This is an Aviva sponsored article about over-50s travel, a theme close to my heart.

Have you heard of the grey gap year? It’s an expression I recently came across which refers to people my age (over 50) and older taking a year off work to travel, or who are enjoying their retirement by travelling. Never have so many ‘silver’ travellers been as adventurous as they are now. Recent research by 101 Holidays showed that the average age of the solo traveller from the UK is 57 and nearly 63% of them are women. From travelling solo for the first time to climbing Kilimanjaro, we are out there rocking the world. Care to join us?

As we get older we tend to be more confident and that’s certainly true for me, however, with age comes other concerns; keeping the weight off gets harder, our knees, backs and other body parts get a bit dodgy and more serious health issues become more likely. But should that stop us travelling? Not on your nelly!

Neill snowshoeing in Canada

Above: Snowshoeing in Canada with my husband, Neill.
Below: A boat ride in the beautiful lagoon that surrounds the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean.
Featured Image: Kat ziplining in South Carolina, USA.

The rise of the grey gap year

Recommended for youHow to fund your travels: Money saving tips for the 50+ traveller by Heather on her Travels

Here are my top ten tips for looking after your health before you go and while you are away.

Health tips for 50 plus travel – before you go

1. Check what immunisations you might need, on the NHS’ Fit for Travel site (or equivalent if you aren’t based in the UK). If you have any concerns talk to your doctor. Always make sure you carry any medication in your hand luggage, in case your hold luggage gets delayed, and in the original packaging, in case you need to get more or if customs want to check them out. If you are on medication and will be travelling between time zones you may want to think in advance about when you should be taking your medication.

2. Download Google Translate or a similar app onto your phone. It will prove invaluable if you fall ill and you don’t speak the local language.

3. Consider a medical alert bracelet. If you have a serious medical condition or allergy a medical alert bracelet could literally be a life-saver if, for example, you fall unconscious. There’s a fabulous range of designs now available.

Health tips for 50 plus travel – while away

4. Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water while you are away, especially in hot countries, and on any flights. Long flights, in particular, are very dehydrating.

5. Get plenty of sleep. Take an eye mask to block out intrusive light, earplugs to muffle noisy environments and, if flying, a neck pillow to help you sleep on flights.

6. Guard against deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Sitting still on a plane, train or coach can contribute to DVT and as you get older you are more at risk. In the last year, I have had two friends in their fifties affected by this. Luckily, they were both treated in time and survived, but it is a dangerous condition. Wear compression socks and try not to sit still for too long.. There are exercises that can also help. You can find out more about preventing DVT on the NHS’ website.

7. Pace yourself. Don’t try and see everything in one day. Firstly, you’ll have time to appreciate and soak everything in and secondly, you won’t exhaust yourself.

8. Drink alcohol in moderation. Not only is alcohol dehydrating, it also disrupts sleep, so it is best to keep the number of alcoholic drinks you consume to a minimum. You don’t need to avoid them completely but do drink sensibly.

Santorini salad with sweet local tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, olive and capers

9. Avoid too many carbohydrates and red meat. When I eat out I find it hard to resist ordering a burger or steak and chips if it’s on the menu, but I find eating too many carbs, such as pasta or potato, or too much meat, makes me sluggish and lethargic. So I often look out for vegetarian or vegan restaurants as their menus tend to be healthier. I also like to buy fruits, vegetables and salads from a supermarket for picnics or snacks. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a kitchen, although having a plastic plate and cutlery is handy. It not only saves money, but it helps me to eat healthier meals in between dining out. Eating vegetarian is better for the planet too!

10. Protect your skin and eyes from harmful UV light but don’t forget your skin needs some sunlight to produce vitamin D. Make sure your sunglasses offer protection against both UVA and UVB light and wear sun cream with a high protection factor. Don’t forget that this is also necessary when skiing or hiking in the snow, as the snow’s reflective properties make the UV rays even more powerful. However, you should also be aware that there is an increase in recent years in the numbers of people suffering from vitamin D deficiency. This may be due to their skin not get enough exposure to the sun as they are always wearing sun cream.

Today here in the UK, there is a growing number of people who are older, healthier and wealthier, taking a grey gap year and are looking for more interesting experiences and more active holidays, often in more exotic locations. If you are not already, aim to be one of them! That’s my retirement plan.

Enjoy your 'grey gap year' sialnd hopping in Greece

As we all know, retirement doesn’t look how it used to. For those of you itching to take that long trip – trekking in Machu Picchu, exploring India’s Golden Triangle and island hopping in Greece – this can be your reality, too. Aviva is here to help you seize your retirement – making trip planning simple and putting you in control of your adventure.

Recommended for youTop 10 really useful Solo Travel Tips for the over-50s by The Quirky Traveller

Top 10 health tips for the 50-plus traveller (and the rise of the grey gap year).


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