It may be mid-July already, but it’s not too late to take a summer vacation! Whether you’re a beach person or mountain person, there is still plenty of fun to be had.
Many families find that the summer months are an ideal time to bond and catch-up with older loved ones. The kids are home from school and the entire family can spend some much-needed (and uninterrupted) time together.
But if you’re like the countless other families that want to include grandparents in vacation plans, there are some things you should keep in mind. Travel can be stressful for many people, but especially older adults. From hours spent in a car or plane, to climate changes, to simply walking around town – there are dozens of issues that can make vacationing difficult for elderly travelers.
Fortunately, a little forethought can make the trip easier for everyone. Before you begin planning that end-of-summer vacation, take a look at these tips for traveling with your older loved ones:
Travel at the right time of day
Whether you’re taking a plane or a car, the act of traveling from one place to another can be stressful and uncomfortable for senior citizens. One thing to keep in mind is that most older adults don’t have the same energy as younger people – and traveling very early in the morning or late at night can be exhausting for them. Try to plan your departure for mid-morning or early afternoon to make things a bit easier.
Plan frequent stops when traveling by car
Road trips can be tiring under the best of circumstances (even for young people). Hours on the road can leave you cramped up, worn-out, and longing for a restroom. For older adults, it’s even worse! Make sure you take frequent breaks for stretching, grabbing a snack, or using the loo. Bonus points if you can plan them around points of interest (just remember to keep canes, walkers, or other assistive devices easily accessible!)
Taking a plane? Book a non-stop flight.
Travel by plane may be faster than automobile, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier. Navigating the airport alone is a process – especially for older adults who may have limited mobility. To avoid an unnecessarily long layover or (worse) running through the airport to catch a connecting flight, book non-stop whenever possible. Other airport tips to keep in mind include:
- Check with the airline to see if early boarding options are available
- Take advantage of assistance offered at the airport, such as a courtesy wheelchair
- Anticipate frequent restroom visits and request an aisle seat
- Get up and stretch frequently to help avoid deep-vein thrombosis
- Try to avoid regional airlines – many smaller airports don’t offer a jet-bridge and passengers must climb a flight of stairs
Plan a realistic itinerary
Even if your older loved one is in excellent health, it’s likely they’ve slowed down a bit since their younger years. Most seniors need a little more time to get around, especially if they have mobility issues or other health problems. Be sure to plan accordingly! Try to book activities for earlier in the day, so the afternoon can be spent resting before dinner.
It is worth noting that cruises seem to be one option that work well for both the old and young. With everything offered all in one place, there’s less effort required for older adults to take part in activities, and many cruise lines offer shore excursions for those with limited mobility.
Consult with your loved one’s doctor before booking a trip
Before a vacation, especially one that’s far from home, it’s important for seniors to check in with their doctors. A physician is the only person that can say for sure if your elderly loved one is able to manage the stress of travelling and the change in routine. In addition, it’s an opportunity to get a print-out of all current medications and pre-existing conditions in case they need to visit another doctor or hospital while away.
Ensure that you can maintain care during travel
If your senior loved one requires daily care, it is important to make sure it can be provided while travelling. This may mean taking special measures to ensure all medications, medical equipment, and medical devices can be transported. Note that if you’re travelling by plane, the TSA may need to be notified of certain equipment in advance.
If your loved one receives home care, you may want to find out if their caregiver can travel with you. Having the same person care for them that they see on a regular basis at home can help alleviate any stress. In addition, the caregiver is intimately familiar with the services required and can help make sure your older loved one enjoys their summer travel in a safe and healthy manner.
No matter how you travel or where you go, enjoy your time with your senior loved one! It’s a chance to make amazing memories and maybe even learn more about someone you care about deeply. Now go have fun on your summer vacation – and be safe!