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Traveling With The Elderly

An adult daughter with her two senior parents.

The senior in your life has pushed for a vacation for a long time, and you’ve decided it’s a good idea.

Now you have to begin planning the logistics of your trip, but you aren’t exactly sure how.

What do you need to know about traveling with older adults?

Here’s how to travel with the elderly:

  • Confirm with their doctor that it’s safe to travel
  • Plan a short trip
  • Provide comfortable seating
  • Get travel insurance
  • Take advantage of senior discounts
  • Don’t jam-pack your itinerary
  • Expect slowdowns 

With these and the other tips and pointers we’ll discuss in this article, you’ll find traveling with senior citizens less daunting. Make sure you keep reading!

How Do You Travel With An Elderly Person?

Traveling with an elderly person is sort of like traveling with kids. In other words, you must anticipate that more things will go wrong than when traveling purely with able-bodied adults.

The following pointers from the intro will help you successfully travel with your aging parent or senior loved one.

First, Get Permission To Travel From The Senior’s Doctor

Depending on their current health conditions, is it possible the family members you’ll be traveling with might have special needs you have to consider?

Do they have to travel with oxygen tanks or medical supplies? Is it possible that they are in frail condition and their medical issues are such that they are prone to medical emergencies?

If this is the case, you really must consult with their healthcare provider before you start working on travel details!

After all, as much as your elderly travel companion may wish to travel, at the end of the day, it’s not entirely up to them. It’s not even up to you, but rather, it’s your parent’s doctor’s choice.

If their doctor disagrees that the senior is a good candidate for travel, it’s best to cancel that big vacation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get away at all, but in cases like this, you probably should stay within your state to avoid putting strain on the senior’s health.

My cousin recently took my 97 year old aunt to a family reunion in another state. My aunt is in great shape for her age, but my cousin was concerned about air travel.

They were going to be on a cross country flight, so she rightfully talked to her mom’s doctor before scheduling the trip.

Thankfully my aunt was cleared to go and had a wonderful time (and my cousin made great memories with her)!

Plan A Short Trip

We’ve written on the blog before about the laundry list of health issues that elderly travelers can face if they travel by air or for long periods. 

Spending too much time on a long flight puts seniors at risk of aches, pains, blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, and cardiovascular issues. Similar problems can result from long road trips.

It’s definitely best to make frequent stops on a road trip, if at all possible. And, shorter trips or a direct flight are always better for older people.

As we mentioned above, staying within your own state can be a fantastic idea if your elderly companion has mobility issues and struggles to get around. 

You can maybe travel out-of-state to adjacent states, but cross-country trips? They’re really not recommended.

An exception would be if your travel plans are to take a trip to an all-inclusive resort or to go on a cruise.

Personally, I’ve done both and think either one is a great way for the entire family to make vacation memories together! 

I took a family cruise a few years ago with loved ones ranging in age from 13 to 88. The cruise lines go out of their way to be sure there is something for everyone to do onboard. 

It was perfect because everyone did their own thing during the day, then met up at dinner to discuss what we’d done.

We also took a couple of excursions together but it was nice to be able to have the experience together without having to be with each other 24/7.

Provide Comfortable Seating

Whether you prefer to travel by bus, plane, train, or car with senior travelers, comfortable seating must be a top priority. A senior needs a spacious seat with legroom and arm room.

The seat should be made of comfortable materials and ideally recline so the senior can lean back and relax if they feel the need. A window seat best fulfills the requirements if you can book one.

You can always bring a travel cushion like these along to make the senior more comfortable, too.

Travel Insurance Is A Must

Because you just never know what is going to happen, I feel that taking out travel insurance is the best thing for anyone to do, not just older travelers.

In fact, I strongly recommend you get travel insurance that has evacuation provisions if you are traveling with elderly people.

The last thing you need in a medical situation is to have to worry about how you are getting home if someone suddenly needs medical care.

Here are two personal stories, to illustrate:

  • My uncle went to Machu Picchu in Peru with friends, with a side trip to the Amazon river. One of the friends tripped and fell in the jungle, causing a broken hip. The broken hip required surgery and a hip replacement – in a country far from home. The friend’s travel insurance paid for everything, including the flight home to the United States, along with a private nurse who traveled with her!
  • Conversely, another uncle took a cruise last year and began having chest pains part way through the cruise. He was transported to a hospital in Panama City, Panama. It was determined that he needed a heart bypass, but he had no evacuation rider on his travel insurance policy (they opted out due to the extra cost). My aunt’s brother footed the bill for an air ambulance to bring him home.

Trust me, it would have been so, so much cheaper to have gotten the evacuation rider!

Take Advantage Of Senior Discounts

Speaking of booking, senior discounts are your best friend when planning a vacation with the elderly.

Once a person turns a certain age, usually 50 to 60 or older, they’re eligible for savings for hotels, airfare, and the like.

The savings aren’t always substantial, but any money off will make traveling with a senior more affordable and thus more attainable.

Don’t Schedule A Busy Itinerary

If you’re the type of person who likes to be busy, busy, busy during a vacation, you must rework your expectations ahead of any trip with the senior in your life.

Whether through age, medical conditions, or general aches and pains, the elderly generally don’t get around as well as they once did. Even spry seniors can become exhausted if you stack the itinerary too high.

Plan fewer activities than you normally would. Better yet, ask your senior parent or loved one what kinds of activities they’re interested in doing so they’re involved in the vacation planning.

Then space out those activities across the duration of your stay.

There will be less pressure, which means everyone will have more fun!

Expect Slowdowns

Another reason you can’t fill every minute of each day of your vacation with something to do? Slowdowns will occur.

Perhaps your senior will need to take frequent breaks because they’re winded or achy, or maybe they’re just tired.

They may need to stop to take their medication (TIP: bring any needed medications along in their original containers with labels!).

Or maybe they want to snap some photos on an old camera.

Either way, just because you’re capable of maintaining a good pace all day doesn’t mean your traveling companions are, especially if they’re older!

Where To Travel With Elderly Parents

Keeping in mind that short trips are best for the elderly, where should you take your parents on vacation?

Here are some especially desirable locations that are fairly close to most of the USA, so that no matter where you live, you can keep it close to home.

Florida

The warm weather in Florida mixes well with seniors. After all, there’s a reason so many older adults retire here!

The consistently temperate weather also means you can swap around your itinerary as needed and expect a clear day almost all the time.

If you’re looking for a specific part of Florida to vacation, St. Augustine has a lot of European history, and it’s easy to get around.

The Canadian Rockies

Travel by train throughout the Canadian Rockies, drinking in the majesty of the view via the Rocky Mountaineer.

This luxury train with antique but high-quality carriages will offer clear views of the breathtaking surroundings and you do not have to try to traverse by foot.

Alaska

The chilled landscape of Alaska features cold-weather animals like grizzly bears and whales, sizable glaciers, and swathes of wilderness.

If your senior parents struggle to get around, opt to take the Aurora Winter Train, or witness Alaska via helicopter, or take a cruise through Juneau and Sitka.

National Parks

There are some jaw-dropping vistas to be seen at the national parks in the USA. An America The Beautiful parks pass make visiting them super-affordable for seniors, as well.

The Caribbean

Who wouldn’t want to go on an exotic getaway to the Caribbean? The warm weather, crystalline waters, white sands, and gently waving palms would lure anyone to this vacation destination.

If you and your senior parents venture out to the Caribbean, you can discover the wonder of taking it slow.  

What Are The TSA Rules For People Over 75?

One of your concerns when it comes to traveling with an elderly parent or loved one is getting them through airport security.

You know the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can require a lot to pass through the checkpoint, and you worry about what the senior in your life is capable of.

Well, don’t worry, as the TSA has a different policy for those over 75.

According to the TSA’s website, the elderly can enjoy the following security screening benefits:

  • If you can’t stand during a screening, TSA will use other screening methods
  • If you need to travel with medical implants, you can go through a different screening process
  • You don’t have to remove your jacket or shoes during a screening unless you trigger the alarm; then you can sit for a more detailed screening

Do Airlines Help With The Elderly?

Besides the above-mentioned screening benefits, airlines will help seniors on a plane in several other ways.

Senior Discounts

We briefly talked about senior discounts earlier, but we want to look at them in more detail now. 

Senior discounts can begin as young as 50 years old and through 65 years old and up. Different airlines have their own age policy for senior discounts, so look into yours before booking a flight.

A senior discount sometimes can shave about 10 percent off a flight. The discount is sometimes higher or lower depending on the airline.

Travel Assistance

Airlines will also offer travel assistance to seniors and those with limited mobility by giving them extra time to board or helping them board, making any necessary connections, and getting them off the plane safely.

You can also request wheelchair assistance to get across airports.

Special Meals

Meal service is standard on a plane, but on long flights, airline staff may offer the elderly specialty food service. The items on the menu are catered to a senior’s dietary needs.

Priority Seating

Airlines can also help seniors get the best seat in the house in their class. Typically, that means an aisle seat and/or sitting in the front closer to the bathroom.

These seats will have ample legroom and moveable armrests which don’t require the senior to spend as much effort to get up or down or on or off the plane.

Transportation Assistance

Further, airlines will offer transportation assistance to the elderly, including access to wheelchairs so they don’t have to walk throughout the airport.


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