AGE OF THE TIGER TRAV­ELER

Globe-trot­ting boomers know what they’re do­ing, but re­minders never hurt

Albuquerque Journal - - SENIOR LIVING - BY CATHARINE HAMM

If you’re 55 or older, you should re­search your trip abroad be­fore you go. Also, you should leave copies of your itin­er­ary, pass­port and con­tact in­for­ma­tion with a trusted per­son on the home front. About now, pic­ture you shak­ing your head and ask­ing, “Of course I do th­ese things. Do you think I am dum­ber than a bucket of hair?” I def­i­nitely do not. I’m not sure about the State Depart­ment, which in­cluded those sug­ges­tions on a “Check­list for Older Trav­el­ers.”

If you are a baby boomer — born be­tween 1946 and 1964 and are or will be older than 55 within the next 422 days — this list is aimed at you.

But you are trav­el­ers so this isn’t your first rodeo, re­search shows.

You plan to take as many as five leisure trips this year, and you’ll spend more than $6,000 on that travel. Al­most half of you plan to travel do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, and if you’re go­ing abroad, you like the Caribbean, Latin Amer­i­can and Eu­rope as des­ti­na­tions.

That’s what AARP’s 2018 travel sur­vey shows, re­sults that are not much dif­fer­ent from 2017, it notes.

Older trav­el­ers are not novices. No rock­ing chair for th­ese folks, un­less they’re the ones you find in air­ports that are meant for de­stress­ing.

If you can move be­yond the State Depart­ment’s an­noy­ing ini­tial un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of your ex­pe­ri­ence, you’ll find that the list does con­tain sub­stan­tive sug­ges­tions that are es­pe­cially key for in­ter­na­tional travel. Some per­tain to ev­ery­one, some only to older trav­el­ers, but all are im­por­tant:

Check your pass­port to be sure that it is valid for at least six months af­ter your re­turn. Coun­tries are in­creas­ingly ask­ing for that win­dow on pass­ports, and al­though your doc­u­ment is good for 10 years, the State Depart­ment has urged trav­el­ers to re­new at the nineyear mark.

If you are cov­ered by Medi­care at home, you prob­a­bly aren’t cov­ered over­seas. You’ll want to buy a pol­icy that in­cludes health in­sur­ance and, for good mea­sure, med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion cov­er­age, just to be safe.

Make sure your pre­scrip­tions (which you know to carry in their orig­i­nal bot­tles and in your carry-on, not your suit­case) are le­gal in the coun­try you’ll be vis­it­ing. While re­port­ing a re­cent “On the Spot” col­umn on this topic, I learned that some coun­tries won’t al­low some com­mon meds such as Sudafed, so be wary of that too. There’s no cen­tral place to check what is and isn’t al­lowed, so if you’re un­cer­tain, con­tact the em­bassy or con­sulate of the coun­try you’ll be vis­it­ing.

Un­der the help­ful-but-not-com­plete cat­e­gory, State’s list also sug­gests find­ing out whether a place is ac­ces­si­ble if you use as­sis­tive de­vices — cane, walker, wheel­chair. Good idea, but how?

Beth Godlin, pres­i­dent of Aon Affin­ity Travel Prac­tice, a U.S.-based travel in­sur­ance and pro­tec­tion pro­gram, of­fered a so­lu­tion in­stead of a sug­ges­tion.

If you’re stay­ing in a ho­tel, check with the concierge, Godlin said. If you’re on a group tour, your leader will know or can find out about ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Hav­ing an ex­pert with you is one of the ben­e­fits of group travel, but Godlin also re­minds trav­el­ers of pos­si­ble pit­falls:

As­sess the level of ac­tiv­ity re­quired for a group trip. A tightly packed sched­ule helps you see ev­ery­thing you want to see (and some stuff you don’t), but con­sider whether you need some down­time be­cause, she said, peo­ple some­times “un­der­es­ti­mate the toll that for­eign places will take on you,” es­pe­cially, she noted, if you’re “re­ly­ing on mul­ti­ple forms of trans­porta­tion.”

Ah, yes, that plane trip is one of those forms, and it of­ten be­gins your ad­ven­ture. A trip, like life it­self, can feel like an en­durance con­test, es­pe­cially if your jour­ney starts with a long flight. Be aware that:

You may feel groggy af­ter hours in the air, and for this you can blame your air­craft. Many are pres­sur­ized to 8,000 feet so you may ex­pe­ri­ence a bit of oxy­gen de­pri­va­tion, said Dr. Nikhil K. Bhayani, an in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist at Texas Health HEB.

But don’t as­sume you’ll be like the walk­ing dead, be­cause if you’re gen­er­ally healthy “your body will com­pen­sate,” he said. Even some­one with a heart con­di­tion should be OK if “you’re sta­ble and you’re on med­i­ca­tion,” he said.

No mat­ter what your age, you can­not sit like a lump in your seat for the en­tire flight. You need to get up and move, Bhayani said, to avoid blood clots.

Long trips of­ten mean jet lag, which can throw you off your game, so it’s im­per­a­tive that you stay clear-headed to keep track of your meds. You’ll find nu­mer­ous apps that can help, but here’s the ana­log so­lu­tion: Down­load the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion/Amer­i­can Stroke As­so­ci­a­tion “Medicine Chart” (lat.ms/medicinechart), which, if filled in prop­erly, will be­come a trove of in­for­ma­tion with your phar­macy phone num­ber, re­fill date, how of­ten you take the med­i­ca­tion and times to take it and what it looks like. You can print this out and, just in case, email it to your­self.

Stay hy­drated and avoid al­co­hol. That’s true wher­ever you are and what­ever your age, per­haps more so on a plane where the air is dry. If the thin cabin air makes you feel dopey, you may be dou­bly dopey if you fail to drink. As one of my friends con­stantly re­minds me, “Hy­drate to be great,” though I’d set­tle for bet­ter than aver­age.

Take some liq­uid lemon with you, he said. Huh? De­hy­dra­tion can cause bad breath, and he finds that lemon or lime juice, per­haps mixed with wa­ter, can cleanse the palate. Plus it will make you a bet­ter seat­mate.

Fi­nally, here’s an­other nasty lit­tle side ef­fect of fly­ing, be­sides bloat­ing and gassi­ness, Bhayani said: con­sti­pa­tion. Our rou­tines are al­tered, and we may tend to avoid those Tom Thumb-size air­craft bath­rooms. Our bod­ies get con­fused and they rebel. Check with your doc for a rem­edy (be­sides not al­ter­ing your rou­tine and stay­ing hy­drated), which might in­clude over-the-counter meds.

That State Depart­ment list is re­ally a start­ing point, sort of like the ad­vice your Aunt Agnes used to give you that you’d al­ways ap­pear to be tak­ing in even if you al­ready knew it.

A re­minder never hurts — quickly, off the top of your head, when does your pass­port ex­pire? — but those who are 55? I crown them tiger trav­el­ers. They have the right com­bi­na­tion of age, ex­pe­ri­ence and open­ness to keep on grow­ing no mat­ter where they’re go­ing.

CATHRYN CUN­NING­HAM

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