Even if you’re an experienced traveler, you’ll most likely find yourself changing your travel habits when your traveling companion is your aging parent. It will take a little more planning and your pace might need to be a little slower; but traveling can still be a rewarding experience for you and your parent. Here are 7 tips for traveling with a companion who’s a more “seasoned” traveler than you are.
Make a Plan
You and your family might be past the days of jumping in the car at the spur of the moment and heading off on a road trip, but you can still enjoy traveling. Communication is important when planning travel, whether it’s a beach vacation or if it’s a holiday trip to see family. Talk to your parent and find out what they want to do on the trip – and what their travel preferences are. Even if you’ve always driven the 14-hour road trip to Wisconsin from Alabama, Mom might prefer a shorter trip, via plane, this time.
If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination, find out about local transportation. Do you need to rent a car, or is your destination well served with public transportation? Is that transportation accessible for your aging parent? A 4-block walk to the metro station may sound doable to you, but it may be a struggle for someone with even minor mobility issues.
It’s also a good idea to schedule a doctor’s visit before the big trip. Your parent’s doctor might have suggestions for making travel more comfortable or might just appreciate a heads up that you’re heading out on an adventure.
Also find tips on how to help your body handle a long car ride here.
Stay organized. Keep passports, tickets and other crucial travel documents, and insurance cards in one secure place to avoid anxiety – yours or your parent’s! Pack a list of your parent’s medications and allergies and phone numbers for doctors. Keep prescription medicines in their original bottles and pack them in carry on bags instead of checking them in your luggage.
Carry any over-the-counter medicines your parent might need, too – pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medications, heartburn medications, for example. Bring water so your parent can stay hydrated. If you’re traveling by plane, a refillable water bottle is a good idea so you don’t have to dispose of water bottles at security. Think about other travel goods you might need: a blanket, a travel pillow, or magnifying glass with a light (planes and restaurants may have low lighting).
Stay on Schedule
Maintaining healthy sleeping patterns and eating regular meals as you and your parent are used to can help keep everyone’s mood on an even keel while on the road. Stay on schedule with medications, too, so your parent will stay healthy and comfortable. The changes and stress that come with travel can easily distract you from a regular medicine schedule, so set a phone reminder or alarm.
Keep It Clean
Wash your hands often while traveling to avoid picking up too many germs. Hand sanitizer is a good option when soap and water isn’t available, so carry hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes with you.
Ask for Help
If you’re traveling by plane, alert the check in staff that you’re with an elderly traveler. If you need a wheelchair, the airline can provide one and have staff take you to your gate and help you make any transfers. Take advantage of pre-boarding so it’s easier to find your seats and get settled in. Most public buildings like museums have wheelchairs available, so don’t hesitate to ask if your loved one needs one. Or follow these tips if you’re traveling with a wheelchair.
Take It Easy
Don’t plan a packed itinerary. If you’re planning activities with family and friends, make sure they understand your traveling companion’s needs – longer lunch breaks, early evenings in, or just places to sit down during activities. Schedule in extra time for travel, too. For example, give yourself plenty of time at airport security – maybe earlier than you’re used to.
Everything may not go exactly as you plan, but try to enjoy the time together. You never know what travel “mishap” will be the adventure you’re still talking about next year!