Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Camping Tips for Retirees - Stay Safe and Have Fun!

One of the advantages of retirement is that you can go camping whenever you want, not just on your children's school holidays.  This opens up the possibility of traveling around the country to various state and federal parks, spending extended periods of time in beautiful places you always dreamed of seeing.  America has some fabulous, scenic locations, and retirement means you can visit them whenever you wish, including in the "off-season."

There are many financial and health benefits to camping vacations, as long as you take a few precautions to avoid becoming the victim of a crime or injury. The information and tips below should help make your camping trips even more fun and rewarding.

Retirees Save Money on National Park Camping

Once you are over the age of 62, you will qualify for an American the Beautiful Senior Pass, which makes camping vacations even more affordable.  In 2019, a lifetime senior pass sold for $80 and an annual senior pass was available for $20 a year.  In addition, there was an extra $10 charge to purchase the passes online or by mail.  The senior pass covers your entrance fees and day use fees, and may give you a discount of up to 50 percent on your camping fees, boat launch fees and similar services.

According to their website: "Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges, as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person)."

In addition, you may want to check your state park service to see if senior citizens are eligible for discounts on camping, entry fees or other charges in the state parks.

Finally, don't forget that seniors are eligible for discounts at many other tourist sites, especially if you are a member of either AARP or AAA.  Don't forget to ask for your senior discount, even if you stop at a motel or restaurant. You've earned these discounts; enjoy them! 

Camping Has Health Benefits for Retirees

While any opportunity to relax and take a vacation is good for you, there are special reasons why a camping trip may have extra health benefits.

Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that being out in nature, even for a short time, can increase your recall ability by 20 percent.  They speculated that part of the reason for this is that it is easier to stay mindful when our brains are not overstimulated by traffic, crowds, and noise in the city.  This is a good reason to sit back and practice a little solitude and peaceful meditation while in the forest.

You are also more likely to hike and stay active when you are camping out, away from your computers, television and other electronic distractions.  One study showed that a two-hour walk in the woods could trigger a 50 percent increase in white blood cell activity, giving your immune system a boost.

In addition, you will probably be breathing pure, highly oxygenated air from the surrounding trees and other vegetation, far from sources of air pollution.  While spending time outdoors, you may also get more Vitamin D from the sun.

Remember Camper Safety!

Depending on where you are camping, as well as your plans and activities, you may need to take special safety precautions.

If you are going to hike in unfamiliar locations, everyone should consider purchasing a GPS tracker from Amazon or a sporting goods store. These trackers will help you stay on the trails and will make it easier for rescuers to locate you if you get lost or injured.  If you like to hike, taking a tracker with you could literally save your life.

In addition, it is a good idea to hike and camp with a backup solar charger (Ad) for your cell phone.  You may not have cell phone service in all areas but, if you do, it is important to keep your phone charged so you can reach someone in an emergency.  Even without cell service, you can use a cell phone as a flashlight to attract the attention of rescuers and, in some cases, the GPS will work, even if you are unable to make calls.

Other important safety equipment every camper should consider purchasing includes flashlights, a first aid kit, bear spray, (Ad) a whistle, water purification drops, and a portable radio.  All these items, and more, can be purchased from a sporting goods store or on the Amazon page for camping safety equipment.

In general, you should practice the same safety procedures while camping that you would at home.  For example, keep your car and camper locked when you are not around. If you tend to travel alone, you may want to join a camping club and caravan to various camp grounds with other senior citizens.  It will be more fun to travel with a group of friends and it will be safer.

Do not leave food lying out where it could attract wild animals.  Dispose of leftovers and food wrappers in properly designated trashcans, preferably away from your campsite.  Stay in approved camping areas and check-in with park rangers.

Do not go off-trail in remote areas.  Do not leave a campfire unattended.  Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher handy.  Do not go near the edge of cliffs.  People die regularly around the Grand Canyon from slipping off the rim.  If you decide to take a selfie, do not turn your back towards a cliff or on wild animals, such as bison or bears.  In fact, do not get to close to wild animals, even if you are facing them. Stay aware of your surroundings.  

Have Fun and Stay Healthy!

If you want to get the most enjoyment from camping after retirement, plan to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and meet fellow campers. Learning new skills, getting fresh air and exercise, socializing with interesting people, and reading about the places you are visiting are wonderful ways to maintain your mental facilities.

If you become ill, Medicare works in all 50 states, but not outside the U.S.  If you venture into Mexico or Canada, you need to have a special travel plan to obtain medical care overseas, in the event you need it.  Discuss this with your Medicare insurance provider.  Make sure your Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan will provide care for you in all 50 states, and find out what arrangements they have for travel outside the U.S. 

Take the time to eat well while traveling, too.  Avoid relying on easy snacks like chips and cookies, or foods you pick up at fast food restaurants on the road.  Bring along plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which often can be wrapped in tin foil and heated over a campfire or prepared on a grill.

Explore new locations.  If you aren't sure where to camp along the way, you may want to get a copy of the "Smart RV Travel Guide For The Lower 48 States: List of RV and National Parks, the Cost, the Amenities, What to See and Do in Each State." (Ad)

For more travel tips for retirees, or information on financial planning, where to retire in the US and overseas, common medical issues, Social Security and Medicare, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  Twitter account of Leisure Travel

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