While it’s exciting to travel to new destinations, vacation can be a challenge for older adults. Leaving the comforts of home can be intimidating, and ensuring all your needs are met while out of town requires some careful planning. Whether you are making travel arrangements for yourself or are a caregiver vacationing with a parent or loved one, we’ve complied some helpful tips for safe senior travel.
When traveling with older adults, preparation is key. Planning ahead may help you avoid some big headaches during your summer vacation.
- Consult with a Physician: Make an appointment to speak to your or your loved one’s doctor to make sure they are cleared for travel, and are up-to-date with any vaccinations they may need for their given destination.
- Call Ahead: Special services like seat assignment and wheelchair assistance should be requested well in advance. Summer is a busy travel time, so be sure to contact the airline, cruise line, or hotel a few weeks ahead of your departure to ensure they can accommodate your needs.
- Review Travel Documents: Do you have a valid ID? Is your passport up-to-date? Obtaining these documents can take time, so don’t wait until the last minute to assemble all the necessary documentation.
- Fly Direct: Yes, the flight with 2 stops is cheaper and the scenic drive takes you through some beautiful landscapes, but extending your travel time may create some unnecessary complications when traveling with older adults. Choosing the most direct travel option will eliminate hassles and create a more positive vacation experience.
Make travel easy by packing light, but be sure to include all the essentials for a smooth trip.
- Medication: Be sure to bring enough medication to last the duration of the trip and a few days extra in case of travel delays or flight cancellation. If traveling by air, medication should be kept in clearly labeled prescription bottles and placed in a (1) Quart Ziplock freezer bag. Check the TSA website for additional guidelines on traveling with medication, disabilities or medical conditions.
- Copies: Bring copies of your IDs, travel documents, medication prescriptions, insurance card, etc.
- Gifts: If you are traveling by plane, pack gifts unwrapped. The TSA may open your beautifully wrapped packages if they inspect your luggage. So, it’s best to plan on wrapping presents after you arrive at your destination.
- Money Belt: Summer is peak season for theft, and tourists, especially older adults, are a prime target. Avoid carrying a purse or putting your wallet in your back pocket. Your valuables are safer in a money belt worn close to the body. It’s also wise to leave expensive jewelry at home. If you must bring it along, pack it in your carry-on.
Prepare for a Successful Flight:
From long security lines to the chaotic baggage claim, air travel can be hectic during the summer months. Arrive early and follow these tips to fly with confidence.
- Outline expectations: if it’s been awhile since your parent or loved has flown or if they have some confusion, be sure to take some time to discuss what they can expect at the airport. Walk them through security procedures and make sure they feel confident in the process before you get to the airport.
- Dress Appropriately: TSA regulations allow passengers who are 75 and older to keep their shoes and light jacket on while going through security. However, if they set off an alarm, they may be asked to remove them. So plan accordingly. Wearing loose-fitting clothing will also ensure a more comfortable flight.
- Keep TSA Informed: Do you or your parent/loved one have a pacemaker, hip implant, or other medical device that could trigger an alarm? Let TSA know and, if possible, bring along documentation from a physician. Consult the TSA website for additional guidelines for senior travelers.
- Request an Aisle Seat: Make seat requests well in advance, but be sure to seat older adults along the aisle. This will give them easier access to restrooms and allow them to stand up and stretch their legs during long flights. Older adults are at higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a potentially life-threatening disorder in which blood clots can form in the legs. Periodic stretching will increase blood flow and help prevent clots from forming.
Know Your Destination:
While you're online planning all the great sites and activities you'll enjoy on your vacation, spend some time researching what resources are available at your destination.
- Request a Wheelchair Accessible Room. Even if you or your loved one don’t use a wheelchair, accessible rooms are generally close to elevators and exits, offer walk-in showers, and have grab bars in the bathroom, which may make those with mobility issues feel more at ease.
- Create a Senior Friendly Itinerary: Be sure to include time to recovery from jet lag and plenty of breaks throughout your day. Be sure to note any locations that might pose a challenge for those with mobility limitations.
- Reserve Any Necessary Equipment: Many durable medical equipment (DME) companies offer short-term rentals of wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, shower chairs, etc. Call ahead to rent any equipment you may need. If your destination requires lots of walking, consider renting an electric scooter to move around town with ease.
- Consider Time Zone Changes: Do you have medication that must be taken at specific times of day? Changing time zones may affect when you take your prescriptions. Speak to your doctor about adjusting your medication schedule accordingly.
- Research Local Medical Centers: While you hope a trip to the hospital isn’t on your vacation itinerary, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Research local hospitals, so you know where to go in case of a medical concern or emergency.
Finally, HAVE FUN! Keeping a positive outlook is essential to making any vacation successful. Wherever the road takes you this summer, we wish you happy travels!
About LifeStyle Options
Founded in 1989, LifeStyle Options is one of the oldest and largest, nurse owned & operated private duty home care agencies in Illinois. With over 300 highly experienced and trained homecare professionals, CNAs, and RNs on staff, they have earned a reputation for providing exceptional service to clients throughout the Greater Chicagoland area, enabling older adults to safely remain in the comfort of their own homes.