Showing posts with label travel tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel tips. Show all posts

Friday, December 17, 2021

Safely Travel Alone - Solo Vacation Tips

Solo travel is becoming more popular in the over-50 age group, particularly for women. According to Overseas Adventure Travel, traveling alone has been the fastest growing segment of the travel business.  In 2010, women traveling by themselves made up 27 percent of their business; today solo female travelers make up 50 percent of their bookings.  The Tauck travel company has also seen an increase in solo riverboat cruisers over the age of 50, with 75 percent of the solo travelers being women.  Single travelers may be divorced, widowed, never-married, or married people whose spouses stayed at home while they went on a trip by themselves.  However, before you book your first solo trip, there are a few things you should know.

Traveling Alone Can Be Expensive

Most travel accommodations are priced for double occupancy.  This works well for people who have a travel companion, whether it is a spouse or friend.  For people who want to book rooms alone, the cost can be exorbitant. For example, a river cruise priced at under $2,000 per person for a double occupancy room, could cost over $3,300 for a single person occupying the same cabin alone.  This makes it too expensive for many people to travel alone.  However, some specialty tour companies, such as Wild Women Expeditions, Intrepid Travel, Exodus Travels and Adventure Travel, are helping single travelers by pairing them with other travelers who want to share a cabin, or by offering single accommodations for only a small additional fee.

Sign Up for a Tour or Cruise

While it can be exciting to travel completely alone, doing it through a tour company or on a cruise ship will give you more security and connect you with a group of other travelers to eat and chat with.  This can help you feel more comfortable and less lonely.  It can also be fun to share your adventures with other like-minded people. 

Choose Safe Destinations

All travelers need to recognize the importance of checking the State Department website for travel advisories and warnings.  We are fortunate, today, that we are able to find out important travel warnings with just a click on our computers. 

Years ago, my husband and I took our family on a trip to Cancun, although we had no idea that a hurricane was approaching.  On another occasion we went to Jamaica during a time of violent unrest, when several tourists at our hotel were killed by revolutionaries.  In both cases, we wish we had been able to easily find out about the danger before we left for these destinations.  

It is very helpful to read up on potential destinations before you choose one.  It is worthwhile to read travel guides (Ad), which are available for almost any destination in the world.  It is smart to know a little about what to expect before you head off on your adventure, and it could help your enjoy your trip even more!

Today, we also have the ability to check in advance to see if there are health, political, or weather related reasons why you might want to avoid certain locations, even if something comes up at the last minute.

The state department website can be found at:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Tell Other People Where You are Going

Remember when you had teenagers and you asked them to let you know where they were going and how to reach them in an emergency?  Today, your adult children or other family members will also worry if they do not know where you are or how to reach you.  Give your itinerary to your family. Check in with them periodically by email or by using a free app on your phone such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messaging.  These are free ways to send texts and you can also use WhatsApp to make video calls.  Of course, you have to make sure you will have WiFi available during your trip.

If you register your trip with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will notify you if something new comes up, such as a local political uprising, an approaching storm, or a serious increase in an epidemic, such as Covid.  Make sure they know how to reach you.

Get Medical Emergency Travel Insurance

We have had several friends who had to end their trips prematurely because of an unexpected illness or injury.  In each case, they had to spend time in a foreign hospital, and then arrange their own travel home.   Before they were allowed to leave the foreign country, they had to pay the hospital bill in full.  Typically, your Medicare plan will not cover any of these costs.  Consequently, you will want to purchase a medical emergency travel plan which covers preexisting conditions, as well as the cost of having a friend or relative meet you at the foreign hospital, if possible.  You will also want the insurance to cover the cost of evacuating you back to the United States as soon as you are able to travel. 

Be Extra Careful About Venturing Out Alone at Night

While it is important to be vigilant and stick with your tour group during the day, it is especially important at night.  Avoid getting drunk, which could make you much more vulnerable.  Watch your drinks carefully, to minimize your risk of being drugged by a friendly stranger.  Sign up for planned group trips to local night spots, restaurants, clubs and theaters.   The tour group leaders will know the fun places to go, will have no trouble getting the necessary reservations or tickets, and will minimize the danger.

Get a Few Safety Travel Accessories

If you are traveling, it could be helpful to purchase a few inexpensive travel accessories such as a secure, hidden, travel belt  (ad) for your money and ID.   If you are concerned about your safety in your hotel room, you can also purchase a portable door lock (Ad) for added security.  Another option is a portable door or window alarm which will awaken you if there is an intruder.  Taking along a few items like these will help you feel more secure wherever you go, although it doesn't replace remaining vigilant whenever you venture out on your own. 

Look for Opportunities to Meet Local People

There are ways to protect yourself while still taking advantage of opportunities to meet local people.  You may want to stay in a B&B or small hotel where you can meet other travelers.  You can also arrange visits with local people through some of the websites listed below:

Meetup.com
Women Welcome Women World Wide
MamazSocialFood.com
EatWith.com

The last two sites allow you to book a meal with local hosts in their own homes in a number of countries around the world.  You will get a home cooked meal and have the opportunity to meet local people. 

Even when using these websites, it is a good idea to see if you can join a tour or put together a group of people who want to go together, so you are not traveling alone or spending time by yourself with strangers.  Many tour companies can include an evening in the home of a local as part of their package.  Ask about it when you book your tour.

It may also help if you take the time to learn a little of the language before you go.  Using a program like Babbel (Ad) could help you learn enough of a language to be able to get around more easily while traveling.  It will help you feel more confident about striking up a conversation or asking for directions, and increase the fun you will have.

Most importantly, do not give up on travel simply because you do not have a companion to go with you.  Do some research, find a tour or cruise, keep an open mind, and have the time of your life!


What About Safety on Road Trips?

You may also decide to take a road trip by yourself.  Some of the above advice will still apply.  According to Nicole Jordon, a young woman who has traveled in her Subaru Forester for two years by herself, below are some things she does to keep herself safe on the road.  Many of these tips are good to follow, no matter what mode of transportation you are using.

Stay in touch with family and friends. Let them know where you are and where you are going.

Take a satellite phone, so you are always in touch, you are able to send your coordinates to your contacts, and you can check for weather updates.  Most satellite phones also have an SOS feature, in case of an emergency.

Download offline maps and take along paper maps, so you can find the location you are headed towards, even if your GPS does not work.

If you are camping, choose sites with good reviews, near towns.  (I would add that they should not be too isolated. Park near a ranger station, if that is an option.)

If you are stuck in a city overnight, be careful about where you park. (This might be a good time to find an actual trailer park or other site which allows overnight camping.) 

Wherever you park, make sure you orient your car toward the exit and prepare yourself for the night, so you can take off quickly, without the need to get out of your car to gather belongings.  Always be prepared to leave quickly in an emergency.

Keep some kind of self-defense weapon with you, such as bear spray. (Ad)  (Nicole also suggests keeping a knife nearby.  The weapon you choose is a personal matter, but the bear spray tip is a good one, and they are available in a variety of price ranges and multi-packs. In addition to being able to use it on human predators, the spray can also be used on animals, especially if you camp in remote areas.) 

Maintain your car so it is less likely to break down in an isolated area.

Install curtains in your vehicle, so you can have privacy at night.

Stay well supplied, with extra food and water, and keep your gas tank full.

Don't share too much personal information with people you meet.  In particular do not tell them that you are traveling alone.  Suggest that you are on your way to meet friends, and be vague about where you are going.  With the same security concerns in mind, do not post exactly where you are on social media, because you do not want strange people to try to locate you.  If you want to post photos, post them a few days after you have left the place.

If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, act on it.  As Nicole says, "trust your gut."  Leave.

(Source:  https://www.yahoo.com/news/ive-living-road-myself-2-204045478.html - Article by Nicole Jordon)

Most important of all, be a little adventurous and have fun traveling.  There are so many interesting places, both in our country and all around the world.

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Source of websites and statistics:  AARP Bulletin, December 2019

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Travel Warnings and Alerts

Years ago, in the early 1980’s, my husband and I took our children and a teenage babysitter to Jamaica on vacation.  We stayed at a luxurious hotel with a spacious, open-air entry that was undergoing extensive repairs when we arrived. Marble tiles were being removed and replaced throughout the lobby.

After asking several employees about the repairs, one bell boy finally admitted to us that an anti-government revolutionary group had come into the hotel the week before and shot a number of people in the lobby.  Needless to say, this put a real damper on our vacation!  In those days, before the internet, it was not easy to get travel advisories before taking a vacation, so we knew nothing about the political unrest until we arrived.

A few years prior to that frightening trip to Jamaica, we took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and arrived just as a hurricane was passing by.  Although this trip was only marginally affected by the hurricane (our hotel lost electricity for about 12 hours), it would have been nice to know about the hurricane before we left the United States.

Where to Get Travel Warnings

Today, anyone planning a trip abroad can get up-to-date travel warnings before making their reservations by going to the State Department travel website at: http://travel.state.gov/travel

When the State Department issues a travel warning, they do so because they believe that a long-term situation exists in certain countries which could make it dangerous or unstable to visit those locations.  In those situations, they recommend Americans avoid traveling to those spots.  It may also mean that the U.S. government has a limited ability to assist American citizens who choose to visit the countries because the embassy or consulate may have been closed or is operating with minimal staff.

The list of countries is extensive, but currently includes:  Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, Guinea, Mali, the West Bank and Gaza areas of Israel, Iraq, Congo, Kenya, Afghanistan, Haiti, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Colombia and parts of Mexico, as well as a number of other countries.  Of course, if you are traveling to those countries on government business, your situation is different. If you are considering traveling to undeveloped or dangerous countries or, even more importantly, retiring abroad, you will want to check the U.S. State Department website regularly.

The Difference Between Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts

Sometimes, rather than issue a travel warning, our government issues a travel alert.  When the government issues travel alerts, they are letting you know about short-term conditions that could pose significant risks to the security of American citizens.  The type of risks involved include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, high profile events such as major sporting competitions or international conferences, as well as recent or anticipated terrorist attacks and coups.  Since there are no active hurricanes or coups taking place as I write this, there are no current travel alerts to report.  However, a wise traveler would check out the travel alerts as well as the travel warnings before taking an international trip because both lists can change quickly.

With easy access to government websites on our computers and smart phones, no American citizen should experience the shock of arriving in a country in the middle of an uprising or just prior to a hurricane.  Although not all dangerous travel situations can be avoided, traveling is more pleasant when we can avoid major disasters and political unrest.

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