Last Updated on February 20, 2021 by Jim Ferri
A veteran traveler shares her thoughts on how mature travelers can stay safe and secure when they travel…
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Donna Manz
My adult sons frequently tell me I’m a “walking target,” vulnerable to thieves.
I walk distracted, they say. “That’s why I wear a cross-body bag,” I tell them.
Here’s the reality, though…every tourist looks a bit distracted, particularly when we are touring a new place. We look up at the Eiffel Tower or British Parliament, oblivious to bogus “tourists” who sometimes brush by us.
We Mature Travelers Can Mitigate Our Risks
I usually travel solo, so I am quite on guard most of the time.
Safety and comfort are always a priority for mature travelers. I try to stand as straight upright as I can since it makes one look a bit more formidable.
I also stay in centrally located properties where lots of tourists stroll about and ensure my clients do, as well. Not only are there beefed-up police patrols in tourist areas, but more people mean less risk to any individual.
If you’re in London, for example, stay in the West End, not less-expensive Kensington. If you’re in Vienna, lodge along the Ringstrasse, which encircles the Altstadt.
Especially for mature travelers, there is no safer and more secure way to travel than with a group, be it a family, friends, or an escorted group tour. In a foreign land, everyone is always safer in a group.
That is one of the many reasons I love river cruising since my small ship becomes my community, my neighborhood. I feel safe and secure on an intimate ship, something that is a critical component of my travels.
Travel Support and Ease Of Movement Are Top Considerations
I’m a huge proponent of groups for mature travelers since escorted group touring offers convenience of movement, as well as travel support.
Many years ago when my Mom needed a wheelchair on an escorted tour of Italy, it was the tour manager who arranged for the wheelchair through a medical supply business, waited at the hotel for the equipment to arrive, and paid the deposit on it from her money.
We frequently ignore the value of such support when we do not need it. But when you’re traveling in a group you’re never really traveling “solo,” which is a priceless value. You have people to chat with, to dine with, to stroll about or go on a brief adventure with, whether that be a shopping expedition or a concert.
Travel Insurance Is A Necessity for Mature Travelers
Unless you are wealthy enough to withstand the loss of your travel investment, mature travelers should consider travel insurance as a necessity.
Even if you are confident that you will not have to cancel or interrupt your trip on your account, consider other variables. Do you have a spouse? A child or grandchild? Brother, sister, mother, father? If something happens to one of them how would that impact your plans? Travel insurance provides peace of mind should the unforeseeable occur.
It’s important for mature travelers to buy a travel insurance policy that includes a waiver of pre-existing conditions (i.e., any medical issue you have previously experienced), as well as the inclusion of cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR), which does not require a covered medical excuse. So even if your pet requires a trip to the vet or your car breaks down on the way to the airport, you’ll be covered.
Your Phone Is You Second-Best Travel Investment
My phone – enabled with international roaming capability and activated – has saved my travel plans on multiple occasions. Because I frequently travel out of the country, I have an international cellular data plan.
Talk to a consultant at your preferred cell phone provider and choose a phone and plan that best meets your international travel needs.
Do some online research to understand the complexities of international phone plans. Articles, such as this recent one in The New York Times, How to Pick a Cellphone Plan for Traveling Abroad, provide some good information.
Get The Most “Value” For Your Vacation Dollars
When you book a trip don’t confuse “cheap” and “value,” since the terms are not synonymous. “Cheap” is a function of price only, not what you get for your money.
Value, on the other hand, is getting the most for your money, whether you spend $5,000 or $15,000. Rarely does “cheap” provide real “value.“
As a travel professional, I pay for my learning trips, so I am very thoughtful about spending money. Over the years, I have learned a few things to ensure I receive the best value, something that should be important to any mature traveler.
First, I typically travel in the shoulder season whenever possible. Summers can be hot, and cities and attractions are crowded. Additionally, that’s the time when many locals are also on vacation. Things begin to cool and slow down, in late August, so September through December is always my preferred travel time.
Even as a solo traveler I also try to travel in a group, since a travel agent can create a “group” out of almost any number of participants. In a group, everyone benefits from lower rates, discounts, and value-added amenities.
No misconception wastes more money than the belief that doing-it-yourself either saves you money or brings you greater value.
When was the last time a self- booked hotel surprised you with an upgrade? Or a free buffet breakfast? How often has a hotel manager left a welcome letter and amenity in your room? The reality is that travel consultants cultivate relationships with hospitality providers; in turn, that influence benefits the traveler.
Helpful Odds and Ends for Mature Travelers
If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re traveling, replacing it will always be much easier if you have a copy of it available.
Always make two copies of the photo page of your passport. Pack one in your carry-on bag (my passport itself goes in my handbag) and leave the other at home with a family member or trusted friend. Never keep the copy in the same bag as your passport.
You’ll also find it handy to keep a complete change-of-clothes, a few days worth of all your prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter emergency drugs such as Imodium and Ducalax, in your carry-on. You don’t want to put yourself at risk by losing any medications.
And don’t automatically change any foreign currency back to your own at the end of your trip. Will you be returning to that destination any time in the future? If so, it makes good financial sense to retain some for that trip. Remember that Euros, for example, are used in many countries.
And as for that cross-body handbag, it’s zippered across the top, and that’s how I keep it — zipped and across my chest. It also has a thin wire sewn into the straps so it cannot be cut.
If you go:
You’ll find some additional excellent travel advice at the government site https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
Also, search Never Stop Traveling’s archives (in the “Site Search” box in the upper right of this page); you’ll find articles about myriad destinations and travel topics.
Stan McGahey says
Good advice! Like most travelers, I have learned some travel lessons, often the hard way. I would recommend photocopying the important pages of your passport, including any visas, and emailing them to yourself and others who are ready to help you in case of an emergency. That way, they are accessible on any Internet connection and forwarded easily to any office necessary. I always get extra copies of my passport photos also. Then when you need them for a visa, they match exactly. I would also recommend emailing, or posting to a “cloud”, any prescriptions for medications and eyeglasses, and other medical information and contacts that are of regular concern. You might want to do the same with photos of your luggage and any other valuables, including serial numbers. If you need to carry any usernames and passwords, I would recommend they be modified to a code you understand, but will be of no use if they fall into the wrong hands. Safe travels are happy travels!
Cheers – Stan
We have taken at least 5 river cruises including Russia and the Mekong and absolutely love them!!
Great advice Donna! I agree on ‘strength in numbers.’ In addition to the shear number of people, traveling in a group with a knowledgable guide provides a richer experience in most cases. If you find the right tour company with a top notch guide, it’s almost like traveling with a good friend who shows you around their city – favorite restaurants, best places to shop, neighborhoods to avoid, etc.
I’ve traveled extensively both solo and with a group and found both experiences quite authentic, if maybe for different reasons.
Full transparency: I am Co-founder of Stride Travel, the largest online marketplace for guided tours. Here’s the link to request early access: http://www.stridetravel.com