Although travel doesn’t have an age limit, traveling with senior citizens can present some unique challenges. But in these golden years, sometimes, travel is necessary.
If you’re traveling with a senior, you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure they have a safe and comfortable trip. And as a bonus, a bit of advance planning can also help make your trip less stressful.
Here are a few tips to follow to make senior citizens more comfortable while traveling.
Put Someone in Charge
In most cases, you would naturally think to make reservations for your senior companion. And this is especially true if your companion is disabled. But even if your senior traveler has her wits about her, it’s best to put one person in charge of making arrangements. This can help ensure you have the appropriate seating and travel documents. You can also benefit by getting appropriate credit for any frequent traveler rewards that may be available. You may be the person in charge, or it may be someone else, but all the planning should be one person’s responsibility.
Stopovers are difficult for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest among us. So if you’re traveling with a senior, it’s best to avoid stopovers at all costs. Changing planes or trains could be especially cumbersome when you have to bring a wheelchair, medical equipment or any other device.
Stopovers or layovers often lead you to smaller planes, which can be a nightmare for a traveling senior. Smaller jets don’t always offer boarding via jet-bridge, which means your senior will have to climb a flight of stairs.
You may pay more for a direct flight, but the extra dollars are usually worthwhile.
Choose Appropriate Disability Options
In some cases, you can easily make note of the passenger’s disability while booking through the online system. But there are a few cases where you’ll want to take things a step further.
For example, if the senior you’re traveling with has not just a wheelchair but also stringent dietary requirements, or he needs special help in other areas, it’s best to call ahead of time to make your reservations. You’ll want to know the company is willing and able to accommodate your senior’s needs on this trip.
Plan your trip for Mid-Morning or Early Afternoon
At this stage in life, your senior traveling companion doesn’t have the energy she or he once did. And we all know that traveling can be downright exhausting for anyone. So if at all possible, try to plan your travel for a time that makes it easier.
In most cases, this will be mid-morning or early afternoon. You really want to avoid a situation where you have to wake up your senior or keep him or her awake for the trip. It’s usually best to avoid rush hour during these trips. When there are fewer cars on the road, you’re less likely to rush and become impacted by a car accident (whether yours or someone else’s).
Try to plan the most stressful parts of travel for when your senior companion is typically awake.
Bring a Carry-On
In some cases, this advice will seem obvious. If your senior needs medication, you must bring it with you onboard. But even if your senior only needs the medication occasionally and not for lifesaving purposes, bring it in the carry-on. There could be a delay, and you want your companion to be as comfortable as possible.
Also, consider that prescriptions are difficult to replace. If the luggage were to get lost, what would you do? It’s always best to keep any difficult-to-replace items as close to you as possible.
If your senior friend is traveling alone, advise him or her to bring a small travel bag that can be stowed under the seat. This will help ensure that your senior can be self-sufficient during the flight.
Consider Mobility Aids
Travel can be difficult on senior citizens, so even if your senior companion doesn’t typically use a wheelchair, you may consider one on a long trip. Know that it’s available to you from any airline and you can take advantage of it to make your senior companion’s trip more comfortable.
If your senior companion does typically rely on a mobility aid, such as a walker or wheelchair, most airlines suggest that you arrive about 90 minutes before the flight, so they can have time to accommodate you and ensure you, your senior companion, and the wheelchair all get safely to your destination.
Of course, always check with the airline before your trip because there may be slight variations to their rules.