After not travelling to Europe for 2.5 years for me and 3 for Scott, and taking almost 4 weeks vacation in 2022, our longest vacation so far, we have some lessons learned for our next trip to Europe.
We need 1 day for every hour time zone difference to adjust our clocks. So, at least 8 days to adjust to the 8 hour time difference in Europe. Even though we kept things slow in Geneva, we were still struggling to sleep. Too early, we both thought we did not need our pills and stopped taking them, thus, ended up having sleepless nights.
Lesson 1: Be prepared to use sleeping pills, even half a pill, to ensure sleep.
We sit at our jobs all day but are far more active while vacationing. Walking up to an hour with the dog twice a week and running for 30 minutes three times a week was not enough to get in shape for a 3 hour walking tour even if we did sit frequently.
Lesson 2: Get in better shape for active vacation days. We need to do more hours of walking, if not daily, at least, multiple times a week before starting the vacation.
Not only do we walk more on vacation, we are often walking with a large bag—luggage, shopping. The extra weight was hard on my feet and shoulders.
Lesson 3: Be better prepared for the weight of a backpack or even a large purse.
Think about: Wheeled or backpack luggage?
I have been using backpack luggage for the past 20 years. But as I age, I may need to go with a wheeled bag. The downside of wheeled luggage: getting in and out of trains with stairs or up staircases would be a struggle for my weak arms. Switzerland had level access but some German trains have very steep steps. Also pulling wheeled luggage through slush (like in Zermatt) and over cobblestones is more difficult than carrying a bag on the back. The upside of wheeled luggage: avoiding back and shoulder pain, not only from walking with the pack, but especially from standing around with the pack, like in airports or train stations.
Lesson 4: Reduce the weight of my luggage whether I go with a backpack or wheeled luggage.
My travel bag is not very big—smaller than allowable carry-on for most airlines—but it was heavy. My shoulders and back were aching if I had to carry it or stand around with it for any length of time.
Related to lesson 4, lessons for ways to reduce luggage weight:
Lesson 5: Do laundry by staying at places that have washing machines. Regular access to a washing machine means less clothes to pack.
We only had a laundry machine in our Geneva apartment. Later in our trip, for larger items, we used the hotel laundry service which was expensive.
For small items, we could hand wash in bathroom sinks, but drying was a problem The Basel hotel had great towel warming racks. Köln and Frankfurt did not. Places with washing machines almost always have drying racks.
And for my needs, take good plastic gloves for doing the wash. Hand washing causes eczema on my hands so I need gloves. Also, take only a small amount laundry soap. Either it was supplied or I used body wash.
Lesson 6: Take clothes that dry quickly.
Some of Scott’s socks took more than a day to dry. Merino t shirts and techno fabrics were great. They dry fast and without wrinkles. They also tend to be lighter weight than slow drying items.
Lesson 7: Keep electronics accessories to a minimum.
I brought two adapters. It turned out that one, which had 3 prongs, only worked in Switzerland. I’d forgot how other European outlets were set up with just holes for 2 prongs. I didn’t need both. I was able to manage with just the one adapter. I brought an extra cable for our iPhones which I never used. I brought a power adapter and Apple pen that never got used. This was a case of bringing things I might use, not things I needed to have.
Lesson 8: Leave behind things we don’t need.
In addition to electronic accessories, I took other stuff we might need but didn’t: eye drops, small hand sanitizer liquid, 2 extra contact lens containers, note papers. I took make-up I did not use. If I take less, I can also use a smaller toiletry bag.
I also brought too much contact lens fluid but my plan to figure out exactly how much I needed was messed up because I left one of the bottles behind at our second last hotel. Two small bottles were enough for 23 nights. I will need to recalculate how much to take for our next long vacation.
I also hope that next time we can reduce luggage by not packing so many face masks and rapid antigen test kits.
Lesson 9: Take a small purse, not a large one.
I like having a purse large enough for a book but the one I took got rather heavy when loaded up. I was often leaving it behind. But I need something to hold my phone and reading glasses. Those are the two indispensable items that did not always comfortably fit into clothing pockets so I need a small purse at times.
Lesson 10: Take clothes with pockets that zip or button.
This would reduce the need for a large purse. I had some shirt-cardigan combinations with no pockets or the pockets were so shallow that things fell out; that meant I was overloading my trouser pockets or I had to carry my large purse when I would rather have left it behind.
Other lessons learned:
Lesson 11: Take boots or shoes that have been walk-tested.
These boots are probably 10 years old and I had not worn them recently before we left on vacation. I discovered that towards the end of the day they squeaked when I walked, which might be due to getting them soaked in 2016. Next trip I will do a trial hike/walk with alternative footwear to make sure they are comfortable, sturdy and don’t squeak.
Lesson 12: Find a system for remembering to take medication and supplements.
I kept forgetting to take glucosamine in the afternoon. Scott forgot his morning pills at least a couple of times. I should be able to set up a reminder on my phone.
Lesson 13: Increase the amount of cash that can be withdrawn on debit cards.
I was limited to 200 Eu so incurred fees for the 3 withdrawals I made. If I could have withdrawn 500 Eu, I’d have saved on two transaction fees.
Lesson 14: Find a system for tracking cash payments.
I was writing them down in a wee jotter for the first days but then started to forget to make notes. It makes trying to account for expenses for the trip difficult to calculate when I can’t remember what I spent. (I keep track so I can approximate what we need for future vacation budgeting.) I’m not sure what is available but there must be something since there are so many apps out there.
Lesson 15: Always use a packing list.
For an overnight trip we thought we didn’t need a list and as a result, we forgot important things like a corkscrew! For our 5 day trip to the West Coast I forgot stuff as well.
I’m hoping if I remember to apply all these lessons, our next trip to Europe will go smoother.
2 thoughts on “15 Lessons Learned for Senior Travels”
Was looking at older posts and the images were not loading on my system, replaced by an exclamation mark. Tried to comment on this and the comment was not posted. But thanks for what I could see.
I know. I don’t know what happened. I think I have to reload the photos individually.