Taking a trip with your favorite senior can be a wonderful experience you will long treasure. To ensure your adventure with elderly parents, grandparents or friends is everything you hope for, be sure to plan well and take into account the special needs of seniors on the road. Here are six tips to help you and your senior travel companion enjoy smooth sailing.
Tip #1 Consider Senior-Specific Destinations:
Unless you’re traveling to a family reunion or other predetermined place, consider all the great trip options designed specifically with seniors in mind. For example, AARP and Expedia teamed up to offer a range of possibilities detailed in their blog “Top Senior Travel Tours.” Or maybe a cruise is the perfect solution; Major cruise lines offer senior cruises to destinations near and far and you can find one that is right for you at Cruisecritic.com. If you want to look at a range of potential destinations that welcome senior travelers, AARP’s Destinations page is a great place to start. Be sure to look for senior discounts and when you narrow your list, don’t forget to research the accommodations, accessibility and medical care available at each.
Tip #2 Get the Go-Ahead:
For lengthy trips or trips abroad, it’s a good idea to check in with your seniors’ physician to find out if your companion is healthy enough to endure the trip safely. You will also want to remind your senior to fill all prescriptions so they have enough for the duration of the trip. If you’re traveling to places that require vaccinations take special precautions. Everyone should be up-to-date on childhood vaccinations such as measles/mumps/rubella, but should clear other vaccinations with their healthcare provider to avoid drug interactions and other medical problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Senior Citizen blog explains best practices for vaccinations and lists vaccinations required by different countries on its Destinations page.
Tip #3 Enjoy Flawless Flying:
Flying isn’t as fun as it used to be and for seniors, it can be downright grueling. But there are steps you can take to prepare for and minimize complications before, during and after your flight. For example, when booking flights, aim for non-stop flights or flights with longer connection times. If possible, book flights that depart and arrive during the day, allowing time before and after the flight for getting to the airport and to your accommodations with minimum stress and exertion.
When booking, be sure to consider mobility needs like wheelchairs or electric carts to get your party to the gate on time. Airports offer a range of accommodations that can be reserved ahead of time. If your senior requires a wheelchair all the time or is otherwise disabled, you will also want to know their rights, especially if traveling abroad where rights may or may not be respected. Great resources for traveling when disabled are WheelchairTravel.org and for international travel specifically, Travel.State.Gov.
Also keep in mind Transportation Security Administration screening requirements, which can be less tedious for those 75 or older. Before you go, be sure both you and your companions have a Real ID, which will be mandatory for flying beginning October 1, 2020. For those who travel by air often, consider TSA Pre ✓® that allows expedited security checks. For more about traveling safely by air, check out AARP’s article “Avoid Airport Delays This Summer With These TSA Travel Tips.”
Tip #4 Be Sure About Insurance:
Before you book, find out if your travel companion’s health insurance provides coverage at your chosen destination. If they are on Medicare they will likely not be covered outside the United States unless they also have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan that extends coverage to foreign countries. Medicare.org explains Medicare Advantage plans and Medigap plans to help you sort it out.
In addition to health insurance, you may also want to consider travel insurance for evacuation or accidents, as well as for trip cancellation or interruption, loss or delay coverage for your luggage, or other specialized policies. To find all your options and compare plans, try TravelInsuranceReview.net.
Tip #5 Pack Smart:
When packing for your trip, remind your senior to keep all medications in their carry-on bag if flying. With those medications it’s important that they also have a written list of medications and dosage instructions, just in case. Another good rule is to pack as light as possible. One way to do that is to choose clothes that can be layered and worn with different articles such as a sweater that matches slacks and a skirt. If your travel companion uses medical devices like hearing aids, be sure to bring along extra batteries. All airlines have baggage size and weight restrictions to abide by and these can be compared at skyscanner.com.
Tip #6 Slow Down:
One of the keys to enjoying your trip will be setting a pace that is appropriate for your senior. You may not get to see every sight, climb to the top of a mountain or run with the bulls, but a happy travel companion is much preferable to one that is sore, tired or cranky because they overdid it. Plan your daily itinerary to include one activity after breakfast, a rest period after lunch and one or two more not-too-taxing activities before and/or after dinner. Choose places to go that provide convenient rest spots with chairs or benches such as parks or museums, as well as restrooms, restaurants and other amenities. If you do take off to places without such amenities, take along plenty of water, nonperishable food and an extra layer of clothing.
Since travel can be hard people of every age, be prepared to skip planned events or side trips if your senior companion becomes too tired. A quiet day reading by the pool or people watching on the beach can be the perfect respite before or after a busy day of sightseeing. Above all, keeping common sense and understanding foremost on your mind will help make your trip fun and relaxing for everyone.