It’s one thing to get yourself ready for a big travel experience, and it’s another when it’s time to get your senior parents ready. Their age, physical health and overall comfort level in traveling are big, big factors to consider.
This past fall, I helped my dad get ready for a coast-to-coast trip. This was the first for him in quite some time, and for the most part, he just needed a refresher in some of the basics. In particular, he needed some direction in terms of what to pack and how to navigate the airport. My goal was to make this a stress free experience for him and I quickly learned that preparation was the key.
Here are some tips that we’d like to share, to help you HELP THEM prepare:
- Make a packing list for them. As simple as this sounds, packing can be overwhelming for seniors. Items for the list would include: a spare pair of eye glasses, extra batteries for hearing aides, lozenges, mints or gum to help keep their mouth from becoming dry and some snacks for energy. Prescription medications (in original bottle/container), a change of clothes and printed travel documents should be in their carry-on bags as well.
- Make a printed copy of all their medications (and their generic equivalent, particularly for international travel) and make sure they bring it with them. This copy should be easy for them to find so it is handy should a refill or doctor visit be necessary while traveling. They should bring several days of extra medication – just in case the itinerary changes or your senior experiences a travel delay.
- Make sure they consult a physician prior to international travel to ensure your senior is up to date on immunizations and vaccinations required for entry to that country.
- Write out family member’s names and phone numbers and make sure they bring this with them in case they need to reach anyone during travel.
- Designate one family member to be in charge of your senior’s travel arrangements. He/she should ensure that your senior is carrying the required documents – be it a passport (if traveling internationally) or a driver’s license. Also, if your senior has mobility issues and needs point-to-point wheel chair service or requires medical equipment to travel, this can all be taken care of in advance by contacting the airline.
- Do a ‘practice run’ going through security with them. Remember, it’s fine for them to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids (gels, creams, aerosols etc) in their carry-on – just make sure they’re easily accessible as they’ll need to come out for screening (unless they have TSA pre-check and flying on an airline that participates in this program). Also, for travelers 75 years and older, they’re not required to take off their jackets and shoes.
- Give them plenty of time to get to the airport, check-in and navigate through security. As a guideline, we recommend arriving at least 3 hours in advance for international flights, and 2 hours for domestic flights. For evening international flights, why not arrive early and have dinner before the flight? This is a great way to unwind and start your vacation!
While there are many areas to consider when preparing your senior for travel, these are just some tips we have to help your special senior experience the ‘extra-ordinary’ on their trip!