch it up the following day. Rearranging your plans on the fly is easier if you already have a secure room with WiFi, phone access, and a help desk to offer suggestions and support.
4. Check in regularly
According to Smith, “Choosing a designated time each day to check in and giving your contact a schedule of your itinerary will give you peace of mind as you go about your adventures.”
Unplugging from the daily communication of regular life can be a huge benefit to taking a trip in the first place, and while you shouldn’t feel pressure to be in touch constantly, it’s a good idea to give a heads-up to someone (whether a traveling partner, a hotel staff, or a friend or family member back home) when you head out for the day. Checking in can make it easier for someone to find you, and for you to be found.
Finally, some advice from Kristi Myllenbeck, travel expert at Visitors Coverage: “Book departures and arrivals during daylight hours to the country you are traveling to so you aren’t using public transportation or getting in ride-share transportation when it is dark outside.”
Travel plans can largely depend on your budget, and the time you arrive and depart a location may be less important than the travel costs. Still, whenever possible aim to arrange your arrival and departure times during the daytime. It’s not only easier to access whatever resources you may need (banks, food) during the day but it’s safer as well.
Arriving or departing late at night can require lots of waiting and walking in the dark, which is better avoided when possible.
5. Get travel medical insurance
Medicare will not cover travelers outside the US, and aging travelers are more likely to suffer an injury or experience a medical emergency than their younger counterparts. Securing extra insurance prior to your trip can protect you in the case of an unpredictable health scare in a foreign land.
6. Do your research
Doing more than a perfunctory bit of background research on where you’re traveling to can be incredibly helpful. Find out if the country you’re visiting is cash or credit-based, and what kind of currency is accepted. Learn some basic phrases in the native language. Look into whether there’s a customary “dress code” for women that could have implications for you while traveling there.
And getting a beginner’s understanding of the history of the country can also be both interesting and helpful.
Beekley mentions it’s useful to know the type of government in place and some “history of the country’s treatment of women, and laws meant to protect women.”
The more you know the better off you’ll be.
7. Ask for help
If the pressure and stress or arranging an itinerary, plus choosing where to go, what to eat, and how to get there is too much, simply get some help.
“If you are uncomfortable, or don’t know much of the local language, hire a guide for the day,” Beekley said. “Your hotel can recommend a guide, and you can negotiate the price with the guide before you leave.”
A guide can relieve you of a lot of the anxiety that comes with making decisions in a new place, and can provide details you probably wouldn’t know otherwise. A guide can also help you avoid difficult physical situations, whether it’s being stuck walking long distances or food and water shortages.
Just be sure you hire through a reputable service. Sara Rathner, travel expert at Nerd Wallet, reminds people: “Ask well-traveled friends for recommendations, work with a travel agent, and check reviews before booking anything.”