The top tips to plan for smoother travelling

ANN Rickard is a seasoned and senior traveller who has made many mistakes in her annual travels. She gives us some tips that will help seniors enjoy smoother travelling.

The advantages of senior travel are many, mostly that we are free now to go any time, and out-of-season or shoulder-season means travel bargains. April through June is a lovely time to visit Europe or the US before the crowds have descended and when accommodation and tours are cheaper. The same goes for September and October when the masses have gone home.

Speak to your doctor before you go and ensure you have enough medications to last through your holiday and at least a week after. Ask your doctor to write a list of medications and keep it with you when you travel. If you do have to visit a pharmacy, the pharmacist will be able to match a similar brand.

Travel insurance increases with your age, especially once you are over 70. But travel insurance is essential. Never leave home without it. Read the covenants on your policy carefully, especially the one about getting you home if you are taken ill and can't fly on commercial airlines.

Always have a spare (or two) pair of glasses. And take your prescription with you in case of emergencies.

We all know to pack light, but how many of us do it? Stick to the adage of packing, then taking half out, and if you are brave, take half out again. I cannot emphasise this too strongly. Many is the time I have had to post half my clothes home for lack of need - and postage is expensive.

Make sure your suitcase wheels are in good order, and if you must take another carry-on bag, ensure it will fit on top of your suitcase so it can be wheeled along with it.

Sensible walking shoes, one pair. Sensible multi-purpose flat shoes, one pair. That's enough. No more.

Train travel is becoming more popular every year. No security airport hassles, departing and arriving in the heart of cities. But getting heavy suitcases on and off trains is difficult for the senior travel. Again, pack light, lift easily. Ask anyone near you for help. Or pay a porter.

When travelling on trains, pack your lunch and snacks. Simple sandwiches and water or drinks will save money and avoid you getting up and walking along the aisle of a fast-moving train to the dining car.

Long haul flights are the curse of every Australian traveller, especially seniors. If you can afford it splurge on Business Class (you deserve it.) If not, ensure you have an aisle seat so getting up and moving about is easier.

Some of the big international airports have long distances to walk between gates. If you have knee or back problems or are just a slow walker make arrangements ahead and book a people-mover, or a wheelchair if necessary.

Stairs are the enemy of the senior traveller, especially in Europe, where many of the smaller hotels do not have elevators. Always book a ground-floor room.

Ask for seniors' discounts everywhere you go.

That means everywhere, from hotels to museums and tourist icons. Even if there is no sign, still ask. You'll be surprised how many places offer seniors' discounts but don't advertise it.

Toilet stops. Make the most of any restaurant or café you are in and use the loo even if the urge is not there. It will be ten minutes after you have left, and public toilets in countries other than our own are scarce (and scary.)

Always keep an eye out for seats, benches and chairs in museums, parks, squares, streets. Seniors need to sit more than other tourists.

Never take your good jewellery. If you must bling-up, make sure it is costume jewellery and your diamonds are sitting safely at home.

Ensure a family member or friend at home has your passport details. If lost or stolen, it is more efficient to correct if you know the number.

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