Making lasting memories with elderly parents can be incredibly fulfilling. One way to do that is to include them on family trips and vacations. However, the idea of traveling with an elderly parent can be so overwhelming that you never get around to planning it. Below, I’ve included a comprehensive list of tips for traveling with elderly parents.
Consult with your parent’s physician
If you plan to take your parent to an exotic location, run it by their doctor first. Special considerations may need to be taken regarding climate, immunizations, medications, or medical equipment.
Have 3 copies of all travel documents including passport, identification, medical insurance cards, travel tickets, itineraries, prescriptions, and other medical documentation. “Other medical documentation” includes statements of metal implants or portable oxygen needs as well as contact information for your parent’s primary care physician. Here is what you should do with each set of copies:
- Keep one set in the bag that your parent will be carrying on
- Pack another set in your parent’s check bag
- Leave one set at home
- An additional physical copy isn’t necessary, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a photo of each form and save it on your phone for easy access.
Additionally, your elderly parent should be equipped with some sort of wearable identification if they have dementia or a tendency to wander. Make sure to have a photo of your parent on you in case you are separated.
Scheduling your flight
Keep your parent’s needs in mind when scheduling your flight. Don’t book an early morning flight if you know it will be difficult to get your parent ready on time. Don’t book a late flight if your parent has dementia and is affected by sundowner’s syndrome. Arrive at the airport early enough to meet any unanticipated needs like bathroom or snack breaks.
Transportation through the airport and onto the plane
You can request wheelchair transport throughout the airport as well as through security and often, all the way up to the plane entrance. This may need to be arranged prior to the date of your flight. Arrange for advanced boarding to allow your parent to get on the plane before the aisles are packed. You can also request special seating such as in a disabled row or near the restroom. (The same tip is useful for choosing a room in a hotel or on a cruise. In these locations, make sure that your room is accessible and near the elevator.)
Going Through Security
If your parent is at least 75 years old, then they are allowed to go through security without removing their shoes. They can also wear a light jacket. They may get a pat-down if the screening alarms sound, but they can request to stay seated during the search. For more details, click her to see the TSA website.
The TSA website also provides details on topics like screening of medications, traveling with liquids, and getting mobility aides (like walkers) through security.
Make sure that all your parent’s medications are kept in their carry-on bag in case checked luggage gets lost. The typical liquid restrictions will not apply to your parent’s meds. Keep the medications in a separate container within the check bag so that security will not have to rifle through the entire bag. The container with the medications can be screened separately.
This carry-on bag needs to be easily recognizable so it won’t get mixed up with anyone else’s bag. Try to keep the bag lightweight, but consider what needs your parent may have while traveling. They might need a jacket or blanket, a pillow, snacks, products for incontinence, or something for entertainment.
If you’re bringing gifts in your carry on bag, do not pre-wrap them.
Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover cancellation in the event of a medical emergency prior to travel. It also reimburses you if you have to return home early and miss a portion of your trip. Medical emergencies during the trip will also be covered. This is especially important if you are traveling with your elderly parent outside the U.S. where their health insurance is likely not valid. Finally, it covers lost or stolen bags and flight delays. Travel insurance can be surprisingly inexpensive so check into it when planning a big trip with your elderly parent.
Research your destination
Find out where the nearest hospital and pharmacy are so you be prepared in the event of an unexpected medical need. Click here to learn all about the form that you will wish you in the event of a medical emergency during your vacation.
Be careful not to over-pack your schedule. Plan for more rest time than you would if you were traveling without your parent. You’ll likely have to take bathroom breaks more frequently than usual when on long car trips. Your parent may be slow to get around in the morning. They also may need to settle in early in the evening, especially if they have dementia. Additionally, if your parent has dementia, try to stick to a predictable schedule.
This list may seem a little exhausting, but your trip can go very smoothly if you’re prepared. If you’re thinking of traveling with your elderly parent, then GO FOR IT! You and your parent will likely make memories that last the rest of your life as well as theirs. Comment below with any other tips that you’ve found useful when traveling with elderly parents.