It is not unusual to see seniors still travelling into their eighties. Many communities have a senior center that sets up travel excursions, both locally as well as around the world for their senior clients. Of course, us seniors don’t move quite as quickly as we did when we were younger, but we still enjoy the opportunity to see a little bit of the world while we are still mobile, even if it is with the aid of a walker or wheelchair. If by chance you do need to use a walker or wheelchair, I was directed to another resource that discusses that topic. Click here for more info. This item is on a credit cards website, but I still thought the content was worth sharing.
The bottom line will always be that proper planning will better ensure that the senior will be able to better enjoy a trip than one who is not prepared. One concern that seniors have while travelling, that many younger people do not have, is what happens if I die or fall and get hurt or if my travelling companion dies or gets hurt. How do I get home or how do I get my partner home?
As a senior, I would not travel without some sort of travel insurance that deals with this issue. It may be covered by the credit card that you used to purchase your trip, or you may have to include it with the travel package. Either way, make sure that you have planned for this contingency. If you have a family member assisting you with setting up your travels, make sure that both you and your family member back home have copies of the documents you may need in an emergency.
Here are a couple of tips for travelling with seniors.
1. Forget about expecting to find a senior discount from the airlines. They may ask you to click the box for seniors, but rarely do they have a special discounted fare for that.
2. Avoid smaller regional jets if possible. Often times they don’t offer the jet bridge to board, but make you climb stairs. This can be a challenge. I have seen some seniors given a lift on the rig that brings food and drink to the airplane, but not often. We had to wait an extra half hour for them to arrive from the plane because of that delay.
3. Book a non-stop flight if possible. It may cost a little more, but it is a big hassle is hauling carry-on baggage from one plane to another if you have to change planes enroute. Of course, you also get to sit in the airport for several hours with nothing to do. Also, you don’t want to have to worry about missing a connection. If it costs a little more, it is worth it if it makes the trip easier.
The only time I would not take this advise is if you have problems with circulation and you cannot sit in an airplane for more than 4-5 hours. If this is the case, then you may want to break up your flight. If you still want to go to Europe, think about taking a cruise ship from the east coast to Europe. No challenge with jet lag, and you have plenty of room to walk around. Take a ship relocation trip to save money. This is the time of the year when ships move from the Caribbean to Europe or vice versa. Your travel agent can help you find one of these cruises. Think of the joy of a leisurely trip from Miami to Barcelona before you explore Spain or France or Italy.
4. Make sure to designate a family member to help with reservations. It’s best if one family member steps up to make travel reservations and coordinate everything with the travel agent. They need to keep a copy of your travel docs as well as any travel insurance information so that they can be responsive if an emergency takes place. Even if some family members travel with the senior, someone back home should have copies of your travel docs just in case they get lost enroute.
5. Check out the disability or special services info with the airline so that you know what kind of assistance is available. Some airlines allow you to select the options you need at the time of booking, others are only available after booking. Keep in mind that if you or your travelling partner needs assistance such as a wheelchair to get to and from the airplane, that you will remain onboard until all other passengers have exited. Plan for the extra time needed for a connection. See below for those links.
6. If possible, travel with family or with a travel group of fellow seniors. If you are travelling to a foreign country and you don’t know the language, it can be a real challenge if you need special assistance. Going through customs, etc… can be confusing enough for younger experienced travellers, but for us seniors, who are often exhausted after a long trip, getting our mind around all of the chaos of entering another country can be overwhelming.
It’s always best when seniors have a loved one or a companion who can assist them during their journey. Don’t rely on the airlines to ensure the safety of our loved ones. It would be worth it to cover the cost of a younger travelling companion, maybe a niece or nephew, to be there to assist the senior.
7. Travel during the right time of the day. Each of us knows when we have the most energy and when we have the least energy. Try to plan your travel during the time you have the most energy. Some of us would be better off flying from the west coast to the east coast, with a plan to stay the night in an airport hotel, then continue on to Europe the next day after a good rest. Others would be better off flying the nonstop redeye and sleeping on the plane enroute. You need to know what is best for you and plan accordingly.
8. Keep important stuff, especially medications and valuables, in your carry on bag. It isn’t that I don’t trust the folks who handle the baggage, although I don’t, but I don’t want to be without these important things during the trip. The older I get, the smaller my carry on bag gets. I just don’t really want to have to lift a heavy bag over my head to put it into the overhead baggage space. A small carry on with wheels that will easily fit under the seat is perfect. All of the other stuff can be checked. I still don’t want my checked bag to be a heavy bag. Even though the airlines may allow 40 to 50 pounds, I don’t want to have over about 30 pounds in the checked bag. I also want it to be a 4 wheeler so that it is easy to roll around. This tip applies to all travelers, not just seniors. Never place important medications in checked baggage. I also like to have a change of underwear and my dop kit in my carry on bag just in case my luggage is lost. I can live with wearing the same clothes if I have to, but really want to be able to clean up upon arrival. It’s also a good idea to include a list of medications and dosages, just in case a doctor’s visit is needed during the trip.
9. Request a wheelchair from the airport. If you have mobility issues, but are not confined to a wheelchair, you can usually be provided a wheelchair by the airport that will get you to your gate. It sometimes seems like you have to walk several miles from the parking lot to the gate. My mother says that traveling is very enjoyable for her now that she knows that I can drop her with the luggage at the front door and while I head to the parking lot. She handles the curbside check in and asks the porter to get her a wheelchair. According to her, “They just wheel you in and wheel you out; it’s so easy!”
10. Choose the right line at security. In most airports, passengers in wheelchairs (and their companions) can receive priority service from the TSA. Seniors are sometimes offered the TSA Pre-check line because it is often less crowded. I have applied for my TSA Pre-check so that I usually get that line anyway. Either way, adults over 75 do not have to take off their light jackets or shoes. Here is some additional information from the TSA about passengers with special needs.
11. You don’t have to see or do everything. When traveling with a senior citizen, or as a senior citizen, you’ll have to take it slower than you normally would, and account for the need to sit and rest, or even lie down and relax more frequently. Everyone is different, but in many cases, planning just one activity before lunch is enough. Some down time between lunch and dinner nice as well.
Airline resources for senior travellers
The following domestic airlines have information on their websites for seniors or persons who need special assistance.
Consider a cruise instead. As I noted above, considering a cruise to get to Europe so that you don’t have to spend so much time on an airplane is a great idea. In fact, why not skip the flight altogether. Just take a cruise. I love cruising. Ocean cruising and river cruising are both wonderful options. There is only one real negative to ocean cruising and that is that some ports require the ship to anchor in the bay and you have to get on a smaller, bouncy boat to get to shore. Well, that just turns out to be a day of leisure on the ship for me. A great day to book the spa since everyone else is ashore. In those ports that the ship docs at a pier, on most ships you could have brought along your motorized wheelchair or electric scooter. Even though you may not normally need one at home, due to all the walking required on the ship and in port, you may want to consider renting one for the trip.
On the river cruise we were on just a couple of years ago, they had different shore excursions based upon your level of mobility. That way you could pick one that you can enjoy and still get to see some of the sites even if mobility does limit you. Much of Europe is not really “handicap” accessible. They don’t have the same laws that we have in the US, but you can still enjoy a wonderful trip, just plan on taking your time to stop and smell the roses along the way. You may even want to sit and rest a spell in a sidewalk cafe and enjoy a little people watching while sipping on a beverage of your choice. It is amazing how wonderful life can be if you just slow down a bit and enjoy it. Maybe that is why we move a little slower as we get older. We need to be reminded to take the time to enjoy life.