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6 Tips for Traveling With a Senior Loved One

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Traveling with close family members and friends can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life.

However, when we travel with a senior loved one, we may be faced with challenges we don’t normally anticipate.

As with any travel—whether it’s for a few hours or a few days—preparation is key. These tips can help you plan ahead to ensure an enjoyable trip for everyone.

1. Consult With Your Loved One’s Doctor

Before planning is in full swing, consult with your loved one’s doctor. Have them do a thorough checkup to be certain your loved one is up to the physical demands of the trip, especially if you’re accommodating a health condition.

If you plan to travel via an airplane, keep in mind that some health conditions may keep you from doing so, including recent surgeries, infectious diseases, a history of stroke and more.

When talking with their doctor, ask for specific travel tips, as well as any medications or vaccinations. It’s also important to consider how a potential change in time and routine will impact them. For instance, is there a certain time of day when your loved one naps? Or, is there a strict medical schedule you must follow? Have these conversations with your loved one’s doctor to ensure travel is okay.

2. Arrange for Special Services Ahead of Time

Once your loved one is cleared for travel, you’ll need to arrange for special services ahead of time. If your loved one uses a wheelchair, scooter, walker or cane, contact the travel company or airport to arrange for advance boarding on planes and trains. Many airports also offer special assistance and wheelchair loans if needed. By securing these reservations, you can ensure your loved one gets the necessary support with minimal delays or overexerting themselves.

If flying, you’ll also want to consider security. Long wait lines could require your loved one to stand for an extended period of time without being able to use the restroom. You can expedite the security screening process by applying for TSA PreCheck. With PreCheck, you don’t have to remove belts, jackets or shoes, which allows seniors with mobility issues to move through security much faster.

If you’re traveling with medications, inform the TSA officer. You’re responsible for displaying, handling and repacking the medication when screening is required. Labeling these items before arrival can facilitate a smooth screening process.

3. Look for Senior Discounts

When booking flights, hotels or car rentals, ask if there’s a special rate for seniors. These discounts are not always advertised, but they do exist, so do your research ahead of time.

Many airlines offer discounts for passengers 65 and up. In most cases, you need to call the airline for the senior discount to apply. Car rental agencies also offer discounts for senior drivers who are 50 years and older. Lastly, hotels give price breaks to senior travelers, especially those who are AARP members

4. Make Accommodations

You’ll also want to consider where you’re staying and how you’re getting there. For instance, do you have to travel from the airport to your location? If so, you’ll want to arrange for handicap-accessible transportation services if your loved one needs mobility assistance.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider where you’ll be staying. When making reservations for a hotel, the ground floor is usually the best option for seniors. Reserving a room near the entrance or exit cuts down on difficulties that can arise from taking the stairs. Seniors in wheelchairs can request rooms or suites with handicap accessible features, such as:

  • Bathtubs and toilets with grab bars.
  • Lower countertops.
  • Roll-in showers with removable seats.
  • Wider doorways.

These rooms have a more open layout for your loved one to navigate around easier.

5. Pack Lightly 

You’ll make the trip a lot easier on yourself if you pack light. Remember, you’ll be carrying most of the luggage while helping your loved one navigate and pull out documents at various points along the way. The fewer pieces of luggage you have to carry, the easier the trip will be.

Place only essential items in your loved one’s carry-on. These may include:

  • Driver’s license and passport.
  • Hearing aids.
  • Medication.
  • Phone numbers for doctors and physicians.
  • Prescription glasses.

Before traveling, make copies of these documents for others to carry, too. These items should be readily available instead of stored away in the trunk of a car or overhead bin of a plane.

6. Be Mindful of Activities 

It’s common for travelers to want to fit in as much as they can on their trips, but this is often impractical for aging seniors. Consider how much walking and standing they can realistically handle, and be mindful of planned activities.

During initial travel, aim for a direct flight, as layovers require you and your loved one to reboard flights each time with all luggage and mobility equipment in tow. If traveling to and from places, plan for extended stops to stretch sore muscles and stiff joints. Once you arrive, plan for only one or two activities in the morning and evening, and allow for rest periods in between. This will give your loved one enough time to nap if necessary.

Once these plans are in place, traveling with seniors can be an enjoyable experience. They get to enjoy different sights and sounds, while exploring new places with the people they love.

>>>Related Resource: Check out 5 conversation-starting questions for family road trips.

Conversation Starters for Family Travel

As you travel to your destination with family, why not spend some time talking about life’s most important questions? Download Busch’s Essential Guide to Meaningful Conversation for 25+ conversation-starting questions and tips for in-depth discussions with your loved ones. 

Download our essential guide to meaningful conversation


Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.

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