Resources on Living


Traveling Abroad Tip Sheet

Travel Tips for Older Americans

Publish Date: February  15,  2012


U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs


An increasing number of older U.S. citizens are traveling abroad. The U.S. Department of State wants you to be prepared so that you can relax and enjoy your trip. Please consider the following tips as you plan your travel. Additionally, if you plan on residing overseas, please review our information sheet on retiring abroad.

Travel Documents: Apply for a passport at least three months before you travel. If you have one, be sure to check the passport's expiration date and entry requirements for the countries you will be visiting. Some countries require that passports be valid for six months after your trip ends and some foreign countries require that U.S. travelers obtain a visa. Entry information for foreign countries is available at Country Specific Information.

Local Conditions: Extremes in climate can adversely affect the health of some travelers. So, too, can travel to high altitude locations. As you travel, ask your tour operator or hotel about local conditions, including recommendations about taxis and other transportation options, restaurants, and the safety of local drinking water. Information on safe food and water precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP(1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website. You can find more information about particular food safety concerns in the Country Specific Information and U.S. Embassy or Consulate webpages.

Travel Smart: Pack lightly and learn what clothing would be appropriate for your destination. Be aware that physical activity undertaken during travel can be strenuous, and sudden changes in diet and climate can have serious health consequences for the unprepared traveler, no matter your age. Build ample personal time into your itinerary-whether to catch up to a current time zone or to enjoy an extra travel site.

Financial Information: Understand the financial system and know the currency rates at your travel destination. Tell your bank or credit card company of your travel plans so that its security measures do not freeze your account. Often they will block a card if they see unfamiliar patterns of use, and they don't know you are on a foreign trip. Ask if your bank has any branches at your travel destination or international banking partners where you could safely deposit or withdraw funds as needed. Review the Crime section of the Country Specific Information for the countries you will visit to review the financial and ATM scams and other financial scams that may be targeting foreign visitors. If ATM service is not widely available or is not secure, bring travelers checks and one or two major credit cards instead of planning to use cash. Many banks in most countries will issue cash advances from major credit cards.

Stay Connected: A secure way to maintain your emergency contact information is to enroll with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Your information is stored securely and enables the Department of State, U.S. embassy, or consulate to contact you, your family, or your friends in an emergency according to your wishes.