For some families school vacations and spring break are an opportunity to take a family vacation. When grandparents or senior loved ones are included in the trip, special planning, packing and preparations can make it easy, safe and enjoyable for everyone. Here are some important travel tips to keep in mind. We’ve provided a wide selection here so that you can be prepared whether you are going to a local amusement park for the day or traveling overseas for a couple of weeks.
Before booking flights and planning daily vacation activities there are several pre-planning items that need your attention. Paying attention to these details can pave the way for a great vacation later on.
The most important consideration when traveling with a senior is the suitability of the destination. For example:
- Will they be able to get around easily, or will obstacles like cobblestone streets make walking and the use of wheelchairs challenging?
- Will the climate be too hot or cold and create additional difficulties for the senior?
- Are multiple planes, trains and automobiles required to reach your final destination and will it exhaust the senior?
Ability to Travel
Check with your loved one’s physician before making travel plans.
- Does the physician believe that he or she is able to travel?
- Are there any concerns you should know about?
- Are the senior’s immunizations up to date for the country you are traveling to?
- If not, will the immunizations pose a risk to the senior?
- Ask your loved one’s physician how medical records will be communicated in the event of an emergency and if your loved one lands in a hospital in another state of country.
Make sure that transportation is arranged for every leg of the trip and every bit in between. Pay attention not only to easy flights but to transportation between the door of your car and the ticket counter, security and the gate.
- You can request assistance in advance, with wheelchair transportation from the curb all the way through to the gate. It includes assistance through security, which is eased a bit for seniors.
- Early boarding makes it easier for seniors to get settled in their seat before the crush of other passengers descends on the airplane.
- Make sure a wheelchair will be waiting for you at the other end of the flight.
- When booking tickets, ask your senior loved one which location he or she would prefer; a set toward the front of the plane that makes for easier boarding and deplaning or one that is located close to the bathroom on the plane?
- Once you arrive, what transportation will you need? If you are taking a bus to pick up a rental car, make sure the senior will be able to get on the bus.
- Call the hotel in advance and request a dedicated wheelchair that you can keep in your room. Otherwise you will not have exclusive use of one during your stay.
- If you will be visiting museums, zoos and other attractions that require a lot of walking, call in advance and inquire about the availability of wheelchairs and ask about any fees that are attached.
Safeguarding medications and packaging them appropriately for travel is essential to get them through airport security and to make sure that they are stored at appropriate temperatures.
- Always place medications in the carry on bag.
- Place all medications in a plastic bag that is easy to pull out of luggage.
- Label medications appropriately or keep them in the original prescription bottles. Pill reminders are acceptable as well. Make sure they are sealed so that the tops don’t open and spill the pills into the luggage.
- Medications may be x-rayed in security.
- Prescription liquid medications and creams are exempt from TSA liquid restriction rules
- If medications must be kept refrigerated, plan to travel with a small ice pack or cooler. Make sure there is a small refrigerator or minibar in the hotel room in which you can store the medications.
Oxygen tanks are not allowed on airplanes because changes in air pressure can make the oxygen tank unstable. An FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrator is required and you will need to give your airline 48 hours notice that you are traveling with it. This is an important consideration as concentrators can be very expensive.
Orbitz gives the following advice when it comes to specialized medications: For seniors with implants, medical devices or carrying paraphernalia such as needles, a doctor’s note or TSA disability notification card can ease getting through security. On-board baggage limits don’t apply to medical supplies, equipment, mobility aids and assistive devices.
It’s important to plan time for a leisurely approach to travel during your vacation. If a senior is traveling with you, chances are you will not be able to run through an airport to catch a flight.
- Likewise, delays in flights or any other type of travel should be taken into consideration. How will these delays impact your senior loved one and will he or she be able to cope with them?
- If your loved one suffers from early onset dementia, you will have to plan for a lot of extra time at every leg of the trip so that the or she can rest, remain well hydrated and nourished.
- Traveling in the evening, when the dementia symptom sundowning most often occurs, will be difficult, so plan to travel during daylight hours.
- When you schedule the hotel stay make sure to get a room that is near the elevator. If there is no elevator in the hotel make sure to reserve a room on the first floor.
- As you schedule daily activities during the trip, make sure to leave time for your senior loved one to rest, eat and have a bathroom break.
Properly organizing documents in advance can avoid a lot of headaches. Documents that you will need for your trip may include:
- Passports – for international travel the passport must be valid for six months after your return to the U.S.
- Visas are required by some countries
- Driver’s license
- Travel itineraries
- Medical documentation
- Medicare and insurance cards
- Prescriptions written as generic brands that international pharmacies may recognize.
- Any physician’s orders
- Name and contact information for all physicians and specialists
- ID bracelet or wearable GPS for those with dementia
It’s a good idea to make multiple copies of all these documents. Leave one copy at home, place one copy in your loved one’s carry on bag, one copy in his or her checked bag, send one to a trusted friend or family member, and carry an extra one on your person during the trip.
Before leaving home, research the medical facilities at your vacation destination. Find out the names of the nearest hospitals and stroke centers. If you are going to a tropical resort, ask about their emergency procedures and how long it would take for them to transport someone to the nearest hospital.
You will make the trip a lot easier on yourself if you pack light. Remember, you may be carrying most of the luggage, handling the wheelchair or helping your loved one walk and pulling out documents and identification at various points along the way. The fewer pieces of luggage you have to wrangle with the easier the trip will be.
Place all essentials in the carry on. Medications, documents, phone numbers, snacks, an extra sweater and a hat for your loved one, and perhaps a deck of cards should go in the carry on where they are easily accessible. Extra batteries for hearing aids, a spare pair of glasses and a glasses prescription may come in handy if these items are lost on the trip.
Consider compression socks for your loved one while traveling. They can increase comfort of the legs and feet and protect against deep vein thrombosis – blood clots that can commonly occur in the legs of seniors while flying.
Travel insurance may save you a lot of money if your senior loved one has to cancel the trip for any reason. It can also help to pay for emergency medical care and evacuation back to the states should that be medically required.
Remember to upgrade your phone if you are traveling internationally. Ask your network provider for an international roaming plan. If you are traveling in countries that are part of the EU, 112 is the number to call for emergencies.
It can seem daunting to carry out all these preparations to go on vacation. However, traveling with a senior requires that health and safety be foremost considerations. Once the planning and preparations are in place, the vacation can take place safely and hopefully result in many happy family memories.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.