6 tips for traveling with elderly parents

As much as I love to travel, even I have to admit some aspects of it have become a bit of a hassle. You know, hurdles like the necessary but slightly annoying security check points, and the long lines to get through customs and immigration. Let’s not forget about gates that change at the last minute, which is always a frustrating experience. Who else recalls being forced to hike to another section of the airport or sprint there in Olympic 100 meter style fashion when you’re running out of time? But I digress. I’m sure one or more of you can relate to the growing inconveniences related to travel. Imagine then how daunting it must be for our seniors!

Dad and Mom getting ready to make new memories in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

When I was born, my mom was 34 and my dad was 40. Of course, now that I’m in the ‘grown woman’ category, they’ve moved into the elderly bracket. However, even though they’re not as energetic as they once were, they still like to travel. As they’ve grown older, my sister and I have had to develop our own little system to make things easier for them on the road. A few of our top tips are below:

Reserve wheelchair service with the airline
When you’re traveling with seniors, wheelchair service is always a good idea. It alleviates the need for them to walk long distances, and the special assistance they get helps them navigate the airport with ease. The added bonus is that they get to join the shortest lines in the immigration and customs halls, so if you’re along for the ride as their travel companion, you get cleared quickly too.

Several passengers take advantage of airport wheelchair assistance annually. (Photo courtesy of CBC.ca)

Book aisle seats for long flights
My mom likes looking out the window, but if the flying time is more than three hours, we usually book our parents in adjoining aisle seats. That allows them to get up to use the bathroom, stretch their legs, and walk around with the fewest restrictions.

Pack medication in convenient travel sizes, and keep them handy
If your parents are taking a combination of different medicines, it might be a challenge keeping all the tablets in order, so a pill organizer should become their new best friend. The cases come in convenient travel sizes, which makes it easy to stick them in a purse or a carry-on. The idea is to have them nearby if you happen to have flight delays or issues with lost luggage.

Pillboxes come in several different shapes and sizes. (Photo courtesy of www.tokopedia.com)

Check on health insurance coverage
For overseas trips, it is extremely important to know what services are and are not covered in their existing health insurance plan. No one plans to get sick or hurt on vacation, but it’s always better to be prepared if there is an emergency. Don’t hesitate to purchase additional travel insurance that includes quality medical coverage if their current health plans aren’t robust enough.

Be thorough in your hotel research
My dad can no longer walk long distances, so we now make sure to check if the property has staircases or elevators. If the accommodation only has stairs, we request a room for my parents on the ground floor.

Keeping an eye on Mr. Mischief as he chilled outside his front door.

I’ve also found that having breakfast included in the rate has been a bonus because that’s the most critical meal of the day for them.

Plan day trips carefully
Try to pace excursions to allow for rest time in between activities, and check on seating and mobility options at attractions or venues.

Dad resting his legs after navigating the staircases in Hemmingway House, Key West, Florida.

Additionally, be sure to pack healthy snacks as pick-me-uppers between meals, and have water handy to keep everyone hydrated. We also encourage Dad to pack a blazer and hat, and Mom to carry a light sweater and scarf in order to help them weather the cold air conditioning on tour buses and at restaurants or other indoor locations.


What other tips do you use when traveling with your parents?

6 Tips For Traveling with Elderly Parents