Traveling with the Elderly: Make it fun for all

Marion Fernandez

As our parents age, it becomes more important than ever to be able to spend time with them. If your loved ones are avid travelers, age does not need to get in the way of having adventures. But travel of all kinds, from local to international, can be intimidating if you are not you are prepared for your loved ones’ needs. However, do not fear as traveling with your elderly relatives is totally possible and often a lot of fun. With just a little planning and preparation, you can continue to build great memories for years to come.

1. Solid planning

The first step to any well-organized trip, which is essential when traveling with senior citizens, is to have a good plan. Part of this plan will include making and confirming reservations for everything from the plane to hotel to any tours that you may be going on. When booking for air travel, be sure that you are looking for the most direct routes that have the fewest layovers possible. Ideally, non-stop flights would be the way to go, though that isn’t always possible.

Not always the most comfortable way to travel
Not always the most comfortable way to travel

Also, avoid any smaller airlines as the accommodation is usually more of a challenge for older people due to the increased number of stairs and space available in the plane itself. Booking your hotels ahead of time means there should be few surprises along the way and also gives you peace of mind knowing there is a bed waiting for your companion when you arrive at your destination. An older traveler is not going to be quite as energetic as a younger traveler for wandering a city at night to find somewhere to crash.

2. Pack with care

You do not need to take anything particularly heavy when traveling with an older person, but there are other considerations you should think about. Having some energy boosting snacks with you can help keep blood sugar and energy up, powering through sluggishness. Having entertainment items that your loved ones like is also key, including cards, books, or anything they like to do. A lighted magnifying glass may also help out when menus are in darker places and hard to make out. The bag should also be light, because either you will be carrying it along with your own belongings or your elderly traveler will, which means it needs to be easier to lift and cart around.

3. Know where help is available

Knowing what assistance is out there and making use of it will take a lot off your mind. This means checking with the airlines ahead of time for disability access if you need it, including wheelchairs, assistance animals, or even oxygen canisters. You can also find help for your wallet by making good use of available senior discounts when they are available. They can help take some sting out of the cost of travel. You will also want to speak with the concierge of the hotel you are headed to in order to be sure all of your needs will be met.

4. Invest in travel insurance

Maybe you have considered travel insurance to be unnecessary in the past, but it could save you a lot of headaches. Travel insurance can cover anything from canceled flights to unexpected medical emergencies. It is a nice safety net and provides peace of mind. Medical insurance sometimes is not covered across states or internationally, so having the extra coverage could help.

5. Do not let them travel alone

Now this is not to say that an older person is incapable of navigating travel situations. However, if your family member is elderly and does usually need a little more assistance, do not just throw your loved ones on a plane alone and hope for the best. Make sure that a family member, friend, or an aide of some kind is traveling with them, to be his or her main advocate so they receive everything needed to have a safe trip and to reach the right destination. You simply cannot rely on the airlines to help you out here.

6. Have all medications on hand

This is not a tip specific to senior citizens. Any person traveling should ensure that his or her medications are in a carry-on and accessible when needed. It would be a nightmare to have your luggage lost along with important medication. Having a written list of the medications, including dose, as well as a list of physician and pharmacy contact numbers is also an excellent idea. If you are traveling to a foreign country, have any medical conditions written in the foreign language in case you need a non-English speaking physician during your travels.

7. Go for planned excursions

Think about what would be enjoyable but easy to get on a trip. A cruise may be your best bet as everything from food to entertainment will be at your fingertips. But other adventures can also be simple, including going on a tour bus or a train.  You will also need to think of your travel companions in terms of likes, energy levels, mobility, and what time of day is best to get around. Do not overextend yourself and find you have to abandon plans or push your loved one too hard.

The most important thing to remember is that travel is meant to be a fun adventure. But with an older person, you can have such a thing as too much adventure. Remember that senior citizens are not children to be taken care of, so do take their likes and needs into consideration over what you would like to do. Even if you had planned on climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you need to remember that your companion may not be able to do the same. Do not set yourself up for a disappointing or frustrating trip that leaves everyone unhappy. No matter what you are planning, have fun out there and make some amazing memories.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival