The summer months are a popular time for taking vacations. Whether traveling alone, with family, or as part of a group, being prepared for and accommodating to seniors’ needs will allow them and their loved ones to enjoy a memorable and hassle-free vacation experience. The following are some senior travel tips to keep in mind.
Planning Your Trip
Of course, the first step in any vacation is deciding where your destination is. What are you looking for? A chance to explore a new place? Rest and relaxation? A road trip? A trip for the whole family? You might also think about hobbies you enjoy: are you an avid golfer? A food critic? A beach bum? Do you want to stay stateside or go abroad?
There are many things to consider, especially for elderly travelers who may have some limitations. It’s important to factor in health issues and disabilities when planning a getaway. A destination that requires a lot of walking is probably not best for a senior who has trouble getting around, and long stretches in a car or plane can be hard on stiff joints. A destination that allows for a somewhat normal routine will help reduce stress for those seniors (and their loved ones) with cognitive impairment.
No matter the destination, it will help to plan travel times and activities for times that work best for the senior. It may be best to avoid late evening or night time travel, especially for those with Sundowner’s Syndrome, a condition that is common among those with dementia. When scheduling activities, be sure to include rest time, meal times, and medication reminders. It will be helpful for seniors to have adequate buffer time when arriving at airports, bus stations, etc., and to get plenty of breaks on road trips and tours.
With all the details to think about, planning a vacation can often seem like more trouble than it’s worth. That’s why many seniors take a simpler route and go on pre-planned tours and cruises. These are a great option because they are completely planned out down to the last detail – usually including all transportation, lodging, excursions, and most meals – with staff who are there to help. There are many tour and cruise lines specifically for seniors, and some that are tailored for those with disabilities and special needs.
When planning your vacation, don’t miss out on the many perks to being a senior citizen. Organizations such as AARP and AAA offer senior discounts in a variety of places when you sign up. Take advantage of the fact that many airlines and hotels offer senior citizen discounts. All you have to do is ask!
Packing Your Bags
If possible, seniors should pack light to avoid having to carry large, heavy bags throughout the vacation. This should be more feasible in the summer, when you most likely won’t need to pack large coats or boots. Check the weather of your destination – if it’s warm, be sure to pack light-colored, breathable clothing to stay cool and avoid heat illness. However, don’t forget to pack a light sweater for cool nights or flights.
One crucial thing for traveling seniors to remember is to pack an adequate amount of their prescription medications. Pack these medications and other necessities – travel documents, snacks/drinks, eyeglasses – where they are easily accessible. Seniors can also pack a small notepad to jot down important details, such as room numbers or flight information.
Preparing for Emergencies
Some may see travel insurance as an unnecessary expense, but senior travelers are more likely to need it. Medicare is not valid outside of the U.S., and many insurance policies don’t cover internationally. So if traveling internationally, travel insurance could save you from paying out-of-pocket in case of an emergency.
Seniors and their loved ones should prepare a list of contacts to call in case of an emergency, back home and at the destination. It’s also a good idea to research and find the nearest medical facilities at the destination. While packing, remember to include insurance cards, prescriptions, and doctors’ contact information. If your senior loved one has dementia, The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests they wear identification, such as an ID bracelet in case they are separated from the group.
Written by Taylor French, Amada contributor.