Five Tips for Traveling With Senior Loved Ones

Grandmother (70s) with granddaughter (11 years) at beach.

Most of us have a limited amount of time and money we’re able to spend on travel. If you have parents who live far from home, the desire to spend time with them means there’s even less time for you to just run off and have a “real” vacation. Or, if you’re a caregiver, you may feel as if you’re never able to get away due to your responsibilities.

For both groups, there’s a new solution that’s gaining popularity–traveling with your elderly parents. Of course, this comes with its own set of challenges, but many discover that a change of scenery can still provide the break they need. Many also find that traveling with their parents brings them closer together and provides opportunities to share experiences that last a lifetime.

Traveling with an aging parent does require a bit more planning. First, of course, you’ll want to consult with your parent’s physician to ensure that traveling is even an option. If the doctor gives a green light, here are five tips that can make your trip a success:

Make it a family affair. To share the caregiving responsibilities, invite other family members to join you. Having siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles along to share the load will provide more opportunity for you to relax and enjoy yourself. As a side benefit, a family reunion like this can provide an opportunity to connect with other relatives you might not see very often. Include the younger family members if you can, to nurture those precious intergenerational connections.

Make sure your loved one has everything they need. Before you hit the road, make sure your loved one has all their medications and any health accessories (walker, oxygen tank, hearing aids, etc.) they need to fully experience and enjoy the trip. If you’re flying, contact the airline in advance to arrange for a wheelchair or other assistance your loved one may need. Be aware of any surgical implants that might set off a metal detector.

Pack lightly. Traveling with an elder often means helping carry their bags, making sure they have their travel documents, and ensuring they don’t wander off. With all that going on, you don’t need the added burden of too much luggage. Encourage your loved one to take only essentials—and if you have a choice, travel to a place where it’s warm, so clothing can be light. Make sure you have anything that your loved one will need while traveling—a favorite snack, medications, a neck pillow—in a bag that can be carried onboard, if flying, or a small bag that can ride with the senior in a car or bus.

Schedule some downtime. Once you’ve reached your destination, make it a point to plan some downtime and let your loved one know that each day will include some time for a nap, or just sitting, relaxing and reading a book. Setting this expectation will not only provide you with more free time, but will also let your loved one know that there’s no expectation to "go, go, go" for the whole trip.

Enjoy yourself. If you’re a child who doesn’t see your parent often, use this as a time to enjoy their company. Focus on your time together and recognize it as an opportunity to reconnect and grow closer. If you’re a caregiver who sees your parent every day, appreciate the change of scenery and use it as an opportunity to share life experiences that may not be as easy to do in the midst of a daily routine.

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2015.