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I’m back from Paris and had a grand time celebrating my 70th birthday with my oldest child, age 47, in this astonishing city.

But, traveling at 70 was not as easy for me as my first international trip at age 45. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but “this ol’ gal” is slowing down and the world is speeding up, for sure!  I would not have had a splendid time without my daughter’s help in getting to and maneuvering in airports, navigating subways and trains, and finding my way in this big city.

I learned a number of things that will make my traveling easier in the future and wanted to share them with you.  They are applicable whether you are traveling to Paris or to Pittsburgh.  In fact, some of them may be helpful if you are traveling this summer to a family reunion or to your favorite vacation spot.

This blog covers tips on how to handle: Big urban areas, food, physical comfort, physical exertion, planes and airports, time management, wardrobe, hair and nails, technology and traveling with an adult child. This information will be helpful whether you are traveling on your own, with a spouse, family member or with a tour group.

Big urban areas – Few cities are as big as Paris, population approximately 12 million. Even if you are with a tour group, it is important to know a few facts about where you are to reduce anxiety and get you back on track in case you get separated or lost: major thoroughfares, transportation modes, weather, history, money, and the political climate.

Food –In Paris, I did not sit down to my morning cup of coffee and bowl of cereal; lunch was not a peanut butter sandwich; and dinner did not come close to what I normally eat.  I found not having my regular food was upsetting to my digestive system and my mood. So I focused on eating a good balanced diet and drinking my usual amount of alcohol. I’m glad that I had packed a few snacks of things I enjoy such as trail mix and whole wheat fig newtons. Remembering that other parts of the world do not have the same food I normally eat helped me tether my expectations; for example Paris’ Starbucks do not sell oatmeal (or even know what it is), and I could not get my favorite cocktail at any restaurant.

Physical comfort – During our trip, in a variety of weather, we walked 5 to 10 miles a day, getting to and from attractions. These items helped me have so many pleasant adventures: Two pairs of sturdy leather shoes, which I switched out daily, socks, a lightweight down vest, a stocking hat and gloves, an umbrella, and a rain coat and a khaki vest with inside pockets. I used these last two items to carry things I normally carry in a purse: my phone, money, passport, credit cards, lipstick, a small container for aspirin, and other helpful medication and tissue.  Since I did not lug a purse around, my back did not hurt at the end of the day.  An added benefit was the ease of going through security, which I had to do at every attraction.

Physical exertion – I don’t know how many times I have responded to people when they say, “Europeans never get fat like we do.  I wonder how they do it;” by saying “they walk.”  Yes, they do.  They walk to the subway, the bus, and train, the store, church, etc.  I could have never done this vacation if I did not do the amount of physical activity I do every week: yoga, hiking and walking my dog daily.  I get in more workouts several weeks before a trip because I know I will need the strength.

Planes and airports – Oh, my!  My father used to say, “Grin and bear it.”  I have found this little slogan so helpful. I can’t imagine working for an airline.  It would be hard dealing with all the people and variables.  No wonder these employees remind me of robots. Because I get grumpy when I do, I try to put out of my head “remembering the good ol’ days” when air travel was a pleasure. I “zone out” by knitting, reading a book on my Kindle app on my phone or watching a movie.  I eat nutritious snacks that I bring with me.   Getting to the airport is a whole other matter. “Rush hour” is always now and new lanes and bypasses and toll roads sprout faster than the beans in my garden. Parking is a nightmare and expensive. Thank goodness for these new transportation companies – Lyft and Uber, which I have found very effective, efficient and reasonable. Rides from family and friends are always appreciated.

Time management – You know, when you are having fun, time goes by twice as fast!  I found it helpful on this trip and all my trips to plan out what I want to see and do when I want to see and do them. That way, I am not using precious time on my travels to plan adventures. For European travel planning, nothing beats the books and web site of travel guru Rick Steves. He even offers audio guides you can listen to on your phone.

Wardrobe, hair and nails –I found my basic packing list to be just perfect – 3 pairs of black pull-on pants, 5 knit tops, down vest, rain coat, 2 scarves, 2 pairs of inexpensive earrings, lightweight vest with inside pockets, rain coat, knit night gown, 2 pairs of black sturdy shoes, a straw hat, mittens and a stocking cap. I have an easy pixie cut, which I just comb. I don’t fuss with washing it every day or bother with brushes, irons or hair spray.  My make-up is a simple foundation, pressed powder and eye shadow, and mascara.  I love Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers.  Besides a great lipstick, I use it for blush. I keep my natural nails short and polished with a hint of pink color because chips do not show.

Technology – Frankly, ladies, utilizing so many apps and functions of my I Phone is essential for my travel! It has made my journeys much easier and fun for me.  I use it to take pictures, adjust sound levels of my hearing aids, and as an alarm clock and a flash light. I receive flight updates and boarding passes, emails and text messages. CityMaps2Go, an app, based on GPS, shows you how to get to point A to point B walking.  My “Mobile Pass” was a godsend at Customs because all of the needed information is displayed on the phone: no need to look for your passport, etc.  I find reading books on my phone so much easier than on my old clunky Kindle.  Then there are the Lyft and Uber Apps to get a safe, reliable inexpensive ride without having to worry or mess with figuring out how much the tip is.  Trip Advisor, Yelp, Expedia apps allow you to choose good accommodations and meals.  I have ordered tickets for the Eiffel Tower and made reservations for dinner. I learned about portable chargers from my oldest grandson, who gave me one for Christmas. Because we used our phones so much, my daughter and I recharged them in our pockets when with it when we were out and about.

Traveling with adult children – What a treat to be with my oldest child for about 10 days straight.  I have not been with her alone for that long in many, many years.  Here we were mother and daughter: senior citizen and middle-aged woman. We had a good time and I got to know her better.  Just a few times did we seem to revert back to mommy and child and several times she helped me out – elderly mother.  We had different sitting preferences for our plane rides.  This separate time I believe was healthy for both of us.  Also, her sleeping area was in a loft and mine was below, which gave us privacy.   It would have been so easy to let me make all the decisions.  She is stronger than I am and more technology savvy.  But, I only relied on her when it was critical; for example, finding our way in a busy subway station or street.  I hope I can travel more with her.

Bon Voyage!

Copyright – Elizabeth J. Wheeler, May 9, 2017