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Considering a Fabulous Trip But Worried Whether You’re Fit Enough? Here’s a Helpful “Stress Test” We Recommend for All Senior Women Booking a Group Tour

By Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate
As I mentioned in my last post, it’s finally time to travel again, and we Boomer/Senior travelers are right up at the front of the line, enjoying our renewed opportunities to see the world. Thankfully, the travel industry is increasingly catering to us oldies; but you need to be aware that there can still be a trip out there which you should not take, due to your personal limitations or needs.
Obviously, you know that you don’t want to book yourself for an adventure travel experience, like bicycling across Europe, unless you’re experienced with that sort of trek, have previously done a few weeks-long rides and are looking for new vistas to enjoy while you peddle.
But even if you know your physical limitations, you need to be aware that the rest of the world does not offer us the benefit of the United State’s Americans with Disabilities Act. So, some of the things we take for granted, might not be available overseas.  Most of us are just fine with what we’ll encounter outside of the US — most of the time. But as an experienced tour operator, I’m suggesting that  it’s a good idea to ask yourself some questions about your capabilities before you book a tour.
That’s why, in order to make sure our clients get the most out of their travel experiences, we’ve created a few “Stress Test” questions you should ask yourself before you book a group trip. To be clear, the test is not here to scare you; but simply to help you think of situations which might arise which could cause you not to enjoy the trip as much as you should.
Ready? Let’s get started:

                                                                                           STRESS TEST for SENIOR WOMEN TRAVELERS

Can you keep up with the pace?

This is where you need to ask the tour operator to go through the trip with you, day by day, so you get an idea of pace. You need to be aware of whether there are any super early or very long days? Once you know these things, you can then identify an event or day that you wish to skip. If skipping something is necessary, you can then ask how you would reconnect with the group. Be aware: It is crucial to talk to a human being at this point, not just read an FAQ. (We know of one woman who decided to skip a two mile round trip hike to see a famous bridge on a humid 95-degree day. Instead, she spent her time people-watching while sitting under an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe. She sipped iced tea while observing the ebb and flow of the traffic, and said it was actually a wonderful experience.)

How flexible are you with non-standard toilet availability?

This is especially critical information when we are travelling in less developed countries: Are toilet stops frequent? Will you only have access to a squat type toilet? These can be hard for seniors to navigate. The answers here can also be hard to predict, as bathroom stops usually accommodate needs — not schedules.

What about bathtubs vs showers?

Some seniors find bathtubs, especially those with no grab bars, an impossibility. Showers are increasingly the norm but there is no guarantee in older hotels or even on some luxury properties. My experience in a 5+ star Paris hotel was a bathtub with the shower in it. These can be hard to get in and even harder to get out. Ask for that grab bar before you settle in and unpack.

Can you deal with extreme climates?

  • Is there altitude involved and how much? Mexico City is 7000 ft!
  • Is there extreme dryness? Saudi Arabia, a country we will visit in 2023, is one example of a desert climate.
  • Intense sun? Are you able to stand in intense sun and not feel light headed?

 

Have you ever had issues with falling and tripping?

Ask about the conditions of all the surfaces you’ll be traversing during a walking tour. Cobblestones, and pebble paths can be dangerous for senior women who are less stable, as well as for those who may not paying close attention or those who are carrying TOO MUCH. (Remember, even a few Presidents of the United States have been embarrassed when they accidentally tripped and fell.) If you are worried, ask if you can stay behind. And if you do stay behind, determine where and how you will again meet up with the group.

Do you have a fear of escalators?

This rarely happens, but we know that some women fear escalators. But if this is an issue for you, you’ll want to ask about the existence of an emergency elevator. Or decide if you can be content to simply skip that particular venue and spend your time wandering the area, until that part of the group tour is done.

Do you have special needs for food and sanitation?

If so, you need to ask whether or not there are going to be food choices other than local cuisine? Is bottled water a must and how do you get it? Does the tour cater to special diets?

Can you survive without your luggage for a day or two?

This relates to luggage delay and/or the infrequent but very undesirable situation where your luggage does not make the same flight as you do. It’s our experience that seniors generally bring along a few things they must always have access to. If so, our experience shows you do not want to pack these items with your checked luggage. For instance, if you have medications that you need to take in a timely way, a special pillow, or a CPAP machine, none of these items should be checked. They need to travel with in the cabin with you, as a part of your personal luggage. Airlines generally understand about CPAP machines, but to be sure, you’d be wise to have carry with you a letter of need from your doctor. Another FYI on CPAP machines: distilled water is not always readily available overseas.

What porterage needs do you have?

Does your tour include porterage — the work of carrying your luggage — or not? Where and where not? Most tours do not have porterage until you arrive at the hotel. Airports might have porters you can hire. IF you will want their assistance, be sure to have small change ready and keep your eyes on your luggage until you get to your taxi/ or transfer.

Hotel porterage tips: On arrival, tell the porter where you want your cases.  Before the porter leaves, insure the luggage zipper is in the right place so you do not have to swivel your bag yourself.  Well before departure time, call in advance for assistance with your luggage. With a group tour, you know there are always going to be people who need their help at the same time as you do. To reduce stress, you will want to be on the front end of their list. Again, follow your case from your room to the bus or taxi.

How will you handle the potential for illness and/or a need for medical assistance?

Will you immediately report not feeling well to your tour manager? If not, you can be in for trouble. A quick hotel doctor’s visit can forestall a serious situation. If you are a martyr, you risk your trip. Note: most hotel doctors speak English; if you are nervous, ask someone to stay in the room with you when he/she comes.

Tips: have a list of your medicines and  a list of your doctors’ contacts ready. Keep the phone number of your travel insurance company in your phone. Again, don’t be a martyr. Tell someone of your plight.

Will you need assistance getting on and off the tour vehicle?

If you have difficulty getting into a large SUV type of vehicle, you need to find out — in advance — what type of bus the tour company uses. Will you be able to get into the vehicle without help? Do you need to sit in front due to car sickness and if so, can that seat be guaranteed to you? Our experience is that the women on our tours will accommodate people who need to reserve a specific seat in order to prevent car sickness, but again, there is no guarantee. For your convenience, our firm, The Women’s Travel Group, does publish the tour vehicle size and make, but this is not a standard industry procedure.

 

Phyllis Stoller Group Travel

Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate is founder of The Women’s Travel Group, a tour operator which specializes in smart vacations for smart women, was recently honored as one of the 14 most influential women in Group Travel by Group Travel Magazine. The Women’s Travel Group works with travel agents and is a strategic partner of Sky Vacations.

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