Travel with Seniors Worry-Free: 10 Tips

April 2, 2014

Looking back, I admire my mother so much for undertaking the wonderful summer driving holidays we enjoyed when I was young. Chicoutimi  Quebec, Provincetown Massachusetts--not short or easy drives, but always well planned and a lot of fun. 

Now there was a very good reason that these trips were well planned, for besides my five year old sister and myself, she took my grandmother and my two great aunts. That's right…2 children and 3 seniors!  What an undertaking. And this was not the era of vans--no, we traveled in an Oldsmobile!

As with any other vacation, preparation is key: but traveling with children and seniors makes it especially important to address special senior travel needs so that you will be able to enjoy a hassle-free trip that’s memorable for the right reasons.

Here are 10 tips for traveling with seniors:

  1. It is necessary to consult your seniors’ doctors as long distance travel can be physically and emotionally stressful for seniors. Pack any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications they may need in a carry-on bag instead of putting them in checked luggage. That way they are handy if needed. 
  2. Proper clothing is essential for your senior while traveling. It should be loose and non--binding to give comfort and aid circulation. If sitting a long time, your senior should consider compression stockings with a doctor's permission.
  3. Whether traveling by car or plane, hydration is important for your senior. The low humidity on airplanes can easily lead to dehydration. Staying hydrated wards off jet lag and helps the immune system.
  4. Carry snacks, preferably healthy, for quick hunger fixes. Some seniors are hypoglycemic, others diabetic, so long periods without food can be problematic. As well you need to have food handily when it is time for medication.
  5. Allow for some movement every hour. Whether it is your senior pumping their feet up and down, roadside stops, or a trip down the aisle of the airplane, it’s important to increase blood circulation and keep joints feeling limber. Sitting for long periods of time has been associated with blood clots, especially in people with poor circulation.
  6. Keep the trip as low stress as possible by being organized and by involving your senior in the planning. It is comfortable for them to know the plan and to give input. Being away from home can be stressful in itself. 
  7. It may be necessary to walk long distances at larger airports, so a collapsible walker or folding cane may be helpful. This may be valuable on a car trip as well as some tourist attractions involve a lot of walking.
  8. When disembarking from an airplane let other passengers exit the plane before you and your elder disembark. Hanging back will keep you from being jostled by travellers in a rush and give flight attendants a chance to give you a hand if necessary.
  9. If your senior uses a wheelchair choose hotels and restaurants thoughtfully. Many hotels offer wheelchair accessible rooms on the first floor and most family restaurants are wheelchair friendly.
  10. Keep things as simple and comfortable as possible: look for direct flights, keep the number of hours in the car each day reasonable with a hotel planned for each night, book seats with extra leg space if possible and choose an aisle seat over a window seat.

Traveling with an elderly parent can be a wonderful experience. It is a chance to  share memories and have new experiences that you both will always cherish. But this trip will only be successful if you are vigilant about the physical and emotional demands that older age brings.

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