That means over 80 million older adults will be traveling in 2012 and that number will continue to rise as more retire.
Senior travelers have a different set of concerns than younger travelers do. Sure, you may no longer be required to return to work to handle a business meeting or care for a sick child, but there are other risks you can encounter.
As a senior traveler, it’s important to manage those risks for your health, your family, and your financial security.
See the following insurance tips for traveling seniors before you make your next travel plans, and be sure to share these tips with other senior travelers you know!
1. Check your Medicare supplement plan for travel benefits
Some time ago, the Medicare Supplement plan providers caught on to the fact that traveling seniors were putting their health at risk when they traveled outside the borders. After all, Medicare by itself doesn’t pay for health care received outside the U.S. So some of the Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans began including travel medical benefits, including international emergency health care.
Before traveling, seniors should check their supplemental plan’s travel benefits by reading the explanation of coverage for details. If they have limited or no medical coverage where they are traveling, a travel medical plan can fill in those gaps.
2. Recognize the limits of evacuation and repatriation
A medically necessary evacuation can cost as little at $25,000 or as high as $100,000 or more depending on where you are, how far you have to go, and what medical personnel and treatment you need in-flight.
Evacuation coverage provides the funds for and coordinates medically necessary transportation to a medical facility or back home after you’ve been treated. Evacuation coverage typically encompasses repatriation too – that’s the coverage necessary to coordinate and pay for getting an insured traveler’s body home should they die on their trip.
Evacuation coverage would have helped this injured traveler and his family, but it’s important to note that evacuation and repatriation coverage doesn’t work inside your home country. So, if the bulk of your travel will be inside the U.S., this coverage may not be useful to you.
3. Make arrangements to carry medications
Travelers can carry their medications in a carry-on or in their checked luggage, but at least some (if not all) of their medication should be carried with them in case of lost luggage. Medications should always be carried in the original bottle with the prescription label to avoid problems at the border if the bag is searched.
Seniors who take prescription medications daily can order a 90-day supply ahead of time through mail order to be sure they have enough on hand for longer trips. Combine the full supply you need for your trip into a single prescription bottle to save room in your luggage.
Some frequent travelers also like to carry a copy of their prescriptions as well in case they need to get refills while they are away from home.
4. Consider a pre-travel medical exam
Before traveling outside the country, seniors should see their doctor for a pre-travel exam (ideally at least 4 weeks prior to their trip) to:
- Assess their general fitness for travel
- Identify and prepare for any potential medical problems, such as altitude sickness
- Identify any potentially necessary vaccinations
- Get prescriptions for diseases they may encounter on their trip, like malaria
If the senior has any pre-existing medical conditions or their doctor makes a change in their medication, that traveler will need to purchase a travel insurance plan with a waiver for pre-existing medical conditions.
5. Carry your basic medical info and a travel medical kit
All travelers should carry a personal emergency medical kit – particularly one that meets the needs of the traveler and the medical issues they are likely to encounter at their destination.
In that travel kit, you should also carry your basic medical info. Your basic medical information includes:
- The name, phone number, and email of your primary doctor
- The name, identification number, and phone number of your medicare supplement plan
- The name, identification number, and phone number of your travel insurance plan
- A list of allergies and medications
See this travel safety tip: What’s in your Travel Medical Kit for more details.
6. Decide on annual versus per-trip coverage
Many travelers who travel often throughout the year find that an annual plan saves them time, but it’s important to run the numbers to be sure it will also save you money. Having the same coverage for every trip you take during the year means:
- Less time researching travel insurance for each trip
- Less time putting together the travel documents for each trip
- One travel assistance hotline to call – all year long
The key, of course, is to look at where you plan to travel and how many trips you’ll be taking during the year to see if the cost savings work to your advantage. This is where using our travel insurance comparison tool is a great help.
7. Determine your cancellation risk
Many travelers, including senior travelers, are loathe to purchase trip cancellation coverage. After all, it can be expensive and you have no intention of cancelling your trip anyway.
Unfortunately, there are certain situations when it can be helpful, including:
- If a member of your family gets sick, injured, or dies
- If a hurricane or natural disaster strikes your destination
- If a terrorist attack occurs at your travel spot
- If your home is damaged or burglarized before or during your trip
- If your passport is lost or stolen before your trip
No one plans for any of these disasters to happen – especially when a trip is planned – but they do happen and paying a little extra to ensure that you can get all those pre-paid trip costs back is often worth it. See our post on What determines my total trip cost for details on what to insure and what to ignore.
8. Remember that getting home may be critical too
Even if you decide not to purchase trip cancellation coverage, consider a plan with trip interruption coverage. Trip interruption coverage reimburses a traveler for their unused trip costs if they have to abandon their trip and return home for a covered reason (see #7 for some of the reasons).
Trip interruption coverage also provides reimbursement for and helps an insured traveler make emergency flight arrangements, secure transportation and hotels, and even returns them to their trip once the emergency has been handled.
While trip interruption is usually bundled with trip cancellation, many travel medical plans also include trip interruption.
Safe and Healthy Travel for Senior Citizens from the CDC