It’s no surprise that retired older adults love travel. With the kids out of the nest, you’re free to pursue the adventures you’ve always desired. However, as an older adult, you are also more likely to have a chronic illness.
1. Visit a travel clinic before you go.
If you have a chronic illness, your immune system might not be as strong as it used to be. An easy way to protect yourself during travel is getting vaccinated against diseases you will be exposed to. You can do this at a travel clinic.
If you’re traveling to a tropical or subtropical area, consider getting vaccinated against illnesses like yellow fever, typhoid, and malaria. It’s a quick, simple jab that can save you much pain on a trip you’ve invested a lot in.
2. Get travel insurance.
Travel insurance is an upfront cost that many travelers like to overlook, but it can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you get sick in a foreign country, you may pay exorbitant healthcare prices as a non-resident. What’s more, without insurance, emergency evacuation in case of an accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack is even more costly.
3. Bring an ample supply of medication.
Navigating the healthcare system of another country is stressful, so make sure you bring enough medical supplies of your own. This includes prescription eyewear, allergy medicine, hand sanitizer, bug spray, sunscreen, and first aid equipment.
You may be tempted to buy medication abroad because it can be cheaper. However, pharmaceutical drugs bought abroad may be counterfeit, contaminated, or unable to meet FDA standards. Instead, you can buy prescription drugs from regulated international and Canadian pharmacy referral services like Canada Med Pharmacy. These services have strict safety regulations in place to help you get a high-quality product.
4. Research the drug laws of your destination.
Other countries may have drastically different drug regulation laws. If you carry narcotic painkillers or anti-anxiety tranquilizers, for example, you may need special permission to bring your medication across the border. Conversely, avoid bringing medication back home. This may cause problems at the U.S. border.
Being suspected of drug trafficking can mean unusually harsh punishments in some countries, even the death penalty. Always do your research, and carry your pharmaceuticals in their original packaging with the original prescription.
5. Carry information about your chronic illness or condition in multiple languages.
Carry an identification card in your wallet, wear a bracelet, or have the information readily available on your phone. Translate important stats like your age, blood type, height, weight, medications, and conditions to the local language. If you are incapacitated in an emergency, bystanders and health professionals can help with little delay.
6. Learn a few simple phrases in the local language.
Learning a new language is tough, but knowing a few phrases can save your life! Be sure to learn how to say: “Where is the hospital?” Phrases such as “my back hurts” can also be handy if, for example, you need to keep a seat on the bus when your disability is not immediately visible.
If you’re worried about your pronunciation, you can write these phrases down and show them to people when necessary.
7. Know where the closest hospital, pharmacy, or clinic is at every destination.
Basically, have an emergency safety plan. If you’re staying in a remote area with no hospital nearby, talk to a hostel staff member or local guide for advice. Carrying a map with important places circled and identified in the local language can also help you in a pinch if you need to hail a taxi.
8. Practice good hygiene.
Germs are never on vacation! You can catch things like the common cold anywhere with humans, even if it’s not cold!
Cleanliness is especially important in big, dense cities where you encounter hundreds of new people every day, each potentially carrying a strain of cold virus you’ve never been exposed to. So wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
9. Maintain good food safety.
Similar to washing your hands before you eat, pay attention to food safety. There’s a reason why getting food poisoning on vacation is called Traveler’s Diarrhea. While sampling the local cuisine is the cornerstone of any good trip, there are some foods that are best avoided.
If your destination has poor sanitation, stick to cooked food and avoid cold drinks, fruits, and other uncooked food. Street food can be an integral part of the local culture, but it’s best to stick to food that’s been cooked right in front of you. Besides, watching people cook is fun!
10. Protect yourself against the environment.
Save the odd insect or reptile, North American environments are relatively benign compared to the Amazon rainforest or Australian Outback. Make sure you bring an ample supply of bug spray and sunscreen to protect exposed skin. Insects may carry diseases, and a sunburn is no fun anywhere in the world.
Some places allow domestic animals to roam free. As cute as feeding a feral cat may seem, avoid touching animals. Any mammal can carry rabies and if you don’t get treatment right away, rabies is almost always fatal. If anything bites you, find medical help right away, even if the animal’s behavior seemed normal.
11. Be well-rested.
Traveling is fun, but you’re also putting your body under a lot of stress by placing it in unfamiliar situations. Be sure to give yourself plenty of rest. If you’re tired but want to make the most of your time, opt for a more low-key activity like seeing a local music concert. Or simply sit at a streetside cafe and watch the world go by. A meaningful adventure does not always equal a busy itinerary!
12. Use common sense.
Using common sense may seem like, well, common sense, but many of us become more daring, active, and adventurous on the road. Just remember that you are in an unfamiliar environment. Know what to do in case of an accident. Think twice before you climb up that crumbling wall, and don’t risk your life for an Instagram photo!
13. Enjoy safe and happy travels!
Reading about travel hazards can be scary, but don’t let the risk of disease or having a chronic illness keep you from exploring the world. In fact, understanding how vulnerable some areas of the world are to disease can be humbling and eye-opening. As long as you take the right precautions, you should enjoy a stress-free adventure!
For more information about health and traveling, visit the CDC’s info hub for travelers.