From time-to-time I dog sit for friends of mine. They are “older” – both officially retired. How hard can it be, after all they should be slowing down right? Hmm wrong – sometimes they go on a shorter trip – maybe a cruise. But this year is a couple of months tripping around Europe! Why younger people tied up with school and careers vaguely wondering how to travel the world, their grandparents are doing it!
So what are the particular issues that apply to the older tourist? Well first, its not all bad news! If you’ve ever tried to hire a car when you were aged under 25 – age definitely has its benefits!
Many insurance companies make it more difficult for older travellers to get insurance. Many will refuse cover for people over 70, or even 65! My advice here is shop around – and to the insurance industry – wake up! I know fit and healthy people in their 80’s who still travel regularly and are probably a lower risk than the crazy guys on their first trip to Thailand – looking to tube wild rivers and dive every second day, and party the night away at the full moon parties.
Health and Fitness
Yes getting older is not all good! My best advice is to learn how to travel with less gear. Although many people rave about roll-along luggage I don’t like it. Probably because its really, really hard to manoeuvre rolling suitcases onto boats and buses in Thailand – and the other less-developed countries I tend to travel too.
The other reality is that as you get older, you are more likely to take prescription drugs. These seems to be a concern for many – but I’ve never heard of anyone having border control issues because of prescription drugs. Carry a copy of the script with you and remember that in most of the world you will be able to replace those drugs if lost or stolen, over the counter at your local pharmacy.
Finances for the Older Traveller
Over 30? – then most countries won’t give you a working holiday visa. On the other hand you may well find that you have options in terms of volunteering using your life and professional skills. Sleeping on someone’s couch may not do it for you – but what about house swapping? Many property owners will probably prefer someone older to look after their place, and of course you are more likely to own a house to swap with.
The other trick that many older travellers use to great effect – is to get their employer to pay for their travel. In most countries (sorry Americans) an employee who has been with a firm for a few years gets more holidays and even long-service leave. Plan carefully and I know people who have managed to arrange months of travel while still getting paid!
Realistically most older travellers have more financial resources than the young first-time RTW backpacker. Unfortunately quite a number of them like to squander their cash on pre-paid tours and over-priced, mediocre 3-star hotels.
I think I’ve found the sweet-spot. I don’t do dorms anymore – but I don’t need en-suite bathrooms either. So we tend to stay in small local hotels/hostel/guest houses. I take the money saved and use it for – longer trips.
Older People Travelling – Will I Fit In?
When I first went to Thailand I was 27 – boy did I feel old! Last time I went I was 49 – and I didn’t feel old at all! What had changed – well quite a lot – but mainly my attitude I think! I really do think that the older you get – the less you care about other people’s opinions of how you spend your life. Realistically – I probably wouldn’t enjoy a Full Moon Party in Thailand – but then I skipped them when I was there the first time too! Same as home – the places I go and the things I do have evolved with age – the same happens when you travel.
What about you – do you worry about being too old to travel?