Guide to Traveling Abroad: Tips from a Travel Architect
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COVID-19 travel restrictions are loosening across the world, which is good news for those who want to travel the world. However, for senior travelers, there may still be concerns about exploring a new country, and not just about contracting and spreading the virus. Boomers are at the perfect age to travel because, typically, they have more time and money to do so compared to younger generations. They are also at the perfect age to take extra precautions when going out and about.
Annie Collins, owner and travel architect of Freedom Travel, says that traveling is easier (and more affordable) for seniors these days than one would expect. Not much has changed since the pandemic, but there are still some important measures to take when you are traveling as a boomer. By keeping a few things in mind, your experience abroad will be as exciting as it is seamless.
What COVID-19 measures are there?
“I am busier than ever, despite the pandemic,” says Annie. “People are excited to travel because the restrictions are few and far between in some cases. I would say that the best thing to do is to be vaxxed and boosted, not just for boomers but for anyone who wants to travel.”
Those who are not fully vaccinated can still travel, but they will have to jump through some hoops to get where they want to be. Since the beginning of the pandemic, lots of countries require travelers to fill out an entry form, which can be filled out online and includes a QR code. This entry form is just like the form travelers would receive in the airport; it requires you to fill out what flight you were on, where you are staying, and other important information about your whereabouts, except, now, it can be done online and ahead of time. You can either save the QR code on your phone or bring a hardcopy with you to
“Gone are the days of just getting on a plane and getting off with your passport,” Annie muses. “But, we are still traveling.” In fact, countries such as Italy and Spain are begging for tourists since the tourism industry plummeted during the pandemic. While the online travel-abroad forms may become the new norm, traveling doesn’t get much more difficult from that. Annie notes that, in 2020, she could travel to Belize much easier than to Chicago, “and I do that so I can tell travelers my experience. You can’t sell a country if you have not seen it.”
What are the best ways to travel?
“As far as the pandemic goes, nothing has really changed the way senior citizens travel,” Annie answers. “I do custom international travel, so I am familiar with all sorts of people, but seniors are my favorite because they are not intent on seeing everything and ticking every box. They have a great sense of appreciation for a country and a particular travel style.”
A popular way of traveling for seniors is agri-tourisms, which Annie describes as culturally rich (and COVID friendly) experiences that cater to the more relaxed, quality-over-quantity travel style of a boomer.
“I design three elements for my travelers: destination, special interest, and accommodations, which are the most fun,” says Annie. Take pousada hopping in Portugal for example. Pousada hopping allows travelers to visit historic buildings that have been turned into lovely inns, which is a style of travel that seniors typically appreciate and is helpful in terms of moving around while exploring the country. This sort-of hotel hopping can be done all around
the world. If you cannot (or do not want to) hike up and down a mountain or spend the day walking cobblestone streets, driving is the best way to get around town. It may look a little different in countries such as those in the UK, as they drive on the left side of the road. However, driving is the most accessible way to get around. Whether you want to rent a car for the day or have a guide take you to and from your destinations, cars are certainly easier than walks, and so are trains.
What are some popular travel destinations?
As opposed to younger travelers, a lot of seniors look for easy, low-risk trips. Ireland, for example, is described as “green and clean,” and France is known as a gentle, beautiful country with rolling landscapes that are easy on the eyes. Another popular and easy option is to go on a cruise, but not too big of a cruise. “I have small-ship cruises, which have 40 passengers or less,” Annie says. “These small-ship cruises give you international experiences with all sorts of people while giving you access to lands that big ships can’t normally get to.” When you take a small-ship cruise to Greece or Croatia, you get the lay of the land while also being able to find your own adventure. You can also go to a local restaurant in the country for dinner rather than being stuck with a buffet that a large cruise ship would provide.
What to avoid?
Big suitcases, vertical destinations, and too many transitions, according to Annie. “It is vital for anyone at any age to travel with a 21- or 22-inch suitcase,” she says. “If you cannot carry it, you should not take it.” Being able to carry your own luggage allows for a little extra independence, too, as it’s no use saying “I can’t do this,” and “you need to take care of me,” especially when you are on vacation. You’re the traveler, not the other person. Another thing Annie works hard to prevent is the “Day-One-From-Hell” experience. Her method includes having a driver pick you up from the airport, bring you to the hotel, and make sure you’re settled in so you can get a good night’s sleep. Things can still go awry any day after that, but the first day includes crucial steps that can significantly impact overall experience. You may also want to avoid places with too many stairs and having too many destinations. Fewer transitions from one place to another means there will be fewer opportunities for mistakes, so your vacation will be limited to no more than three destinations. Rocky terrains such as Cinque Terre in Italy, while gorgeous, are not going to be easy, either. It would also be wise to not be too adventurous with foods and drinks.
One final piece of advice: If you can go, go–especially with your grandchildren. “One of the greatest joys of being a boomer is bringing your grandchildren on vacation with you,” Annie says. “Traveling teaches children independence, responsibility, and patience. They learn all about the world and that all people are our neighbors, even if those people eat differently than we do and have different bathrooms.”
Now that the world is reopening, countries are so gracious and willing to have tourism back, so there is no better time than now to visit that place you’ve always wanted to visit. Just remember to pack lightly and take your travels slowly. The world is yours to explore–it is only a matter of choosing where you want to go first.[vc_separator][vc_column_text]By Emily Drez