While you may have an aging parent or parents, that shouldn’t be a reason to keep them from the joy that travel can bring. Whether their goal is to vacation with other family members (especially grandchildren), embark on a new adventure in a destination they have always dreamed of visiting, or even return to a place they used to call home, there is no doubt that they will need some help in planning it all out. Here are some guidelines to help Mom and/or Dad have an excellent trip.
Once you have a destination and dates chosen, you can begin planning and making reservations. Research several methods of transportation (airlines, Amtrak, buses, etc) for the shortest routes and travel times. Find out what each offers as far as benefits and special services. While senior discount rates used to be widely available, they are mostly extinct except for Southwest Airlines and Amtrak.
Request Special Services
Make sure you book seats in rows designated for disabled travelers, and request free wheelchair service at each airport your parent(s) will be traveling through. Confirm that your parent will have assistance starting at the check-in counter, through security, to the gate and when boarding the aircraft. It is crucial that you make special requests when you book your reservation because travel companies have no obligation to offer them upon check-in.
If traveling out of the country, make sure that your parent (and you!) has a government issued passport well in advance of the trip. Make at least three sets of copies including their passport, driver’s license, Medicare and insurance cards, travel tickets, itinerary and boarding pass. Have a set of copies for your parent’s carry-on bag, one for checked luggage and one to leave at home.
If possible, pack everything they will need in their carry-on suitcase and personal item (tote or backpack). Gather all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a ziplock bag and be sure to include copies of any prescriptions and/or statements of medical conditions from each applicable physician and medical treatment center.
Plan for Safety and Comfort
It is especially important that you equip your parent(s) with tools that will help protect them from thieves who prey on the elderly. There are several clever products meant to keep their money safe, from the Passage Wallet (which hides under clothing by a neck cord), money belts and hidden wallets that are secured and worn inside of pants, all of which are much safer than carrying traditional purses or wallets in a back pocket. A travel pillow and blanket are sure to make their journey a more comfortable one.
Be Ready for Security
Prepare to let TSA know about any medical conditions that might set off alarms, such as surgical knee or hip implants. Take along a physician’s statement about the implanted steel to help the security process go more smoothly. They may ask elderly travelers to step aside for a wand screening so they don’t have to pass through the sensors. If your parent is in a wheelchair, he or she will be screened while seated. As an added bonus, being in a wheelchair may allow them to skip long security lines. Make sure your parent(s) wears sensible shoes that are easy to take off when going through security.
Helping your elderly parent(s) feel prepared for their travels is an amazing gift that may just turn this new journey into the trip of a lifetime!