Traveling as a senior (finally) gives you the freedom to do what you want to do. But if you're traveling with mobility issues, a trip meant to be fun and stress-free can quickly be interrupted if your vacation spot becomes difficult to navigate. Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you prepare for a smooth, carefree getaway:
1. Consider what your Medicare plan will cover if you need health care while traveling
No one expects to become ill or injured while on vacation, but it can happen. It's important to know what will be covered under your Medicare plan before you travel, so you can understand your financial responsibilities for receiving care on vacation.
If you're traveling within the U.S. and have Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you'll be covered if you need medical care away from home, as long as you go to a provider that accepts Medicare. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, it's important to check with your plan to learn the rules and restrictions of receiving medical care when you're out of your plan's service area.
If you're traveling outside of the U.S., Medicare coverage is a different story. In most cases, Original Medicare won't cover medical care you get out of the country. Some Medigap plans and Medicare Advantage plans, however, may cover some care you receive outside of the U.S. You'll want to check with your Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan for specific coverage rules.
If your Medicare plan doesn't cover you out of state or overseas and you want a plan that does, you can change plans during certain enrollment periods. If you want to switch or change Medicare Advantage plans, you can do so during the Annual Enrollment Period. If you want to change or enroll in a Medigap plan, you can do so during your six-month Medigap open enrollment period. This period automatically starts the month you're 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B (medical insurance).
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2. Call hotels and touring destinations ahead of time
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), hotels, motels, inns, and lodges designed or constructed after January 26, 1993, must be usable by people with disabilities. This means hotels must have accessible parking, routes and walkways, guest rooms and bathrooms, and common spaces such as meeting rooms, lounges, restaurants, swimming pools, and fitness centers. However, a wheelchair-accessible bathroom doesn't necessarily mean its shower is wheelchair accessible. And even if a guest room is accessible, the beds may be too tall to easily get into from a wheelchair. That's why it's important to call hotels you're looking to book beforehand to check their specific accommodations.
The same goes for the activities and places you plan to visit on your trip. You'll want to call the companies providing the activities and excursions you'll be experiencing to learn about their accommodations beforehand.
3. …and take advantage of airline assistance
Airports can be busy. Most of the time, crazy. Or at least it can feel that way when you're trying to get through a busy security line. Or trying to make a connecting flight when you only have a 20-minute layover. These experiences can be even more stressful when you're traveling with mobility issues. Requesting travel assistance from your airline can help.
In the United States, airlines are required to assist passengers with mobility issues from the terminal entrance of the airport all the way to their seat on the plane. They'll also help you make connecting flights and get to baggage claim and vehicle pick-up locations. Just be sure to let the airline know you need assistance once you enter the airport.
4. Book a trip to a place (or places) that have accessible accommodations and activities
Whether you're looking to bask in the sun on the coasts of the Caribbean or tour the streets of a major European city, there are plenty of accessible destinations that make it easy for those with mobility issues to get around and explore.
Did you know that most of Finland's cities, public transportation, and attractions are wheelchair friendly? Budapest is also known for its accessible public transportation, and Vienna has sidewalks that are wider than most European cities.
Cruising is also a great choice. Many popular cruise lines offer accessible staterooms and public restrooms, and rentable mobility equipment to help make navigating the ship and excursions easier. Speaking of excursions, some cruises offer accessible shore tours, scuba diving, beach visits, and more.
If you need help booking an accessible trip, you can always hire a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel.
Traveling should be fun, not stressful. So consider these tips when planning for your next big adventure.
Rachel Quetti is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, commercial health care, and consumer engagement. When Rachel isn't trying out new fitness classes, she is cooking up fun, (mostly) healthy recipes in the kitchen. Rachel lives in Watertown, Massachusetts and has a degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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