Pay attention to details
Elder travelers often have special needs, so keep these important tips in mind:
Before the trip…
- Ask about senior discounts; successful travel does not have to be an expensive proposition. Consider trip cancellation insurance.
- Invite your elder to have some input about the itinerary. Be flexible.
- Make sure your elder has foreign country medical insurance. Medicare doesn’t apply outside the United States. If your elder’s Medicare supplement isn’t covered outside the U.S., you may want to purchase travel insurance with medical coverage.
- Check out hospitals and 24/hour emergency medical centers on route ahead of time.
- Get necessary immunizations; know how to find medical assistance on the road; pack extra medications and food for special need diets; take precautions for varying climates and altitudes.
- There’s no need for physically challenged elders to stay home. For a wealth of information on accessible travel, search for “disability travel” on the Internet. Also, if your elder tells you that stair-climbing may be an issue, plan accordingly.
- Plan for back-up activities for rainy days and long airport delays. Pack books, games, IPods, IPads, and crossword puzzles. Download favorite movies. Check out Internet access before you leave.
- If your elder cannot handle his/her own luggage, make sure you have a plan in place for luggage assistance.
- Give copies of your trip itinerary and phone numbers with other family members and trusted neighbors.
On the road…
- Learn your elder’s routine ahead of time. Does he or she have a regular naptime? Bed time? Try to stick to that routine as much as possible.
- Elders should be especially careful at high-altitude destinations. Acclimate slowly, and take it very easy the first few days.
- Intersperse high levels of physical activity with quiet times together, like reading, taking a walk, and watching a movie.
- Encourage everyone to keep a trip journal and take pictures.
What to do if your elder says, “I don’t want to go.”
If your elder lives with you or close by, and rejects the idea of taking a trip with you, go anyway. Make arrangements for him or her to stay somewhere safe and pleasant while you are on the road. Here are some suggestions:
- Ask someone you like and trust to stay with your elder.
- Take up residence in the home of another family member or trusted friend.
- Consider a caregiver respite center, assisted-living facility or a nursing home that takes residents on a short-term basis. Contact your local agency on aging and your elder’s doctor for referrals.
Every trip comes to an end. Schedule some time later to look over photographs and journals. It may not have been a perfect trip and everything may not have been all you hoped it would be, but the special moments you shared are what you will remember.