Travel Planning – Now that you have figured out at least the first part of your itinerary, it’s time to refine your plan and gear up to make it happen.
Travel Planning and Preparation – Revise your itinerary
Take out the calendar and itinerary you created previously. If you’re on track, you have now done the following:
- Decided where you want to go.
- Researched transportation costs and chosen your modes of travel, using Rome2Rio or other sites.
- Chosen your accommodations for the first month or so.
- Now it’s time to adjust your initial plan.
Don’t worry, you’ll be continually revising as you go, but having the first part of your journey organized will stand you well as you proceed. After you have booked transportation to your first destination, start making your reservations for at least the first several weeks of your trip. Be sure to review your reservations carefully, however.
Tackle the ins and outs of insurance for travel.
Europcar hire says that preparing for travel also means deciding whether to purchase comprehensive travel insurance, travel medical (health) insurance, a medical evacuation policy, or to take a chance and go without any additional cover. Travel insurance presents several issues for senior travelers, primarily because the older you are, the more expensive it is and the harder it is to get. Even for a journey of a few weeks, travel insurance can add substantially to your costs, and a multi-week or multi-month trip makes it even pricier. Let’s take a look at the options.
What kind of insurance do you need?
Comprehensive travel insurance covers not only emergency medical charges but also such things as trip cancellation, lost luggage, trip delays, and medical evacuation, along with other losses that you may incur while traveling. Although you can sometimes buy individual coverage’s for specific items (for example, for trip cancellation), most people buy comprehensive travel insurance.
If you want that coverage, however, you often need to buy it as soon as you have booked (or shortly thereafter) to qualify for reimbursement of your expenses. By contrast, travel health/medical insurance, which covers only emergency medical care (and sometimes repatriation of remains), normally only needs to be purchased before you leave for your trip.
What will Medicare cover?
If you’re only going to be gone for 60 days, some Medicare policies will reimburse you for emergency medical care for the first 60 days outside of the country. Check your own Medicare plan. But for longer travels, 60 days is obviously not enough. Deciding what type of insurance to buy, if any, is not an easy task and one that we can only answer for ourselves.
Check out the information below before you decide:
Do a web search on “World Nomads Travel Insurance” to reach the quote engine for this site. We found good comprehensive travel coverage through them at a reasonable price for our RTW trip. However, they will offer you coverage only if you are under the age of 70. If you are older, they will refer you to another company. Some even cover pre-existing conditions, with caveats, although you can expect to be hit with high deductibles of several thousand dollars.
Finding travel insurance
Read the reviews and the fine print for each offering, as you would for any insurance product. You can sometimes save money by buying a travel medical policy that excludes coverage in the United States. If you are a US resident on Medicare, that may make sense, although you still take a risk if you’re ill or injured abroad and are unable to travel home.
Consider evacuation services.
What do you do if you just feel that comprehensive travel and travel medical insurance are both too expensive or the coverage for your pre-existing condition is too high? You could decide to shorten your trip to obtain affordable coverage, particularly if you have a life-threatening condition. Or you could choose an evacuation service. Because medical costs in the United States are the highest in the world, many travelers plan to pay for minor ailments abroad out of their savings.
If you do that, then you could sign up for a medical evacuation policy that will bring you home if you are seriously ill or injured and admitted to a hospital. Note, however, that these services typically require admission to a hospital before you can be evacuated. It’s still somewhat risky, because you might not be stable enough to be moved. However, if you have enough savings, that’s a chance you may want to take, given the extremely high costs of travel insurance for mature travelers.
Learn about evacuation policies available through Medjet Assist.
Medjet Assist provides medical transport to the hospital of your choice if you are injured or become ill abroad?—?as long as you are admitted to a hospital first. It’s important to note that Medjet Assist takes you to the hospital of your choice, because some other evacuation policies will only take you to the nearest hospital that the company deems adequate. With Medjet Assist, your annual membership is all you’ll pay.
The service will also cover you in the United States when you are more than 150 miles from home. If you are a member of AARP, you can get discounts; for example, an individual membership that is normally $270 will cost $235 and a family membership, which is normally $395, costs $345 for members up to the age of 75. Medjet Assist also covers repatriation of remains.
Decide how you want to handle things back home.
For peace of mind, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve completed your arrangements at home before you leave. Will you leave your residence vacant, asking a friend or family member to check up on it from time to time? Will you move out of rental accommodation and put your worldly goods in storage? Or will you lease or sublet?
Should you rent or sublet?
If you’re away only for a few weeks or if you’re involved in a home exchange, you won’t need to worry about renting or subleasing your home. But if you decide to rent or sublease, you’ll need to check with your landlord.
Do you own a condo?
You’ll need to review your association’s rules and covenants, including any time requirements or rules about pets. For example, our own condo association only allows rentals of more than six months, does not accept dogs, and charges a hefty nonrefundable fee for the privilege of renting, in addition to deposits, which we had to add to our budget. If you rent or sublease, you’ll also want to have a property manager or someone who can be contacted in case of an emergency at your rental.
If you’re lucky, a responsible family member or friend will play that role, especially because paying the fees of a professional property manager might add considerably to your expenses. You will need to set up a separate account for your rental, for ease of use and for tax purposes. The IRS does not want you to co-mingle your personal and business funds, and even though you’re renting your own residence, your rental will be considered a business. Ask your accountant.
It’s a good idea to keep a deposit in the rental account at all times to cover emergencies such as appliance repairs. Many municipalities also have strict requirements for landlords that typically favor the tenant, so you’ll want to research your legal rights and responsibilities. For example, in our area, there are limits on how soon landlords must respond to emergencies, as well as the procedures they, or their property managers, must follow to respect tenant privacy and rights. Finding a renter can seem like a daunting task, but it need not be.
However, you want to be very careful about whom you trust with your home when you are far away. If you do not use a property manager’s services and are renting yourself, check online with your local housing office to find out what you legally can and cannot do. For example, where I live, you can’t advertise for a “mature” renter, because that could be construed as age discrimination. And, indeed, we could care less about the age of the tenant; we simply didn’t want partiers!
So when I advertised our condo, I described the condo complex as one that was “very quiet and had a high percentage of residents who were over 55,” which was all true and helped us to attract the type of renter we wanted. If you’re not using a realtor as a property manager, who can advise you on all aspects of renting, how do you find out what to charge? Start with the local listings. You can see what similar places in your area are renting for.
- Just be completely honest with yourself: Is your property truly comparable?
- Does it have all the amenities described in the listings you’re using as a reference?
- Are your appliances, kitchens, and baths as up-to-date as the ones in the listings?
It’s helpful to visit those rentals, if you can, and put yourself in the mind of a prospective tenant. Craigslist, Zillow, and other online sites allow you to place free advertisements for renters. However, always?—?always?—?check your prospective tenants carefully. You can download standard legal rental agreements for your state online, which should include a notice to the prospective tenant that, by signing, they are authorizing a credit check. Ask for references as well?—?and call them personally.
It is worth using a reliable service, such as Experian or TransUnion SmartMove, to do a credit check. There will typically be a charge, which some landlords pass on to the prospective tenant. Some services actually require prospects to order their own report and make it available to you. If you have friends who rent properties, you can also ask for their suggestions on which credit-checking services they use.
Whatever you do, do not skip this very important step and be sure to ask for references. Requiring a damage deposit and asking for the first and last months’ rent helps with tenant-screening too, because those with financial difficulties may well have problems coming up with required funds which can be a red flag. If you’re going to be gone for months, you want a tenant who is reliable and pays on time. What’s more, if you rent out your home, be sure to get insurance on the residence itself, just in case something happens while you’re gone. Your tenants can get renters insurance for their goods, and insuring your premises will be inexpensive compared to a homeowner’s policy.
Consider utilities, whether you rent or not.
Most of the time renters are responsible for all utilities, but there are situations when you may want to pay a utility and simply increase the rent to cover it. You can then advertise it as a benefit. For example, some landlords prefer to cover items such as trash collection and landscaping to keep their properties looking attractive. Also, some utilities will charge an owner if a tenant fails to pay a bill. So take time to think about which, if any, bills you want to pay and make sure those utility payments are clearly stipulated in your rental agreement.
If you’re going away for only a few months and you can afford to leave your place vacant, ask your utility companies if they have a vacation plan. Cable and telephone companies will often let you pay a substantially reduced rate while you’re away, which means you can avoid the hassles and expenses of reconnecting when you return. If you plan to be gone for a year or more and want to keep your phone number, it’s also worth asking your landline provider if you can pay a small fee to retain the number. “Using phone abroad? Choose the solution that works best for you.”
What are you going to do with your pet?
It probably goes without saying that the furry, feathered, or finned members of your family need to be considered when you plan your trip. The best arrangement for them is staying with family or friends who adore them. If you do a home exchange or are advertising for a house sitter, find out if your exchange partners or house sitters will be comfortable caring for your pets. If those options don’t work, check with your vet, who may have some contacts for pet care.
In any case, make sure they are well provided for, or postpone your trip. Editorial: Animals are not disposable! They have their own needs and emotions. I have no respect for anyone who would surrender their pets just to travel, but if you believe that is your only choice, then find them a good home or place them in a no-kill shelter and contribute funds to their care. You owe it to them!
Get tips on storing your vehicle.
Are you planning to store a vehicle for the duration of your long-term trip? Edmunds has some advice on “How to Prep Your Car for Long term Storage” on its website.
Tips for storing your car:
- Keep your car in a garage, if possible. If it will be outdoors, get a weatherproof car cover.
- Clean your vehicle before storing it. Bird droppings or water stains can damage the paint over time.
- Change the oil if you are storing the vehicle longer than 30 days.
- Top off the tank to keep moisture from forming inside the fuel tank, and keep seals from drying out.
- Make sure that the battery stays charged. Have someone start the car and drive it for at least 15 minutes every two weeks. Run the air conditioner too. If you can’t get someone to drive it, then either disconnect the negative battery cable or use a trickle charger. (If you disconnect the battery charger, you’ll lose the electronic settings for your radio, clock, and other settings.)
- Don’t use the parking brake?—?use a chock to keep your vehicle in place.
- Check to see if your tires are properly inflated.
- Try to cover gaps where mice or other creatures can enter. Also try scent deterrents.
- Maintain your auto insurance. You may need only to keep the comprehensive insurance if no one is going to be driving it, but it will help protect you from damages that could result from problems at the storage location.
If someone is going to be driving your vehicle, make sure that you not only have the right insurance, but that you also keep the license tabs current. Most localities now allow you to pay your license fees online.
Find the right place to store furniture and personal items.
Unless you are going to rent your home furnished, you will need to store your furniture. In any case, you’ll want to have a place to keep your personal items. If you have a family member or friend with extra space, they might just become your favorite person, because storage can be expensive. Before our RTW trip we chose a storage facility that was close to our son’s house, because he acted as our property manager.
What made that choice even better was that his house was farther from an urban area, so the prices were lower there too. We chose a controlled atmosphere storage facility, which helps prevent problems due to heat, cold, or humidity. Before you store anything, use your trip as an opportunity to get rid of the items that you “might need some day.” It can be liberating to get rid of the “junk” that seems to multiply in our closets.
- Take photos of the items that you treasure for sentimental reasons but you never use, and then donate them. You’ll have the photos to recall those special memories.
- Give some of your best things to your friends, or ask them to keep treasures like Aunt Hattie’s silver fruit bowl until you return.
- Put small items such as watches and jewelry in a safe deposit box at your bank.
- Take advantage of charity shops. Give away your serviceable items, and get a receipt for a tax deduction. Do good for others as you free yourself for your adventure.
- Host a garage sale or use Craigslist to sell items and get some extra cash.
- Consider consignment furniture stores, but make sure you know how long they will keep your items for sale and what they do with items that do not sell.
Also, if you have a relative whose place is serving as your temporary address, you may be able to get a policy from your own insurance company to cover your goods in storage. That policy may be cheaper than the insurance offered by the storage company.