Travel with Seniors

by Kathleen on April 16, 2013


Excerpted with permission from
‘Make Life Better for Seniors’
By Sasha Carr, PhD and Sandra Choron

Having just returned from a 10 day trip to the Caribbean, I’ve been giving some thought to how to travel safely with Seniors so they can continue to enjoy the many benefits of getting out in the world.

Make Life Better for Seniors is a wonderful ebook with over 1200 tips for families and caregivers who are involved with Seniors. The authors have given me permission to print their chapter on Travel which is a very thorough listing of the tips and many resources that make traveling with Seniors much better.


 Statistics tell us that active seniors are healthier seniors. Since they get so much out of the experience, it’s a good idea to encourage vacations and trips when possible. Research the many books, organizations, and websites geared toward senior travel.

 Road Scholar (1-877-426-8056 or organizes terrific moderately priced adventure and learning programs—including astronomy, zoology, and just about everything in between—for people over the age of fifty-five. 

 Senior Globe ( offers information about current travel discounts available to seniors.

 Visit and type in the phrase “senior travel resources” to connect with senior travel groups and learn about special discounts.

 For information about senior and special-needs travel (including transportation, lodging, discounts, and wheelchair and scooter rental, among other things), visit The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality ( or 1-212-447-7284) also has information for travelers with disabilities and special needs.

 The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (1-716-754-4883 or can connect you with English-speaking doctors in almost any foreign country, in addition to providing a host of other services after you join (for free).

 Most airlines offer a 10 percent discount to travelers sixty-two years and older, and some even offer coupon booklets that allow seniors to purchase round-trip tickets for travel anywhere in the United States for $300. Of course, restrictions apply. Call the individual airlines for more information.

 Traveling by train is a great alternative for seniors for whom flying is not viable. Amtrak offers a variety of special discounts for seniors, including 15 percent off regular fares and special group rates. Call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245 or visit

 How about a free vacation? Various government agencies as well as individual state park systems welcome senior volunteers to work as campground hosts for a day or a year. Contact National Park Service, Volunteers-in-Parks Coordinator, 1849 C Street NW, Suite 7312, Washington, DC 20240,

 You’ll be thrilled to know that once your parents reach the age of seventy-five, their ski lift tickets are usually free!

 Keep a travel bag in the car with the supplies and provisions you need often: a small bottle of water, wet wipes, an extra pair of sunglasses, a barf bag like the kind you see on airplanes, and so forth.

 Make your own wet wipes by placing napkins in a plastic container and adding baby oil. Turn the container upside down and right side up occasionally to allow the oil to penetrate. 

 Those little handheld fans can be a lifesaver if Mom has to wait in line for any period in a stuffy room or if it’s hot out. Try to buy the kind that has a spray attachment for water so she gets a cool mist as well as a breeze.

 Before you and your parents travel to a foreign country, make sure you know about illnesses you might encounter in the country you’re visiting. Contact any of the following: World Health Organization (1-202-974-3000), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1-800-232-4636), and International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (1-716-754-4883).

 Because seniors are more susceptible to illnesses, it’s important to consult a doctor about immunizations before setting off on vacations. In addition to getting your senior those immunizations required by immigration laws, you should ask about other illnesses common to older travelers.

 Before you take a trip, call your loved one’s medical insurer to make sure that coverage will remain in place while you are traveling.

 If Dad has special needs where lodging is concerned (e.g., wheelchair accessibility, specific types of linens), call ahead to make sure the room and grounds will accommodate his needs.

 When traveling, always keep a list of important medical information with you: medications and their dosages, your loved one’s physician’s name and phone number, insurance information, and someone to contact in case of emergency. Personal identification should be carried at all times. Even if you’re traveling without your loved one, keep important information (his doctor’s phone numbers, a list of his medications) handy in case long-distance caregiving becomes necessary.

 Travel insurance ensures that you get a refund or rebooking if a medical or family crisis prevents traveling. Most—but not all—airlines will honor these situations whether or not you have travel insurance. Ask about these situations even if you don’t have travel insurance. Ask about their policies when you purchase your tickets.

 Someone at home should have your travel itinerary so you could be contacted if necessary.

 Order special meals on flights forty-eight hours in advance to make sure you’re accommodated. Confirm your orders at the time you check in. Or consider bringing your own “picnic.”

 Most airlines provide companions not only for children flying alone but for the elderly as well.

 When booking flights, ask for a bulkhead seat—it’s roomier. (Additional charges may apply.)

 If oxygen will be needed for a traveler with a cardiac condition, it should be ordered forty-eight hours before the flight.

 When flying, make sure all important items, like medications, extra glasses, and so forth, are carried on along with a change of clothes.

 If you’re checking luggage that contains medication, keep at least two day’s worth with you at all times. Pack a few extra days’ meds in case your return home is delayed. Keep copies of prescriptions with you.

 Make sure you and your loved one both drink plenty of fluids (eight ounces per hour), and get up and stretch and (if at all possible) take a walk down the aisle of the cabin.

 Many medications are affected by climate and environmental changes, sun exposure, heat, and cold. Ask the doctor about these, and also inquire about the possible side effects of drugs taken right before plane flights. Amnesia-like states and motion sickness are common side effects for some medications. It may be wise to withhold certain meds until after you’ve arrived at your destination. (Surprisingly, seniors are less susceptible to jet lag than the rest of us.)

 Hotels offer sitter services. Make use of them in the day as well as the evening. Some seniors are slow to rise in the morning. A companion for a few hours in the morning will ensure that Dad will have energy left for the special dinner you’ve planned.

 If it’s difficult for Grandma to climb into your SUV, keep a small collapsible stool in your car that she can use to get in and out of the car.

 Encourage your loved one to take bottled water on all outings, especially if he’ll need to take medication.

 Seniors needn’t interrupt exercise routines just because they are traveling. Especially since traveling can be exhausting, it’s important to stay in shape by maintaining a regular routine or at least a modified version of it. Exercise will also reduce the chance of injury. Make use of hotel and local gyms. Bring lightweight exercise gadgets with you and encourage stretching. Of course, there’s always walking.

 Buy a prepaid phone card for Mom, and make sure she knows how to use it, in case she needs to use a pay phone in an emergency.

With gratitude to Sasha Carr and Sandra Choron for allowing me to print their travel tips in this newsletter.


Kathleen Cleary is a Caregiver Coach and Consultant helping Professional Women find the answers they need to continue living their best life while caring for aging parents. As a Certified Senior Advisor, she offers Seniors and their adult children customized plans of care as well as resources and information to help them navigate the challenges of aging.

Skype: kathleen.cleary12


For a free 20 minute consultation: click here

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed … or confused and afraid of the journey ahead, I can help! Let’s chat.

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