We asked our travel-savvy Getting On Travel (GOT) contributors to share some of their best Travel Tips for Boomers with our readers. While compiling this list, we learned a few new tricks ourselves!
1) Prepare ahead in case the airline loses your checked baggage
Lost luggage is a major downside of airline travel. The odds increase when you book connecting flights. When we’ve had to report a missing suitcase, it really helps to show the airline representative a photo of your bag on your iPhone. So take a moment to snap a picture or two before leaving home or certainly, before handing your belongings to an airline agent.
2) Avoid stubbed toes
Finding the nighttime route to the toilet in a strange hotel room can be frustrating. When we travel, we always pack a little nightlight that plugs into the razor outlet in the bathroom. In addition, a small bedside flashlight prevents banged shins or stubbed toes.
Contributors: John and Sandra Nowlan, Nowlan Travel
3) Carry papers when traveling with grandchildren
When traveling with our granddaughter, we carry two notarized documents. The first is a statement signed by her parents giving us permission to travel with her. The second is a statement of medical permission. The first sets to rest any questions of kidnapping (we have been asked for this proof when boarding a flight to South America) and the second gives us authority to make emergency medical decisions and authorize treatment if she is sick or injured.
4) Pack a change of clothes in your travel companion’s suitcase
Now that new carry-on weight limits of some airlines have made checking luggage necessary, my husband and I swap a full change of clothes when we pack for a trip. That way if one piece of luggage is lost or delayed, we both at least have one change of clothes.
Contributor: Barbara Radcliffe Rogers, WorldBite
5) Don’t forget to check hours of operation
Always, always, always check an attraction’s website for hours of operation before planning your itinerary. Did you know the Louvre in Paris is open every day except Tuesday? In the U.S., many museums are closed on Mondays. However, some like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, remain open on select holidays such as Labor Day. Avoid having your travel plans derailed by knowing when a country celebrates public holidays.
6) Save money on iconic city attractions
We save up to 50% off admission fees to major attractions and frequently bypass long entrance lines when we use CityPASS. For us, using it is most beneficial the first time we visit a city and want to see iconic attractions like the Empire State Building or the Art Institute of Chicago. CityPASS booklets are available in a growing number of North American destinations (including New York City, Southern California, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Toronto).
7) Take advantage of restaurant week deals
Are you a foodie? If your ideal vacation is sampling the local cuisine, consider visiting during Restaurant Week or in some cases—Restaurant Month. One of the most scrumptious food destinations in the world, New Orleans, has restaurant weeks in September and August. Most restaurant weeks occur during the offseason. Many extend for two weeks or more. A simple Google search is all you need to find the best time to dine at a favorite location.
Contributor: Barbara & Jim Twardowski
8) Always carry a nylon shopping bag in your purse
Whether you find some interesting foods in a public market or postcards in a museum gift shop, it’s useful to have an eco-friendly, reusable shopping bag on hand to haul your “stuff” back to your hotel or apartment.
9) Organize your trip itinerary online
TripIt.com is a free and easy-to-use tool for organizing trips. We use it to create online trip itineraries to share with family and friends. Especially useful is the feature that allows you to sync the airline/hotel confirmations in your email inbox with your TripIt itinerary. TripIt also allows us to archive our past travel itineraries with all the details.
10) Pack a shawl or pashmina
I always carry a shawl when we travel. Airplane cabins can be chilly as can cruise ship dining rooms and theaters. Compared to a cardigan or sweatshirt, they add a touch of elegance!
11) Avoid taking new shoes
Who among us hasn’t purchased a new piece of apparel to take along on a vacation? Go ahead and pack that new shirt but it’s never prudent to bring along a new pair of shoes that haven’t tested (and broken in) at home. Getting a blister from an ill-fitting shoe can “cramp” your style and spoil your trip. Another tip: Travel with at least two pairs of shoes, in case one pair gets wet.
Contributor: Irene S. Levine, More Time To Travel.com
12) Mind your manners, especially in France
The French are sometimes accused of being rude but that’s not true. If you don’t follow a country’s rules of etiquette (anywhere around the world), you may not be treated well. What you say and when you say it makes all the difference. “Bonjour” (hello) is the first thing you should say when entering any establishment, such as a store.
13) Take advantage of VAT discounts
In France (and many other European countries), if you are a foreigner (not belonging to the European Union) and you spend over 175.01 Euros at one store on the same day, you can get some of the tax back that you paid for your purchases. Just be sure the store participates in the VAT (Value Added Tax) tax-free program. They will provide you with the necessary form that is submitted to customs with your receipts just before you leave the European Union. Minimum spends vary per country.
14) Using frequent flyer points? Be aware of extra fees
While it’s wonderful to be able to accumulate enough frequent flyer points to fly “free” to Europe, the flight will likely cost you more than you expected, depending on the airline you choose. The reason: Taxes and surcharges that particular airlines add on. So a 60,000 point return flight to France, for example, could have a $650 tax with one airline and only $58 with another—-a savings of $592 on the former.
Contributor: Janice Chung, France Travel Tips
15) Avoid mosquito-borne diseases
If you’re traveling to a tropical or sub-tropical destination, guard against mosquito-borne illnesses. Adults over the age of 60 (and infants) are at extra risk of complications from viruses such as dengue fever.
To maximize protection from bites from infected mosquitos that carry dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika, pack duct tape to seal gaps in windows; insect repellent with DEET (don’t rely on natural solutions such as citronella or ingesting large doses of Vitamin B); and Raid Laminitas, an insect repellent device that can be plugged into an electrical outlet in a hotel room. Also worth taking: Permethrin-treated clothing as well as light-color, long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks.
Carry a supply of acetaminophen because aspirin or ibuprofen should not be taken if you contract dengue since they can increase the risk of bleeding.
Contributor: Michele Peterson, A Taste for Travel
16) Bring your hotel slippers on the plane
Upscale hotels often provide free slippers for guests. I use them in the hotel and then stash them in my carry-on. On long-haul flights, especially overnight ones, the slippers provide sanitary comfort. I trash them when the flight attendant comes through the cabin on a cleanup round.
17) Wear a vest with pockets
I’m a huge ScotteVest fan. Not only does it have inside pockets, but also pockets hidden inside the inside pockets, which are ideal for stashing a passport, credit cards, cash, a phone, etc. When both pockets and the vest are zipped, I know my valuables are safe from pickpockets. Also, when I go through the metal detector at TSA Security, I can take the vest off without taking anything out of the pockets.
18) Travel with an immerser
As any tea drinker knows, few hotels offer electric kettles. Fewer still, offer quality tea. Instead of trying to brew tea in a coffeemaker or Keurig, neither of which makes decent tea, travel with an immersion coil heater, your favorite teas, and a travel mug. As long as you have water, tea, and power, you can use it anywhere. (Of course, depending on were you travel, be careful of voltage differences.)
Contributor: Hilary Nangle, MaineTravelMaven
19) Protect yourself in hotel rooms
Not every hotel room has a deadbolt, so for safety reasons, I travel with an inexpensive door stopper that I included in “10 Best Travel Products for Under $25.” It’s also helpful to keep out housekeeping staff who believe in the knock-while-entering method that has caught me by surprise a few times.
Jan Schroder, Girl on the Go
20) Download podcasts for long road trips
Before any long driving trip, I pack my iPhone with podcasts to play through my car radio. My favourites include:
–Under the Influence (history of advertising)
–To the Best of Our Knowledge (general interest)
-Laugh Out Loud (standup comedy)
–Tapestry (world spirituality)
–99% Invisible (quirky architecture and design), and
–WorldLink (life in other countries, in English, from Germany’s Deutsche Welle).
21) Keep your cables untangled
Do you travel with lots of electronics cables and adapters? A small, flat board fitted with wide, criss-crossing elastics can help you keep them all in one place without tangling. They’re usually called “electronics organizers” and are available from Amazon, the Apple Store and other retailers. Alternatively, you can put each cable or adapter into a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag, then put them all in one large bag or suitcase pocket.
22) Organize your papers
For complicated trips, print out itineraries, vouchers, maps, hotel and car rental confirmations, contact information for essential people, insurance policies and so on. Photocopy your passport and airline tickets. Put each item in its own sheet protector, then put them all in a small binder or Duo-Tang folder that you take with you. If you lose your phone or can’t get online, it will come in handy.
Contributor: Laura Byrne Paquet, OttawaRoadTrips.com
23) Sleep on a satin pillowcase
Travel with a satin pillowcase! Mine has gone with me around the globe. I slip it over my pillow in every hotel room or cruise ship cabin. Sleeping on satin (at home, too, of course) keeps my fine hair from tangling and, as a side-sleeper, it keeps me from waking up with facial creases that take hours to go away.
24) Take terrific photos
Today’s “automatic everything” digital cameras and cellphone cameras almost take the photos for you, but there is still a human element involved. Check out these 10 tips that will hopefully bring you a step closer to taking photos you’ll be proud to include in your photo album or post on your Facebook page or other social media!
Contributor: Debbra Dunning Brouillette, Tropical Travel Girl
25) Wear compression socks on long flights
This simple product improves circulation in your legs, which is especially important on long flights. The lack of movement creates the opportunity for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when blood clots form in one of your deep veins. This can cause leg pain, swelling or worse. While DVT can happen at any age, as we get older it’s even more of a problem.
26) Always pack light
Really light! Buy fabrics that travel well and that can be rinsed out in a hotel sink. Pack clothes in a single color palette to make it easy to interchange outfits. Black is our favorite because it goes with anything, anywhere. Just add a few colorful scarves to dress up any outfit. Fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily are best, and you can roll them inside your bag to optimize space.
27) Carry a surge protector
A must-have travel accessory: The Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB charger. We bought this item years ago and it’s traveled hundreds of thousands of miles with us. It’s small and you can plug in three AC devices and charge two more devices through the USB ports. Best feature: No need to worry about power fluctuations or outages. The surge protector will ensure that all your devices are safe and sound no matter where you are (Again, beware of different voltages).
Contributors: Sue Reddel & Diana Laskaris, Food Travelist
28) Before leaving home, download maps on your smartphone
Here’s a tip for getting around without a paper map: Before you leave home, download a map of your destination on the Maps.me app. It works offline worldwide, saving you a fortune in data fees. The app also shows restaurants, attractions and points of interest and you can bookmark your favorite places. Maps.me is free and available for both Android and iPhone.
Contributor: Debra Smith, On Instagram: where.to.lady
29) Prepare for changing weather
The Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Washington and British Columbia), where the mountains and ocean affect the weather, is one such place where the weather can change on a dime. Year ‘round you’ll hear locals say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour. It will change.” So how do you get around variable weather and constant change?
Pack for layering. Since you don’t want to rush back to your hotel for a change of clothes, start with a nice t-shirt, wicking sports shirt or shell, consider a long sleeved shirt over that and add on a light jacket. For winter, be sure and bring a waterproof, warm jacket to finish your layering. Scarves are common year-round to keep your neck warm. Gloves in winter and a waterproof hat all year will keep you dry.
Think waterproof. Seattle averages 37.49 inches of precipitation a year and Portland averages 44 inches of rain per year. Certain areas like the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula thrive on rain. So you’ll need to prepare with some good rain gear. A light breathable jacket with a hood like those offered at Columbia Sportswear, can serve as your top layer. Waterproof shoes, like Gore-Tex day hikers, are acceptable whether you are walking downtown or taking a hike in the woods.
Contributor: Elizabeth R. Rose, Wander With Wonder
Do you have other Travel Tips for Boomers to make trips more hassle-free?
Please share them in the Comments Section below.