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Top Tips for Big Trips

Svetlana Shkolnikova

A little planning goes a long way when you’re a long way from home.

 What’s that the Boy Scouts always say? Something about being prepared?

Former teacher Pamela Kniss knows better than most just how important that is when it comes to overseas travel.

Last year, when she broke her foot in Auckland, New Zealand, she saw all of her trip planning and organizing pay off.

If New Zealand’s socialized medical system did not accept her, she had a backup plan with the special health insurance coverage she purchased before departing from the U.S. Don’t worry, she says now her foot is “just fine.”

Kniss has made a second career out of helping other people plan their trips abroad. After retiring from teaching children with special needs in 2000, she started working full-time at Discover Downunder, a company she co-founded in 1992.

 Originally intended for setting up educational excursions for teachers and students, the company now serves everyone interested in treks to Australia, New Zealand, and islands in the South Pacific. Kniss says that no matter the destination or the traveler’s age, there are several tips all travelers should stick to while abroad:

  1. Make copies of all your important documents (passport, credit cards, driver’s license, etc.) and keep them separate from your purse or wallet in case your bag is stolen. Make sure you have phone numbers to cancel your credit cards in an emergency.
  3. Bring copies of all your prescriptions and your doctor’s contact information. Know your health insurance company’s emergency procedures for when their subscribers go abroad.
  5. She was emphatic about this one: “Buy travel insurance for all the things medical insurance will not cover.” Remember the story of her broken foot?
  7. Pack light. “After a week of travel,” says Kniss, “plan to stay in a hotel with a washer and dryer to help keep baggage minimal.”
  9. Do not take sleeping pills if you are on a long haul flight. You need to be moving periodically.
  11. For a better exchange rate, use an ATM for cash and a credit card for purchases. Check the charge for cash withdrawal if you are not using a debit card.
  13. Buy a phone card. Check calling rates with your hotel and keep in mind that calling a cell phone is much more expensive than calling a landline.
  15. Think about the activities you most want to do and plan your time and itinerary accordingly. If they are expensive, cut back on other extras.

Companies specializing in senior trips abroad:

Grand Circle Travel: Specializing in vacations for travelers over 50, they also have offerings if you want to bring the grandkids.

Elderhostel: For 33 years, nonprofit Elderhostel has organized educational tours around the world.

Walking the World : Adventure travel for the “50 and better” set.

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