Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jeanette's Travel Tips for the 60+

In spirit, I love to travel, or maybe I should use the past tense; I loved to travel. It might be more the idea rather than the actuality that I love. The romance is always there, always has been, just like the lyrics, “See the pyramids along the Nile, see the marketplace in old Algiers.” I remember my first trip to continental Europe the summer following my freshman year in college, the sun melting like liquid copper over vineyards in Tuscany and the Parthenon standing white as bleached bone against a blue Grecian sky. But now, forty years later, the view isn't quite so romantic.

Travel posters tell the story I want to experience much better than words: a beautiful, very slim woman in beige and white linen, her sun-streaked hair pulled back into a messy bun, sunglasses perched on her perfect nose, slender arms faintly tanned, finger and toe nails buffed, Colgate-white teeth, smiling at her companion, an equally beautiful man, strong features, a full head of dark hair, smiling back with the kind of tolerance rarely seen in a real-life husband after a week of 24-7 travel.

          The truth is, travel is uncomfortable. Sometimes it even hurts. It’s lugging suitcases down city blocks to a subway station, walking long distances on sore feet, drinks with no ice and food that upsets sensitive stomachs. It’s enduring less than sanitary bathrooms and listening to strangers breathe and cough on the other side of too thin walls and no escape to the guest room when your beloved on the other side of the bed tosses and turns on an unfamiliar mattress, or worse yet, snores. It’s unexpected delays and unforeseen All Star playoffs, (I won’t belabor the claustrophobic nightmare of flying coach or attempting Bourbon Street in New Orleans on a festival night) crowded elevators, pillows that aren’t right and restaurants whose menus look better online than they taste on the street. In short, travel, the kind I remember when I was young, is no longer the pleasure it was.  I'd love to recreate that lost sense of adventure, but I'm no longer 20 or 30 or even 50. I can't do it the way I did.
          So…what is a woman who isn’t ready to turn in her passport, who craves comfort but isn’t wealthy to do when she still dreams of riding the Orient Express and sipping coffee in a outdoor cafĂ© along the Via Veneto in Rome? Do less, I've decided, and do it more slowly and in comfort.

Jeanette's travel tips for the 60+

  • Rent high end, comfortable accommodations with plenty of light: gone are the days when you can leave the hotel at 8:00 am, walk for 12 hours, read maps at street-corners lit with gas lamps and still look like the cover of a magazine at 11:00 pm.

  • Don’t leave home without large sunglasses, sunscreen and lipstick. Remarkable anti-aging inventions.

  • Forget fashion and leave the cute shoes at home. Cute, in no way, makes up for blistered feet.

  • Make note of bathrooms in the area BEFORE you have to go.
  • Keep a fizzy bicarbonate in your suitcase. Exotic food is no longer the adventure it once was.
  • Do without that second Hurricane. Trust me. 
  • Drink lots of water unless you’re on a bus tour and avoid bus tours longer than 2 hours.
  • Use taxi cabs instead of subways or buses. You’ve spent plenty to reach your destination. Spend a little more for the convenience of a ride.

  • If possible, ship your luggage ahead or pay to check that bag. Pulling rolling carry-ons from overhead bins isn’t as easy as it was 5 years ago.
  • If your flight isn’t direct, plan layovers at least 90 minutes apart. Delayed or lost luggage is miserable.
  • Use a credit card that allows you to accumulate travel points and save up for a Business Class booking. The difference in service is beyond belief.
  • Many EU countries don’t allow people 70+ to rent cars. Be prepared. The tour that you scorned in your youth may be just the ticket to the perfect, stress-free vacation. Cruises are a terrific alternative as well. No need to pack up at all.

  • Stay in one place at least two nights. Better yet, use one destination as a base and take day trips.
  • Above all, make sure your accommodations are exactly where you want to be. Walking six blocks to the subway and standing for a fifteen minute ride is no way to see a city.   
  • Take fewer trips but, if possible, make them more upscale. You deserve it. Happy traveling and Bon Voyage.


1 comment:

  1. Perfect advice ... I couldn't agree more! Thanks for putting into words the obvious solutions I might never have thought of!