And let's face it. Traveling these days ain't easy. It's a big, big crowded world.
So when planning a trip the "old" part of the equation must come into play, but if you read my April 21st post "How You Know You Are Not Just Getting Old, You Are Already There!," you know that I think BEING OLD is a good thing. It means you have made it this far, the alternative being that big black abyss we really are not sure of, AND over those 50+ years you have learned some stuff.
But there are some physical and mental considerations that separate us from younger folks that we need to consider when planning a trip.
Hubby and I are just back from a trip to Rome, Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. We stayed for several days in Positano, a town consisting of mostly STEPS! In fact the entire Amalfi Coast appears to be step upon step upon step. Now if you are like Hubby and me, we are carrying around, shall I say, "a few extra pounds?" So that can be a consideration when looking up a flight of 300+ stairs.
So as I said, it's not just physical limitations some of us might have to consider but the mental part. When staring at those stairs, you have to say "I can do it" and haul your butt up there.
If you have been reading my blog, you know that last year Hubby and I completed all 25 stair walks in the wonderful book "Seattle Stairway Walks" and I reported on that in my post "The Joys of Stair Walks."
So we retraced some of our steps, as it were, and redid some of those walks in anticipation of Positano.
So that takes me to the first tip for planning a trip.
1. Plan for it
That might seem like a no brainer, but like us, if you plan on going somewhere where you will be doing something you don't usually do, then you need to plan on how you are going to manage it.
You first need to decide where to go, so if you use a walker, probably climbing the steps of Positano is not for you. So researching a place is important. But once you have determined that is where you want to go, then you need to go in depth and decide what you want to see and how you will do that.
I could just end this section and say, have Hubby do it and leave it at that (another thing that husbands are good for). I tell Hubby where I want to go and what I want to see and he puts it all together. He used to do that. Lately we found some of his binders that he had put together for some of our trips: our itinerary, train tickets, hotel confirmations, etc.
But I came to realize that Hubby and I have different ideas of what a vacation should be. He likes to keep moving and packs our days full of sightseeing.
I need to have some downtime scheduled in there.
So I have to be careful of letting him do all of the planning. He's Mr. Know-it-all, remember, so I have to stay on top of him or I will find myself in a five story walkup overlooking some dumpsters just because it was cheap or this place in Paris.
That was our view.
So do your homework.
Check out your hotel on its website and ask yourself - will I be where I want to be? Does it have the comfort I need to make my trip pleasant?
Make sure you don't need a visa to get into the country.
Make sure the museum you want to visit is open the day you plan to go or worse, find out that it's closed. On our last trip to Paris, we busted our butts to get to the Picasso museum before it closed (we were coming all of the way from Versailles) only to discover, indeed, it was closed. It was REALLY closed as in not going to be open the entire time we were visiting Paris. It was being renovated. We would have saved ourselves some sweat and tears had we checked that out beforehand. Likewise, this trip, those frozen in time bodies that are such a draw at Pompeii? On tour. In fact, they were in Seattle!
What is the weather going to be like?
When is the best time to go?
What kind of transportation is available and what should you watch out for?
Go to the library and check out some guidebooks. You would be surprised how many people we met didn't seem to know what sights to see. We like Rick Steves and his guidebooks because he gets down to the nitty-gritty about what to watch out for. He scared the crap out of me about pickpockets in Rome and for a Prague trip, we were warned about the unscrupulous taxi drivers who pick you up at the train station. We made sure our driver had a meter (which he told us to do) and everything seemed OK until we arrived at our hotel only to discover he was overcharging us big time. What can you do? When Hubby ran into the hotel to complain (as Rick advised) the concierge said, "Welcome to Prague." You win some, you lose some. Naples cab drivers are similar, we discovered. However, the directions and maps in Rick's guides are not so good.
2. Make a list of what needs to be done before you go
I am a big list maker.
Make a list of not just what to pack but what needs to be done before you leave and even when you get back.
Stopping your newspaper (if you still get one delivered) and your mail is obvious, but did you remember to pack immodium or tissues? Immodium is great if you don't think you will be near a toilet and tissues are a must when you get there (just in case).
I also remind myself to return my library books, get a pedicure, pay the bills and clean out my purse.
Just don't forget where you put the list!
3. Pack appropriately
Yes, you can take a carry-on and have enough stylish outfits for two weeks or more.
Those of us of a certain age shouldn't be hauling huge suitcases around. Even if you check your bag on the plane, remember you need to get it from the airport to the hotel. Even getting out of the airport can be tricky with a big bag. Escalators can be downright dangerous.
On a trip to Venice, I had not yet learned my lesson and was pulling my huge bag containing multiple changes of shoes onto a vaporetto when the driver yelled "Andiamo," as in "Get your butt onto this boat, old lady, or I will leave without you." No amount of cute shoes or a different outfit a day is worth being yelled at in Venice.
I recently read a blog post about creating a capsule wardrobe. When packing, put an outfit together (lay it out on the bed), then create another outfit by taking one piece from the previous one and creating another one from that and so on. It's practical and it's fun. Try it.
Also those of us of a certain age can be forgetful, and though I like lists, I can forget where I put them. So to avoid forgetting my chargers, saline for my contacts, make-up and my wine bottle opener, I have plastic bags filled with those items plus other necessary travel items all ready year-round - all ready to grab and go.
4. Put together a daily itinerary
It's one thing to know where you want to go and what you want to see, but it's a good idea to also try to put together a daily itinerary before you go so you can calculate how easy or difficult it's going to be to do all of that in one day. Calculate how far you are away from things and how you are going to get there. Then plan your day around that first destination.
For example, while in Rome, if you want to see the Vatican museum and the Basilica, plan for something else nearby to complete your day rather than going clear across town to see another big sight. And let me tell you, seeing the Vatican could take all day if it's anything like it was the day we were there. Crowds, crowds and more crowds and tour groups galore so plan accordingly.
5. Don't look like a slob when you fly
This is a tip for your sake and for the sake of others. I have come to the conclusion that you get treated better when you look good. It's bad enough that we older folks are practically invisible to the young. So don't make it worse by looking like you just got out of bed. Plan to dress well. No flip flops or sweat pants for me when I fly and I don't want to see you in them either. I want to look like I deserve to be upgraded to Business Class.
6. Don't be an Ugly American.
I have noticed that as I age, it gets harder and harder to break out of my routine. So a trip overseas can be a shock to the system. But it's important to break out of that and determine to live like a local. Plan for it!
No complaining about things not being like they are in the U.S.
People from other countries like their routines too and they work just fine for them. If you want to enjoy yourself, spend more time observing how things are done and following suit and the quieter you are about it, the more you will see. We Americans have a reputation for being loud and pushy. I don't think that's necessariy true. There are certainly some other pushier cultures out there but no need to add to that stereotype.
We ran into some Americans as we stood in line to board our plane coming home. They did not like Italy saying that everyone was really rude. That was not our experience at all, but I can understand that if you throw your weight around in other countries, you will reap what you sow.
And speaking of planes, plan to be nice to the flight attendants. It will make their day and they can make yours. When I walk on, I smile and say something nice and upbeat. Remember they will be taking care of you for a long flight. This trip, when I left the plane, one of the flight attendants remembered me when I got on the plane and she said, "Keep that beautiful smile!" I have even gotten free drinks when the flight attendant admired my jacket (see #5 above)
Thoughtful actions will get you everywhere!
7. A packed bag relieves stress
There can be quite a bit of stress planning and getting ready for a big trip.
For example, on this recent trip to Rome, two days before we were to depart, Hubby received a text from British Airways saying our leg from London to Rome had been canceled due to a fire at the airport the week before. So now a two hour layover in London turned into a six hour layover, getting us to Rome at almost midnight. Since we had never been to Rome before, this was just added stress to the stress we already had of leaving on a long trip: is the house secure? Will the dogs be OK? Are the bills paid? Did I pack everything I need? Did I leave the iron on?
But when the bag is packed and the key is turned in the front door, let that packed bag symbolize that you no longer need to think about the day-to-day routine. It's just you and the adventure that awaits and that's all you need to think about.
Safe and happy travels!
(and stay-tuned...next Tuesday I start my series on "Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy!")
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie
"Far From the Madding Crowd"
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."