Taking a vacation with seniors can either be a challenge or a happy experience. Planning, research and attentiveness to your loved one’s needs will make the trip both relaxing and memorable. Remember, travelling can be stressful for anyone and especially seniors; make sure to consider their needs and understand you may have to adjust your priorities accordingly.
Get the doctor’s clearance before traveling.
There may be some considerations to be aware of, such as not being in the sun long, altitude concerns or sea sickness that you can plan for. Ensure that you have enough prescription medicine on hand for the duration of the trip, so that there is no need to find a drugstore in a strange place. Make a list of all medications and keep a copy for yourself. Pack them in a separate bag (not buried in a suitcase) so they can be readily retrieved. If taking a cruise, check that there is a qualified doctor on board.
Consider your senior’s physical and emotional needs.
Can they go for two weeks to an international destination, or will they prefer a shorter vacation in the States? Check out transportation vehicles to make sure they address any limitations. For example, most buses have 3-5 steps up that may be challenging if seniors have mobility issues. If your senior uses a wheelchair, verify that any tour bus you might be taking can accommodate wheelchairs. If you are planning on flying, beware that most airplanes will not allow oxygen tanks onboard, even as checked baggage. You may have to rent or order a wheelchair to take your senior to the boarding gate, or arrange for other special services such as meals for dietary restrictions. Be sure to put medications in your carry-on bag to avoid an emergency should your checked baggage get lost. If you’re traveling by car, a 4-door is best. Mini-vans have good accessibility, but passengers have to step up into the vehicle. Above all, arrive early if boarding a plane, train or bus.
Get an early start on planning.
If taking a car, make sure to plan for stops because seniors can get tired, or have aching backs or joints from sitting in a relatively uncomfortable position for a long time. If planning a trip with city tours, consult with the travel agent to make sure the pace is slow enough for your senior. Some seniors are more active than others. Consider a trip that stops at cafes and roadside attractions rather than walking through museums, since some seniors travel at a slower pace and need to rest more often. Call venues to see if they have lots of steps, handrails and so on (a travel agent can also check). This is of particular importance if traveling abroad since handicap accessibility is not a priority in many parts of the world including Europe.
Pack suitcases together with your senior.
Travel light; limit the amount of luggage to just a few pieces. Comfortable clothes and shoes are a must. Bring all identification, money, insurance information and other important documents…but only those that are essential. Take an extra pair of glasses just in case.
Give plenty of notice.
Make sure to include your senior in planning the day’s activities, being a part of the preparation can build excitement and make sure everyone’s desires are addressed. Tell them the schedule of each day, so they will know in advance what is going on and not feel rushed or stressed. Stick with the familiar routine: plan meals and medications around their usual schedule (i.e. early dinners) and make sure they go to bed at the usual time. Plan activities so that they don’t tire out your senior. Stop and rest if needed…at parks, benches and other areas. Seniors should also drink lots of water to avoid being dehydrated. Evening activities may be harder on seniors, so start early.
Finally, if planning a trip, be sure to take advantage of senior discounts. These are often given on cruises, hotels and car rentals. Above all, have fun and enjoy this precious time with your loved one.