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4 Sun Safety Essentials for Older Travelers

by Staff

We’ve talked about the many ways travel can make you healthier, from stronger bones and heart to the enhanced production of antibodies. However, there are many ways travel can put your health at some level of risk: think animal and insect bites or stomach issues due to exposure to new foods. But there is one environmental factor that no traveler can escape, even in the snowiest climates: the sun’s harsh UV rays. Older travelers are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun: the percentage of patients older than 70 years who have skin cancer, which is hugely linked to UV exposure, increased from 44% in 1989 to 74% in 2021. So when packing for your next trip, consider bringing the following sun protection items:

Prescription sunglasses

Recent research shows that 28% of individuals over 71 have a visual impairment, even when wearing regular glasses, contacts, or other visual aids. When traveling, this need for visual clarity becomes complicated when UV protection should also be factored in. For older adults who don’t want to carry multiple pairs of glasses on a trip, you can buy prescription glasses online by selecting your preferred style and lens type then conveniently uploading your prescription, all from the convenience of home. The Ray-Ban RB4376 comes in a lightweight, travel-friendly polycarbonate frame with options for prescription lenses. You can also get these sunglasses polarized, ideal for reducing glare if you’ll be around sun-reflective bodies of water during your adventure. In-store and online aftercare services are available for those with additional concerns.

Before adding prescription sunglasses to your cart, make sure the frames suit your face shape and that the design is universal enough to be worn with various outfits for maximum travel versatility.


A startling new survey shows that one in three Americans choose not to wear sunscreen because they don’t have one handy or are too lazy to put it on. This is a recipe for disaster for older travelers, especially since higher altitudes on airplanes and long afternoons at the beach equal increased UV exposure. To ensure you always have sunscreen handy, keep a separate tube of broad-spectrum sunscreen specifically in your suitcase or weekend bag – and don’t take it out, even when the trip is over, so it’s ready for next time. The Colorescience Total Protection No-Show Mineral SPF 50 sunscreen dispenses white but dries completely sheer, leaving skin hydrated sans the unflattering white cast. This makes it ideal for a wide range of skin types and tones.

Set your bottle down next to your face wash in your hotel room or cruise ship cabin to avoid forgetting about SPF before you head out.

Sun protection clothing

If your trip involves strenuous hikes or stops at multiple historic destinations, every inch of your body must be primed for UV protection, making sun-protection clothing an absolute must. When buying clothing, check the label to see its Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which indicates how much UV radiation (both UVB and UVA) a fabric allows to penetrate your skin underneath. For example, a UPF 50 rating can block 98 percent of the sun’s rays but allows two percent, or 1/50th, to penetrate. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a UPF of 30 to 49 offers “very good” protection, while a UPF of 50+ is rated “excellent.” Invest in hooded, long-sleeved tops and bottoms that cover your legs entirely. Regarding UPF, the more coverage, the better because, unlike sunscreen, you don’t need to reapply these.

Sun-covering shoes

Previously, we talked about the importance of stretching your legs, especially as long car and plane trips, where you’re sitting for prolonged periods, can increase your risk of a blood clot in your legs. When you step out for those walks, don’t forget that the sun could damage any exposed skin on your feet. Nobody wants those ugly flip-flop tan lines – or worse, a foot sunburn – so it’s better to wear comfortable, walk-friendly shoes that cover the entirety of your feet. Wear water-resistant sunscreen on your feet when you need to wear flip-flops or sandals, like at the beach, for complete sun coverage.

Finally, sun exposure means heat exposure. Older travelers would do well to keep a bottle of water handy to stay hydrated throughout their adventures. You can top up the above sun protection methods with an umbrella with a high SPF rating. Choose a black umbrella, which blocks 90% of rays compared to other colors.

The best part about traveling is soaking up the sun in a new location. With the above essentials in your bag, you’ll be set for an unforgettable trip – and won’t be taking home sun damage as a souvenir.

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