Traveling by air, train, or even in your own car isn’t always easy for everyone. But for seniors, handling the bumps in the road created by everything from flight delays to a lack of support services at their destination can be even more of a challenge. Following these straightforward travel tips for seniors will help to reduce the stress from travel and ensure seniors stay safe while also getting the most from each trip.
The 14 Travel Tips for Seniors to Stay Safe While Having Fun
1. Manage Medications
No matter how seniors travel, it’s important to keep several days of medications close at hand. It’s critical for air travel because access to checked bags is virtually impossible and flight delays create a time crunch if seniors need to medicate multiple times a day. Also, bags can be lost compounding the problem. If a senior takes a liquid medication, work with their physician to get documentation stating their need to carry those medications onto a flight so Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules can be navigated more easily.
2. Stretch Your Legs
Long flights, car rides and train travel mean being seated for a long period of time. A serious risk for senior travelers is deep vein thrombosis brought on by lack of movement. On long flights or the train try to get them an aisle seat which makes it easier to stand, stretch and use the restroom. Make sure you remind them to stop every few hours if they are on the highway to take a short break, walk around a little and get a good stretch.
3. Stay Hydrated
Traveling is a thirsty business and being on the move tends to quickly dehydrate everyone. Seniors flying at high altitudes are at an even higher risk of dehydration so it’s a good idea for them to keep a water bottle full and sip on it during travel. Don’t forget about eating either – have a few snacks like fruit or nuts in plastic zippered bags or energy bars in their carry bag instead of relying on airport stores and restaurants they might have time to stop at (and they are expensive!). Also, seniors often need food and water to take with medications.
4. Know Travel Details
When your loved one’s travel, gather as much information as you can about their itinerary. Know flight departure and arrival times and gates, terminal maps, immigration information, etc. to avoid unexpected surprises. For seniors traveling by car, keep a close eye on the weather and check with AAA to see if there is any major road construction causing detours that can make it difficult for seniors to navigate. Teach them how to use GPS navigation if it’s available in their vehicle – some travel apps also allow sharing so you can track their progress online during the trip.
5. Pack Light
The goal is to pack everything a senior needs in a rolling suitcase plus a medium-size over-the-shoulder carry-on. For domestic travel, encourage seniors to pack even lighter because anything they need should be available at their destination. Heavy bags and too many of them can contribute to lifting injuries and even falls. Lighter is better.
6. Be Prepared for TSA Rules
TSA is something everyone needs to be prepared for at the airport. Make sure senior relatives know some of their medical conditions may raise red flags at security checkpoints. Be prepared to brief them on TSA procedures regarding medical conditions that can set off alarms, such as surgical hip and knee implants, or be seen in scans such as prosthetics or infusion ports. To avoid delays, get a physician’s statement or the device’s description card and make sure the senior carries that documentation.
7. Look at the Trip Realistically
Many adventurous seniors have a bucket list trip that they’ve dreamed of taking. But before planning gets started it’s critical to look at a trip realistically to see if the destination can handle health emergencies and whether the senior can handle the rigors of the trip. Can they get to the tourism site safely? Is there an appropriate level of healthcare available? Are the accommodations accessible? Many foreign countries don’t provide the same level of care or promote easy access for seniors. Before making the leap find out what potential challenges the destination poses.
8. Get There Early
Encourage seniors to get to the airport or train station with time to spare so they aren’t rushed as they make their way through the terminal. Avoid long walks by arranging for a wheelchair or assistance ahead of time. Airlines can usually set this up when trips are booked.
9. Don’t Lug Your Luggage
Unless seniors are traveling very light, they probably need help with their luggage. Have them get a porter or wait for the family to arrive at the luggage point. If driving, ask them to pack a smaller carry bag that they can take into a hotel mid-trip so you don’t have to haul an entire suitcase in and out of the hotel.
10. Beware of Free Wi-Fi
Seniors aren’t always computer savvy and if free Wi-Fi is available in a location, they may use it without verifying the source. Advise them to avoid accessing private documents or online banking information when connecting to free Wi-Fi. If they are in a hotel lobby or local coffee shop suggest that they verify the Wi-Fi by asking a staff member how to access it properly.
11. Make Document Copies
For senior travelers heading to foreign countries it’s a good idea to bring copies of all their travel and identification documents. If a passport or wallet is stolen or lost, extra copies in hand can help speed up assistance at the consulate or boost your chances of being able to board a plane. Scan their documents before the trip to create digital copies that you can email from home if the seniors can’t locate their copies or need more of them to share with various agencies or the airlines.
12. Find Senior Discounts
While they may not actively promote them, many places from museums to the airlines may offer senior discounts. Carry passports and ID to take advantage of lower prices and don’t be shy about asking staff at tourist sites and booking agents if they offer a discounted rate.
13. Strongly Consider Travel Insurance
There are plenty of options for travel insurance and it’s expensive for seniors, but it’s a worthwhile investment because they may need it if there’s a medical emergency. Find out if a senior’s medical insurance works overseas and keep in mind that Medicare is not valid outside the U.S. except in limited circumstances. One aspect of travel insurance that should be considered is evacuation insurance. This covers the expense of getting seniors to adequate medical care in an emergency — especially if they are too ill to fly commercially.
14. Consult With a Physician Before Traveling
Prior to any big trip, seniors should get a medical check-up especially if they have a coronary heart disease, hypertension, a chronic condition, or recently had surgery. Talk about health concerns and if they are traveling to a foreign country make sure seniors are vaccinated against infectious diseases they may be exposed to on the trip.
At Blakeford Senior Life, we support our communities whether they are enjoying ageing in place or living their best life on one of our campuses. Our experienced staff is ready to assist you in every step of your retirement journey. For more vacation tips, read this informative blog that can help you plan for your next getaway.