Will you need a mobility aid?
Let’s assume you are going to be touring museums, gardens and ancient buildings. It quickly adds up your daily steps, often topping off well over 12,000. My patients confess to me the struggle they have navigating cobblestone paths, steep uphill access and creaky, narrow stairs with their own tricky knees, stiff hips or cranky backs. Packing that knee guard or soft ankle brace may be a lifesaver. Many facilities that cater to an older age group may have canes. Even better, they may even provide walking poles for hikes, but few have straps for ankles or braces for knees.
Recently, friends took their 90-year-old parents on a trip to France. It required them to bring along two walkers and a folding wheelchair, all packed in the cabin along with the rest of the baby strollers and the like. Once, I remember getting off a plane in Dubai and seeing 75+ wheelchairs lined up at the door. These were not for the Old Frails. They were for matriarchs. No schlepping through the Dubai airport for these elegant, black-robed women. I provide many letters to patients requesting wheelchair transit through the long walkways to the gate.
Airlines have stepped up quickly, recognizing that not only matriarchs but aging eager travellers need and demand this level of service
From short excursions, with fixed lunch times and rest periods, many patients find themselves out all day on tour, often inadequately fuelled or watered. These days we send all our kids off to school with water bottles, but rarely do you see elders dangling water bottles off their shoulders.
Speaking of shoulders and backpacks, we’ve known for a long time that shoulder bags stress necks and upper bodies with their asymmetrical loading. So yes, a small backpack will provide you with a more comfortable day’s outing, even if it’s a borrowed one from a grandchild.
Don’t forget the little things
Travel documents, passport, money, contact information, phone, camera – all assumed.
Birdwatchers would never travel without binoculars and my husband travels with a bag of tech – two to three pounds of cords, chargers, and plugs needed for his ubiquitous computer.
I pack the necessary wall plugs for electrical outlet converters and we always need two or more.
You should also bag all your pills for easy removal going through security, and if you are travelling with opiates for chronic pain states, be sure you have a letter from your doctor that declares exactly what you are carrying. Use separate bags for cosmetics (all travel sizes) to ease the confusion for you and the security staff. Pack your own lotion and shampoo. Unless you are five-star all the way, your skin will thank you for familiar lotions and cleansers.
Your glucometer goes in your backpack and the INR test kit (for blood thinning monitoring) can go in baggage. Eating and drinking abroad can wreak havoc with your sugars and your INR readings so be more watchful of the numbers and adjust.
Sunscreen. Make it SP50 at least (88 ml is the maximum) and sunglasses for sure. Add a hat for balding pates and exposed ears and the back of necks that never seem to get a swath of cream.
Also, a shawl or scarf is often a godsend – a covering to enter religious buildings, a throw over shoulders in too chilly AC, a dash of colour at day’s end sitting for dinner or drinks. Small fold-up umbrellas or even packaged ponchos cover possible rain days.
If you are planning to hike almost anywhere in North America or Europe now, be mindful of ticks and tuck in your tick-removing tweezers. Be mindful as well to check your entire body as you get ready for bed. To learn how to spot ticks, check here.
Towelettes for hand cleansing and insect repellant are easy to pack.
Finally, there are lots of remedies for bladder leaks and incontinence mishaps. Packing some extra minipads in your backpack will offset the sneezing issue but very useful undergarments are now guaranteed to hold up to 2 oz or 60 ml of urine. These are not Depends. They are underwear, colourful, fashionable washable and overnight dryable.
That will fill your backpack nicely and if you are of a mind to be super-prepared, you can add antihistamine, After Bite, ChapStick, a packable sewing kit, floss and a Canada pin.