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I was thrilled when my daughter Victoria invited me to celebrate her birthday in Paris, France, the City of Light! That excitement quickly turned to fear when I realized I would have to travel alone from Europe back home to the United States.
I hadn’t been overseas since I was a teenager, and the thought of flying all that way, making connections in foreign countries, and going through customs by myself was daunting. Well, I indeed did travel home, made my connections and went through US Customs. Alone.
While this article is mainly for airport travel, the solo senior travel tips and tricks I share can be applied to train, bus, and car traveling as well.
Here are my Solo Senior Traveler Tips!
Solo Senior Travel Tips You Need To Know
Solo Senior Travel Tips: Do Your Research and Plan Ahead
Planning, reserving and confirming sooner rather than later will lessen fears of the unknown. Once your destination is resolved with target dates, you can then turn your attention to researching airlines and land transportation.
I selected times and flights that I was comfortable with that worked with my schedule. I realized our Paris Air B&B was situated one hour from Charles de Gaulle Airport. Since I’m not an early riser, a mid-morning flight suited me just fine.
My target was to be at the airport was three hours before my international flight’s departure. That meant I had to leave the flat 0600h. The subways were too complicated for me to navigate alone’ It would have been too difficult to negotiate stairs with my luggage.
I opted for UBER transportation. That turned out to be quite an eventful trip! More about that later.
I 100% absolutely HAD to be at an appointment the morning after my travels brought me home. So I chose an itinerary that gave me a generous three-hour cushion of time between my flight connections. Fortunate for me it was in Dublin, Ireland, and I did not have to deal with non-English speaking personnel.
Take time to do your research for your upcoming trips. Will save you time and stress in the long run. This will def one of my top solo senior travel tips!
Solo Senior Travel Tip: Pack Lightly
You have heard this advice before I know. But it certainly bears repeating. If possible, depending on your destination, aim to pack everything in a roll-aboard suitcase. Plus a medium-size over-the-shoulder carry-on.
For specific suggestions on this, read about packing lightly here.
This will save you a lot of time at your final destination airport. When you don’t have an extra pair of hands to assist you with your luggage, you need to be extra thoughtful about how you pack.
If it’s in your budget, invest in high quality rolling carry-on luggage. Also, look for a smaller carry on bag that will stack neatly, or more importantly, attach to the top handle of your wheeled bag.
While I did purchase a new 21″ roll-aboard suitcase, I did not have a bag that stacked neatly or attached to my new suitcase. I did not give it a thought beforehand because I used a totally chic, totally humongous Victoria’s Secret zippered bag.
I could practically get inside of it myself! I could bring everything I wanted plus my kitchen sink. Yay me! Sadly, it was too large to sit securely and too heavy to balance on top of my suitcase.
It was too heavy for me to carry comfortably over my shoulder and became cumbersome. Because of its weight, it would fall off the suitcase, changing the center of gravity. Simply put, it was difficult to travel with and a poor decision.
Solo Senior Packing Tips: What To Bring
I think that using these useful solo senior travel tips will enhance any of your upcoming trips and help you remain organized while there.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring with you on your trip. This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can keep your most valuable documents safe and secure next to your body.
If you have a pouch already you may not want to or need to invest in a new one. If it does not come with the RFID protection, these RFID sleeves would be handy to prevent identity theft.
This configuration comes with enough passport and credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your current pouch or wallet. These are the kind my family and I use not only when traveling but at home as well.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have. And wow is it fast! I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about. And if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek Selfie Stick and Tripod for my birthday. It has Bloothtooth connectivity so it is very easy to use. It is made of durable aluminum and is very lightweight and easy to carry. I love mine and I think you will enjoy it too!
I was never a fan of packing cubes until I tried them out! Now I am sold. These Bagail packing cubes are the exact ones I use whenever I travel. I cannot believe how much more organized I am now! And I never leave without them anymore.
Hydration is so important. You want to remain hydrated to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your 5 days in Paris. You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for travel and it will fit nicely in the pocket of a backpack or your purse. Also when filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the Bobble carbon filter ensures fresh clean water whenever and wherever you fill the Bobble. You can find filter replacements here.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space in your suitcase at all. And you will be receiving a set of two.
You will want to bring a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. It is very affordable and is available in many color options for you to choose from. The fact that it folds down into a zippered pouch will make it easy to pack.
Perhaps you need a more substantial backpack for your international travel. This antitheft backpack has a charging port, is water-resistant and can comfortably carry up to a 15.6″ laptop.It comes in a range of colors to choose from and it is inexpensive as well.
You will be walking more than usual during your travels. A sturdy and comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must-have. These waterproof all-season shoes are extremely affordable and yet fashionable.
Mostly everyone is familiar with the Skechers brand, and these Air Run high fashion sneakers come in a lot of colors to match your outfits and are still affordable.
If you are visiting places with warmer weather you may want a pair of sandals to wear exploring. I highly recommend these Vionics adjustable strap orthotic sandals.
I have several pairs of these exact Vionic sandals in several colors that I bring with me *everywhere* I travel. They are very comfortable. I also sometimes bring along my Vionic Tides flip flops. The toe post is so comfortable which makes wearing these super comfortable.
We all need to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays. These unisex polarized sunglasses come in a lot of lens colors and frame designs and are extremely affordable too.
If you are fond of the aviator-style of sunglasses these polarized aviators may interest you. I like polarized sunglasses because they remove the glare off the water and help you to see things more clearly. This will be very helpful in Paris.
Don’t forget to bring along a universal power adapter on your trip if you are traveling outside of your home country. This worldwide power plug is a great example and will charge your phone at the end of your busy days.
And this world traveler adapter kit can charge several devices at the same time. This is what you will need when there are several people traveling in your group, or if you bring several electronic devices on your trip that require charging at the same time.
If you are in need of new luggage, this expandable soft side spinner luggage is affordable and comes in lots of colors. If you like hard-sided better, then you may favor this hard-sided luggage set better.
Both sets come with TSA approved zippers locks and 8 wheels per piece. Either will be great for the plane or train or even your car depending on how you plan to travel to France.
Bringing proper luggage is one of my top solo senior travel tips!
Solo Senior Travel Tips: Have Proper Documentation With You At All Times
A government-issued passport is accepted as the highest level of identification by security worldwide. If you do not have a passport and plan to travel internationally, consider applying for your passport several months prior to your travel.
You can obtain an application form at your local post office or online at passports.state.gov You will also need two official photographs, instructions provided in the application. AAA and some drug or warehouse stores are able to take them for you. No cell phone photos will be accepted.
You will need to check-in for your flight twenty-four hours before departure and obtain your boarding pass. If you are able, download your airline’s app to your phone.
This way you have the choice of either downloading your boarding pass to your phone (on the airline’s app) or printing it out to bring it with you. Printing is easy if you are staying at a hotel, sometimes not so easy if you are not.
On the morning of travel, I have my passport and phone (with boarding pass downloaded) in a small purse I wear under my coat.
Double-check you have all the necessary forms of ID before you leave your house is one of the most imnportant of all the solo senior travel tips!
Solo Senior Travel Tips: Security
Passing through immigration and security can happen in odd sequences And not feel logical at all, especially when in transit between flights. Follow the signs! Whatever airport you are at. and do not feel afraid to approach airport staff to ask a question or for directions.
I often must ask for directions when I travel through airports because I am afraid to miss an important sign and head in an incorrect direction.
Pack your bags so mandatory items can be easily and quickly removed at security. The most frequent error made by travelers is improperly packing LAGs (liquids, aerosols, and gels.)
To remain in your onboard bag, LAGs must be in containers of 3 oz or less, and all these containers must fit into a one-quart bag that must be closed. (If it cannot be closed, you are packing more than the allowed amount.)
Listen to instructions at security for the handling of your electronic devices. This varies from country to country. Finally, dress comfortably. Shoes must be removed when traveling to or through the USA, and metal buttons and snaps often sound the security alarm.
Don’t forget to empty your water bottle before security. It can be refilled on the other side.
Going through security does not have to be intimidating if you are organized.
Savvy Solo Senior Travel Tips: Consider Priority Programs
I would be remiss if I didn’t add TSA Precheck and Global Entry as options to move through security more quickly and smoothly. You can find more information about TSA Precheck, a five-year membership with an $85.00 fee, at www.tsa.gov/precheck.
Global Entry, also a five-year membership, with a fee of $100.00 information is at www.cbp.gov. Global Entry provides the TSA Precheck benefit, plus expedited US customs screening for international travelers when entering the United States.
I opted for the Global Entry Program because of my travel plans, but do your research and select the program most advantageous to you if you are interested. This is one my my solo senior travel tips!
I usually always wear socks when going through security, since I may have to remove my shoes. I have a fave pair of black jeans I wear a lot. Like, a lot. They have big black buckles on either side of the waist. I never make it through security wearing those jeans.
Too much metal and the alarms always sound meaning I have to endure more screening. It did not take me long to put those jeans in my carry on bag and not wear them on travel days.
Remember my Uber ride from my Air B&B in Paris to the airport? Once we arrived at the airport property, I became increasingly uncomfortable as the driver, following his Uber navigational device, was driving to the outer darker fields of nowhere.
He stopped the car and turned to me and admitted in his finest broken English, “I cannot get you to the airport terminal, this is all my Uber Maps shows me.” I was stunned. The sun had not risen yet and it was still inky black outside.
I was terrified. I asked Siri on my iPhone to navigate me to the airport terminal, and he kindly agreed. For me, it was a safe and happy ending.
The moral of my scary experience? The more prepared and organized you are for your trip the more confident you will be. You will be able to think more clearly and handle any unfortunate situations that may come your way.
Solo Senior Travel Tips: if you need assistance, wheelchairs are always available.
Solo SeniorTraveler Tips: Quick Tips
Here are some quick solo senior travel tips and tricks, combined with the ones above, which will make your traveling more enjoyable.
Remember, always stay hydrated! Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it often. You will be taking care of your health, and saving numerous disposable water bottles from being sent to the landfill.
Do not worry much about any language barrier. For the most part, everyone the world over knows a few words of English. And may prepare by learning a few basic words in the language of the destination you are traveling to.
You can even use a translator app on your phone to assist with your communications. My family and I use Google Translate.
Call your credit card company and verify if your credit card does or does not have foreign transaction fees attached to it. If it does, inquire about applying for a credit card that does not charge you a small fee every time you use it when out of your home country.
When you visit an ATM, make sure it is in the same network with your bank so you are not charged transaction fees every time you withdraw cash. Also, consider withdrawing larger amounts of cash, in order to limit the transaction fees.
Buy advanced tickets to attractions whenever possible. First off, usually tickets purchased in advance online are often less expensive.
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Do you have an unhappy or terrifying travel tales? Do you have any further travel tips or advice for traveling solo? Please share in the comments below. I would like to hear your tales and tips!
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Wow that was def helpful but the Uber ride would have creeped me out for that moment to omg!
Linda Malys Yore
More than anything, I was so frightened. It was dark. Hope to never go through anything like that again. Thanks for the kind comments
Thanks for sharing your experiences on your solo trip to Paris. I’ve traveled quite a lot, so much of what we experience seems routine at this point. However, I often wonder how bewildering it must feel to travel by air for someone not accustomed to the process—or rather, processes, starting with having to deal with a kiosk if you’re checking a bag or have to print out a boarding pass. Then, there’s the TSA experience in the US and every other country’s version of security.
On a recent trip to Mexico, in Mexico City, we found that the taxi drivers seemed not to know where anything was and claimed not to have GPS, so they could use our data instead of their own. On the other hand, the Uber drivers were great.
Linda Malys Yore
Interesting about the taxi drivers in Mexico City. Because of their greediness, seems UBER comes out the winner. I want to go to Mexico city someday to see Juan Diego’s tilma with Mary’s Apparition on it. That would be a dream come true..
Excellent travel tips, Linda! Traveling light gets more and more important to me as I get older and realize I don’t need half the stuff I pack anyway! I would add that if your passport is due to expire in less than six months before you travel you should get it renewed! Some countries will not let you enter if your passport expires in six months or less, even if you’re only staying for a week! Here’s to many more amazing adventures!!
Linda Malys Yore
Thanks Colleen. Great tip about renewing a passport if it is due to expire within six months! And yes, hoping for MANY more amazing adventures for both of us!!!