Helpful Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors

December 8, 2019

The holidays can be stressful for senior citizens due to the common need for travel. Minimize the hardship of taking a plane, train, or car during this busy time of year with our holiday travel tips for seniors.

Trains, planes, and automobiles: The holidays are approaching which means that droves of travelers will hit the road to be with family and friends. It is the most wonderful time of year, catching up with loved ones and enjoying the delights of the season, however, getting to your destination can be a stress-inducing affair. 

For some older adults and retirees, having fewer time constraints and more flexibility can make traveling easier to navigate. For the infrequent traveler or a senior with medical conditions, dealing with crowds, lines, inclement weather, and potential delays is about as joyous as a toothache… unless you plan!  

Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors

If you or your loved one will be traveling during the holiday season, being fully aware of and preparing for unforeseen occurrences can make for a much less stressful travel experience, and the start to an enjoyable vacation.  

Below are a few travel tips for the senior traveler, to help you feel confident about your trip and your time spent with loved ones over the holiday 

Check-In With Your General Practitioner Or Relevant Specialist 

Before traveling, senior travelers should make an appointment with their GP or relevant specialist to ensure they are in good health, up-to-date on medications, and are fit to travel. The common cold and the flu are more prevalent during the winter months, and exposure in close quarters, like in an airplane or train, puts older adults at higher risk for illness. Whether you or your loved one will be traveling domestically or internationally, vaccinations or a flu shot may be recommended a few weeks prior to departure.   

Medications: Before you leave home, make sure you have a copy of important medical information and a list of medicines. If you are taking large amounts of medications with you, you may need a letter of explanation from your doctor. 

  • Pack enough medication to exceed the number of days you will be away from home. 
  • Take along a pillbox with compartments for different days of the week. Being away from home and a routine could make you more likely to forget to take your medication.
  • Travelers should always have several days’ worth of their essential medications in their carry-on bag, should your checked luggage go missing for a day or two. 
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, it is always a good idea to have an extra pair packed in your suitcase.

Making Arrangements 

Special Accommodations: If you or your loved one has mobility concerns, all airlines are required to offer specific accommodations for people with disabilities. Airlines must provide passengers with assistance, including wheelchairs or other guided assistance, to board, deplane or connect to another flight. 

Request seating accommodations to meet disability-related needs, as well as assistance loading and stowing assistive devices. Service animals are permitted (with possible restrictions) in the cabin portion of the aircraft, including those for emotional support. Documentation may be required to provide the authenticity of the needs of the traveler.

Contact your travel provider at least two days before your departure date to plan for select assistance options.

Book non-stop flights: When possible, book non-stop flights rather than one with connections. Layovers can cause extra strain when moving with carry-on bags, and when navigating multiple airports. If there is no way around connecting flights, allow enough time between legs. This way, you won’t be rushed getting to the connecting gate.

Select an aisle seat: One of the most critical risks for senior travelers is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or what has been dubbed “economy-class syndrome.” DVT is when an abnormal blood clot forms in a large vein, typically in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. DVT can be precipitated by prolonged sitting during travel. Older adults, people who have had surgery in the four weeks prior to travel, patients undergoing cancer  treatment, and those with palliative stages of cancer are at higher risk for developing DVT. 

Seniors and other susceptible travelers should:

  • Stand and stretch as much as possible and do frequent seated, lower leg exercises.
  • Avoid sitting with your legs crossed.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid sedative medications.
  • Wear compression stockings on long trips. Compression stockings improve blood flow by applying gentle pressure around the ankle.

Consider Travelers Insurance: Travelers insurance is important for any traveler, but maybe more valuable to us as we age. Planning for the unexpected, such as illness, falls, lost medication, or a trip to the hospital while away, is not paranoia, but an action that can provide peace of mind. 

Most carriers offer a variety of insurance options to customers, which can help cover medical, baggage loss, and cancellation costs. Speak to your travel provider or trusted agent about your options.

Maintaining Your Health While Traveling

Staying healthy can be a challenge over the holiday season, particularly if you are away from home. We all tend to indulge (perhaps overindulge) in rich foods, snacks, and spirited drinks. For seniors who have dietary restrictions, it can be particularly stressful if healthy options are hard to find. 

If you or your loved one has dietary guidelines, remember to:

  • Keep healthy options available such as fruit, vegetables, and other low sodium foods.
  • Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration. Make sure water is always available at home, shopping, and traveling; a refillable water bottle is an excellent option.  
  • Consider sparkling cider or other non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can impair functions for some seniors, and certain medications should not be taken with it.
  • Keep exercising! Between activities and all of those meals, bundle up if it’s cold and get out for a walk. If it is too cold or icy, head to the mall! Wear comfortable and supportive footwear, do a few laps, and enjoy the festivities!

Whether you or your loved one is traveling by car, train, or plane, the experience can be exhausting, and he/she will probably need to rest upon arrival. Between the parties, shopping and other social activities, carve out time for relaxation. The holidays can be a hectic time of year, but knowing your loved one’s abilities, as well as limitations, can reduce levels of stress, allowing for fun and merriment with family and friends. 

What are your favorite holiday travel tips?

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