Travel solutions for stamina issues (2 of 2)

This item appears on page 36 of the September 2015 issue.

In the December 2014 and January 2015 issues, ITN printed an information request from Diane Robbins of Penfield, New York: “When sightseeing, my husband does well for a while, but after about an hour or so of walking or being on his feet, he needs to rest for a few minutes. We nixed a trip to Rome because of feedback that visiting the Vatican can take hours, with no place to sit. I would love to have some feedback from other travelers who have stamina issues. I’m curious about travelers who take those canes that open into seats. Are they easy to use and do people feel secure sitting on them? Can anyone recommend a travel company that travels at a slower pace, one that offers trips with few (or no) one-night stays and walking tours that don’t feel like you’re taking a forced march?” On the subject of Travel Solutions for Stamina Issues, we printed subscribers’ recommendations for cane seats in last month’s issue. This month we’re printing their general advice and a few recommendations on companies offering trips that are less taxing. IN ADDITION, in this issue we are printing responses to another subscriber’s request for information on a similar subject, Super-senior Travel Options. Jane Childs of San Francisco, California, wrote (Jan. ’14, pg. 67 & Feb. ’14, pg. 32), “As a 93-year-old world traveler, I am asking for travel suggestions. It would be great to hear of any great ideas besides cruise ships. I’m sure there are other activities available.” Replies were forwarded to Ms. Childs and, farther below, we are now sharing them with the rest of our readers.


Diane Robbins mentioned that her husband needs to rest after on hour or so of walking or being on his feet. Me, too! However, I don’t equate it with a stamina issue. I simply have always disliked standing on my feet for very long.  I have traveled rather extensively in the last 25 years or so, and I try to go to the most popular places during the off-season. For example, the Eiffel Tower is very crowded during “the season,” but in the winter one can walk right on. This is true with most of Europe, so I avoid the crowds and long lines.  I think some places are especially difficult, such as the Vatican. I simply do not try to get into places that require hours of lines and waits.  I have found that the “whispers” used by Grand Circle tour members are great. These are small headphones that amplify the tour guide’s delivery. On my 2014-2015 Christmas/New Year tour to Croatia with Grand Circle Travel (Boston, MA; 800/221-2610,, I simply went and leaned against the nearest wall, or whatever was handy, as the guide talked.  I don’t take “forced marches,” but I haven’t found that to be a problem with any of my trips, and I always use a tour company, as I much prefer having them do the dirty work of figuring out where to go, what to see, etc.  Anyone with questions may email me at David Williams, Dallas, TX


I, too, need rest and find that tours can be overtaxing. However, many tours will provide “at leisure” days or half-days.  For example, a morning tour with lunch will end early in the afternoon, with “dinner on your own” later. This arrangement provides an afternoon and evening of rest, with maybe a light snack from a newsstand combined with fruit purchased at a market making a light supper. Or, perhaps, an “optional” activity can be skipped. For example, I was recently in Morocco and a hammam (Turkish bath) was an optional visit. As others visited the hammam or went to museums, I could take a swim in the pool and rest in my room.  It is, of course, best to pick the right tour, avoiding an “adventure” tour with strenuous activities. And look at tour itineraries that have many a “day at leisure” or “optional activity” listed. Also, tours with 2-night stops provide more rest. Another option is to take a tour with Untours (Media, PA; 888/868-6871 or 610/565-5242, This company rents apartments for 1- and 2-week stays and includes transportation and some local support. Mary K. Taylor Rockport, TX


I certainly can recommend a travel company that almost never has only one-night stays and really does not have any walking tours per se. Owned by George Nevin, that company is Intimate France (Oakland, CA; 800/676-1247, I have been on six group tours with George, the last in September 2014, his “Romantic Germany” tour. (Including $100 early-booking discount and $100 prior-tour-member discount, I paid $4,100 plus $550 single supplement, which included all hotels, breakfasts and eight other meals.) I love the fact that you are encouraged to explore a town or city at your own pace. George makes sure you have a map of the area when he drops you off, and he lets you know when and where he will be back to pick you up.  You are then free to explore the points of interest that he pointed out, to sit at a café and watch the world go by while having a cup of coffee or to scoot into a beautiful church for a look. That is not to say that his travelers shouldn’t be in good shape. Some of the hotels do not have elevators, but if you can climb stairs, no one will expect you to bound up them with abandon. Most of his tours have 2- and 3-night stays in each place. If you are an independent traveler who enjoys small groups (eight people, maximum), enjoys a well-thought-out itinerary with lots of free time on your own, has a love of fine dining and appreciates a tour director who does not micromanage your time, Intimate France has the tours for you. Sandra Berg Overland Park, KS 


I strongly suggest that Diane Robbins consider custom tours. That is the method for travel that my wife and I prefer. On a truly custom tour, Diane can work with the operator to establish an itinerary that does not involve a new hotel every night, and she can set the expectation that “forced marches” are not in the cards.  With a custom tour, she can start when she wants to start, rest when she wants to rest and not be at the mercy of a preestablished group itinerary. It’s also easy to avoid the dreaded tourist-group-restaurant buffets for meals! Operators we have personally used who absolutely would take good care of her include the following: For Southern Africa, Pierre Duval of BushBaby Safaris (110 Victoria St., Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal 3000, South Africa; phone + 27 34 212 3216, We traveled with Pierre in 2009 and 2011; see my article (Feb. ’13, pg. 46). In Panama, Judy Tovar of Easy Travel Panama (Panama City, Panama; phone, in the US, 512/800-8099, — February 2014. In Costa Rica, Andy Goodling of Costa Rican Vacations (Calle 70, San José, 10109, Costa Rica; phone, in the US, 800/606-1860, — February 2014. In Ethiopia, Oumer Seid of Host Ethiopia Tour (P.O Box 29934, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; phone +251 118 500 304, We traveled with Oumer in January 2015; see my article (July ’15, pg. 6). George Anderson Minneapolis, MN


Super-senior Travel OptionsRegarding travel-activity options for super-seniors, I do have a suggestion for Ms. Childs. When younger, my husband and I would arrive in a new city, then take public transportation to our hotel.  Now we find that there’s real comfort in having an arranged pickup and drop-off. It makes the entry into a new city so much easier. I use a tour company or travel agent to book transportation (usually using ITN as a resource to find the right specialist).  For instance, for Southern Africa I used Rothschild Safaris (Denver, CO; 877/826-6577 or 303/756-2525,, for South America I used Galapagos Travel (Aptos, CA; 800/969-9014, and for Asia I used Scott Wild of Wild Card Adventures (Bellingham, WA; 360/756-2180, All have advertised in ITN, and that’s how I found them.  Recently, I also used a New York City travel agent, Fred Del Pozzo at Tzell Travel Group (212/944-2121,, who has great contacts with providers (for arranging pickups and drivers) in many countries, especially in Europe. There might be other situations where just a little preplanning would make a big difference. Nili Olay, New York, NY


I’m only 87 and travel actively by myself. I’ve found that the best way to go is a personal tour — just me with a guide, a car and a driver. I can go where I want, at my own pace, and if I decide not to do something, it doesn’t affect anyone else. There are some conditions to this method. You need to know where you want to go, have access to a computer and have the patience to spend a great deal of time surfing the Internet. I look for tour companies local to the destination, then read, reread and again reread everything on their websites. When I find someone I feel comfortable with, I start emailing them, asking questions and making decisions based on their responsiveness and answers to my questions. I continue searching until I find someone who’s willing to provide what I’m looking for. I usually start in March for a September/October trip. In 2011 I did an archaeological tour of the north coast of Peru with a tour company in Cusco. It started as a planned tour. I kept adding sites I wanted and they suggested others. I had an exceptional tour. My guide was so knowledgeable and knew everyone, so I did things not offered on the average tour. She was a wonderful companion. The driver was a safe driver and conscientious, helping me in and out of the car. (I was having some mobility issues.) In 2013 I visited Vietnam and Cambodia, where I had a personal tour of the Angkor Wat area provided by a local tour company. Because I had already done some things included on the tour, the guide, who really knew the area, suggested something different. Seven to 10 days is a good length for a personal tour of a limited area. Then I like to join a small-group tour to see a more extensive area, since I like to be gone about a month. Martha Jo Morehouse Glendale, CA


I don’t know that travel options for oldsters are much different than they are for anyone else. Your interests and your physical capabilities are what determine your trip. Born in March 1944, Ranulph Fiennes scaled Everest (second try) in May 2009. That is not something I would attempt. On the other hand, I took a week-long camel trek in Chad a year or so ago. I’ve done several other trips in recent years, so I think I can hang in there. This year, 2015, I finally made it to the Danakil Depression and Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia, an unreal experience. But I suspect I’ll never succeed with Kilimanjaro, for I wasn’t a good climber even in my salad days. Four of us have traveled together over the last few years, all ladies of a certain age: two Brits and two Americans. We have gone from Oman to Rajasthan to the Copper Canyon to the Balkans. We’re set for Laos and Cambodia come December. We contact professional agents to help with implementing the itineraries. Several groups will work with you on an individual basis: Exodus (Toronto, Ont.; 844/227-9087,, Explore! (Farnborough, Hampshire, England; phone 01252 883 753,, Travel the Unknown (London, England; phone 020 7183 6371 or, in the US, 347/329-5524, and Undiscovered Destinations (Tyne & Wear, England; phone +44 [0] 191 296 2674, And it doesn’t have to be that expensive.  I mostly travel on the cheap. When my husband was alive, we mainly did independent trips. Now I either go solo or with small-budget groups (I do like the socialization), and I manage not to be the last in line. Having traveled for over 30 years, I find I’m repeating myself, but wotthehell! I’m 85 and still movin’ on and out, with a deposit on the North Pole for next year! Jo Gilbert, Palo Alto, CA