Whether you want to visit Pamplona to witness the running of the bulls, Florence to see the Duomo, or Santorini to check out the volcanoes, retirement is a time for you to enjoy more travel. However, it's important for retirees to adequately plan for traveling, as it can be a taxing experience for the ill-prepared. Here are several preparations retirees can make to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
Pack smart. Packing your luggage correctly can make your trip easier. Travelocity Senior Editor Courtney Scott suggests using lightweight luggage, like the Tumi spinner bag, which comes in red, pink, or a floral pattern and can be spotted easily in a sea of black bags. "When you're buying luggage, comfort and mobility are key," she says.
Mark Chimsky, editor of "65 Things to Do When You Retire," suggests packing light. "Learn to conserve the amount of clothing you take, and that will serve you well wherever you travel," he says.
Prepare for emergencies. Packing an emergency kit with essentials is a good way to be prepared while on the road. "It's important for retirees to make a 'travel-go' bag," Scott says. "It should contain everything you need to keep you and your traveling partner hydrated, healthy and safe."
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The last thing you want is to run out of your medication, so be sure to bring a full supply plus an extra week's worth of pills, says AARP Travel Ambassador Samantha Brown. If you're traveling overseas, she also suggests asking your doctor to write down generic names of your medications since other countries may have different brands. "You don't want anything lost in translation," she says.
Other useful items include extra water, copies of your passport and other identification documents and hand sanitizer or hand wipes. In addition, Scott recommends packing a padlock and doorstop in your emergency kit "for extra protection in your hotel room." Tech-savvy retirees should pack extra smartphone and tablet chargers. "Long gone are the paperbacks and travel guides. You're going to be using a map or guide on your smartphone or tablet, and you want to make sure you can have those charged," Scott says.
If you're traveling abroad, consider enrolling in the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that allows you to register your trip with the State Department so officials can more effectively assist you in an emergency, as well as update you with information from the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you. "[The program] allows you to register with the government exactly where you'll be and when," Scott says. "It just adds another layer of protection."
Consider your health. It's generally a good idea to visit your doctor for a quick checkup before you hit the road. "Obviously, you can get any immunizations or vaccinations that you'd need if you're travelling," Scott says. "But, if you're a retiree, you also get the comfort of having a clean bill of health before you take off for three weeks." It's also smart to research medical facilities near your destination, and Chimsky suggests finding out what procedures can be performed. "Whether you need them or not, it's helpful psychological insurance to know you can be safe wherever you travel," he says.
Plan ahead. Locate important facilities, including local hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores, before you leave. If you're traveling overseas, find U.S. embassies or consulates, and write down your destination's national emergency call number. "I don't think that you should walk around the town you're arriving in and make an actual check of where things are," Scott says. "You should just have that on hand or stored on your computer somewhere."
Frequent travelers may want to consider enrolling in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program. For a $100 application fee, Global Entry allows a significantly accelerated entry process upon returning to the U.S., making your time in the airport much briefer. "One of the biggest nuisances for retirees is waiting in extraordinarily long lines at customs," Scott says. "Global Entry expedites your re-entry into the U.S."