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Traveling With Senior Family Members

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2023
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Ways to be helpful, thoughtful, and respectful of their freedoms

Many senior citizens enjoy traveling to new destinations. It offers them opportunities to see exciting places, meet fun people, try new foods, and make fresh memories. However, when vacationing with them, younger people may not be fully enthusiastic about the experience of traveling with older generations. In part, they may fear that obligations for senior care might interfere with their activities. While advanced age can present some travel challenges, most older people in good medical condition can travel without encumbering others. In fact, most can manage quite well on their own. However, a few considerations should be made so that all parties from younger to middle aged to the elderly can benefit from traveling together. 

Here are some ways to lighten the load on senior family members with whom you are traveling:

  1. Include seniors in choosing a vacation destination. Pick one that offers a variety of activities for all ages attending the trip. For example, a resort that has a pool, activities, and evening entertainment likely has something fun for everyone, even kids.
  2. Select a destination that is considered safe. This enables options to enjoy some time exploring the area solo or sunbathing by the pool alone. If you are truly concerned about a family member being left alone or being lonely, hire a travel companion to assist them and to keep them company.
  3. Be sure that all members are physically and mentally prepared for the trip. All family members, including seniors, should see their doctors to discuss health conditions,  fill prescriptions, and be sure vaccinations are up to date prior to any trip.
  4. If you are concerned about a senior family member forgetting medications or other important documents or items for the trip, offer to help them arrange their affairs, pack, and secure transport for them to the airport.  
  5. Note that Medicare doesn’t provide health coverage outside the US, so consider travel health insurance before embarking on a trip. Also, do research standards of healthcare for regions you are considering visiting and avoid destinations with little-to-no access to quality care.
  6. Consider arranging TSA precheck for older travelers to get through the security pre-check line quickly.
  7. Since airports are large and require a good deal of walking, make special airport arrangements for seniors in advance. Older members of the family who have trouble navigating around large airports will likely benefit from airport transportation to and from the gate.
  8. Don’t expect seniors to handle luggage on their own. Help them check in heavy bags. Note that cumbersome carryon luggage can slow or disrupt movement through the airport, so some assistance may be required.
  9. Consider flights that are direct rather than ones which have multiple layovers that can extend travel times or increase risk of delays that can be hard on elderly travelers.
  10. Ask senior travelers to voice special requests. Senior members may prefer first floor hotel rooms to avoid having to climb steps or wish for handicapped accessible rooms that feature wheelchair friendly spaces, handrails, and more. This should all be arranged ahead of your trip.
  11. Once at your destination, offer to assist senior family members getting settled in their rooms. Encourage them to put their valuables in the safe (remember the code they choose) and secure safe Wi-Fi at the destination.
  12. When staying at a hotel, write down your room number or show them where your room is. Be clear about when and where you’ll meet and how it is best to contact you.
  13. Choose hotels that offer in-house breakfasts. This makes it easy for family members to meet up for breakfast when desired. It also gives folks the option to go back to their rooms to gather items and prepare for the day’s activities.
  14. Create flexible itineraries offering options that everyone can do. Make sure there are restrooms available on your itinerary route.
  15. When involving senior members who are not in great shape, avoid strenuous activities or those which require a great deal of walking or time on the feet. For those in good shape, be clear about how much physical strength is required for certain outings so seniors are not caught off-guard. Additionally, group activities should ideally last a few hours to avoid fatigue. Also bring water and snacks if needed.
  16. Note that some seniors prefer relaxation time and should be given opportunities to opt in or opt out of activities and itineraries.
  17. Keep lines of communication open so that seniors can share points of interest and express what they are thinking and how they are feeling.
  18. If you’re traveling out of the USA, do advise seniors to acquire an international cell phone plan and to let their credit card company know that they will be out of the country. Make sure that older people have up to date passports.

Family trips are memorable experiences. It is a great opportunity for younger people to bond with older family members. While many seniors travel successfully on their own, vacations which are planned for the group may not enable individuals to control the arrangements. Thus, flexibility and advance planning are encouraged to ensure the safety, wellbeing, and happiness of each member to include younger, middle-aged, or elderly travelers. Trips that involve different age groups can be particularly challenging to plan. Making some considerations for the needs and wants of others, especially for senior members of the family, is particularly helpful and encourages a wonderful holiday befitting of all.

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