A lot of the guests on the podcast have told us that one of their major Seniortopia dreams is to travel more. As we get into our 50s and 60s, many of us are finding we have more time and money to travel than before. And chances are we don’t yet have too many physical challenges that make travel difficult.
But the way my husband and I travel now is different from the way we travelled when we were in college. Some of that has to do with simply having more money. No more bunk beds and shared bathrooms in hostels for us, thank you very much! And of course the internet has changed travel in uncountable ways. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there are some changes that absolutely have to do with our age. A lot of them revolve around surviving the flights to and from your destination.
What follows is a list of tips for fiftysomethings about flying comfortably and safely. Some of them are my own hard-won wisdom, and others are from our posse on the Seniortopia Show Facebook page.
- If you don’t have it yet, get the TSA precheck. $85 gets you into the fast lane at airport security for five years! No taking off shoes or belts, no need to take your laptops or liquids out of your bag. And if you’re going to be traveling internationally even once, we think the Global Entry program is worth the $100 fee (also lasts five years). Global Entry helps you upon re-entry to the US because you can use the self-serve kiosks and don’t have to fill out paperwork by hand.
- Book a nonstop flight when possible. Eliminating the need to trek what seems like miles in unfamiliar airports means more energy to explore your destination. It might cost more, but it makes it more likely you’ll reach your destination without undue complications.
- For longer trips, such as overseas, consider breaking the flight into two shorter legs with several days in between. For instance, the last time we flew from Chile to the US, we planned a weekend stopover in Mexico City. Not only did we get to explore this amazing city, but we also connected with some friends we knew through internet travel sites but had never met in person.
- Consider using your travel miles to upgrade your seat to business. This advice goes double if you are over 6 feet tall. The incredibly tight seating on most flights these days means anyone with long legs will be supremely unhappy on any flight lasting more than 5 or 6 hours. On really long trips, such as overnight flights from the US to Asia or South America, being in first class with the ability to recline your seat all the way to a flat position for sleeping can be the difference between having a happy body and one that feels like it has been run over by a truck when you reach your destination.
- Stay calm (thanks to Ted for this one!) It can’t be emphasized enough, air travel is stressful these days. With all the invasive screenings, long lines, delayed flights and loud televisions, the time you spend in the airport is almost guaranteed to be one of the least pleasant parts of any trip. Jeri always says “When you walk into the airport, go to your Zen place. Someone else is in charge, things will happen that you cannot change. Let go!” And remember, a smile will go a long way whenever you feel your humanity slipping away from you on the conveyor belt along with your lost luggage.
- Compression socks for long flights (Thanks to Carol for this tip!) According to the Travel Channel, the risk of developing blood clots on a flight is low, but it goes up as travel time increases. The kind you want to look for are non-prescription. These will have a small amount of compression as compared to the type that are often prescribed for people after surgery. They come in different sizes and should feel like your calves are getting a gentle squeeze, not being strangled.
Below are a couple of links to compression socks. If you click on these links, the Seniortopia Show will earn a small commission.
And check out episode 13, where we have an interesting discussion about how architects are taking the needs of the older traveler into consideration as they design the airports of the future.
Let us know your tips for surviving a trip through the airport!