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Trip the light fantastic with simple steps to stay safe


Trip the light fantastic with simple steps to stay safe

Australians over 50 are keen to get going but many are worried about health, finances and global conflicts. PAUL HUGHES explains three golden rules for safer holidays — physically, mentally and financially.

About 35 per cent of Australians (more than nine million of us) are over 50 and recent research shows that, although more than 6.5 million of our group want to travel more, most are concerned by emerging challenges.

Europe is still on top of the bucket list for a third of over 50s, but more than 75 per cent won’t consider travelling to Europe due to conflicts or terrorism. Almost two thirds were hesitant to travel to China, South Korea and Hong Kong for similar reasons.

The three main sticking points for over 50s wanting to travel were budget, including the impact of rising interest rates and general cost-of-living increases; continuing conflicts and uncertainty; and health concerns, in particular the lingering effects of the pandemic.

Those worried about financial impact highlighted concerns about losing their money to cancellations, with 20 per cent of those surveyed already struggling with travel credits from recent years.

These issues are not new and during the past 15 years we have constantly promoted three key elements every overseas traveller should prioritise: safety, health and insurance.

SAFETY: The Australian Government provides the best available health and safety information about every overseas country.

Whether it’s disease, conflict, natural disaster, theft or any aspect of personal safety, the website will keep you up to date.

The US-focused International Council on Foreign Relations also shows details of significant conflicts (currently 25) at

It’s important to realise that Australia is one of the most free, open-minded and empathetic countries in the world and many other countries have customs, religions and traditions that can be easily offended, with significant consequences.

Embrace their customs and don’t get involved in protests, even as an onlooker.

HEALTH: Carry-on all your medications, as they might not be available at your destination. Leave medicines in their original containers, as customs and police cannot identify what an unlabelled tablet might be.

The best health protection is to see a travel doctor several weeks before departure, as some immunisation takes weeks to be fully effective.

The majority of overseas health issues are not life-threatening, but include:

  • Jet lag: Drink lots of water and allow recovery time.
  • Travel sickness: Take appropriate medicine as prescribed.
  • Sunburn and heat exhaustion/heatstroke: Wear a hat and appropriate clothing, apply the strongest suitable sunscreen and stay hydrated.
  • Insect and marine bites: Use insect repellent and look for warnings on beaches.
  • Food poisoning or diarrhoea: Take suitable medication with you; drink bottled water, as all waters have a different biological structure (even in Australia); and, if tempted by street vendors, never eat meat or seafood unless it’s fully cooked. Check how quickly the food is turning over and try “different” foods at your own risk.

INSURANCE: This is a highly-debated subject but we strongly believe if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel!

If your life was in the balance through an accident or illness, do you really want to wait for friends and family to rescue you through a Go Fund Me campaign?

Global travel insurance is BIG business. Worth about $US14.3 billion in 2021, it’s expected to increase 800 per cent to $US108.8 billion by 2030.

Most credit card companies offer travel insurance when you pay for your holiday with your card. As experienced travellers, we are confident assessing the different criteria and activating that insurance to ensure we get the best deal that guarantees the coverage we need.

If you rely on your credit card insurance, discuss all aspects face-to-face with your card provider and get all of the information in writing. Always compare offers through one of the many specialist travel insurance companies.

Do the math – compare general travel insurance with any credit card fees and charges or high interest payments if you don’t pay off your credit card.

No matter where you get your travel insurance, fully understand the extent of your coverage, how any cancellations are calculated and how any credits or refunds will apply.

You might not be covered for some risky activities or if you travel to a destination where Smart Traveller has issued a travel warning.

Finally, don’t consider travel insurance just for your overseas holiday.

People have lost thousands of dollars in recent years (or received almost unusable credits) when holidays in Australia were cancelled due to illness, floods, bushfires, cyclones and many other reasons.

 Paul Hughes is a journalist and travel writer, now retired. In 2008, with his wife Vi, he launched the Holiday Destinations website to help travellers experience better holidays. Visit

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