As Andy Williams sang in his famous song by the same name, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – time spent catching up with friends and family members, enjoying laughs and exchanging presents. But, in order to enjoy all the delights of the holidays with family members, many older adults must travel; and this means, crowds, lines, potential delays and many other nerve-wracking moments which can make holiday travel stressful, especially for the infrequent traveler.
To help eliminate some of the stress associated with travel, we’ve put together some holiday travel tips for seniors. We hope they will help your upcoming holidays be the best they can be.
Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors
As you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, this first tip may totally surprise you. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with travel. Despite this, it’s very important and should not be neglected.
Visit Your Primary Care Doctor
Seniors should schedule an appointment to see their primary care doctor before leaving on any long trips. Your doctor will make sure you’re well enough to travel – especially if you have hypertension, coronary heart disease or any other chronic condition, or if you’ve had a heart attack or recently undergone surgery. If you’re traveling out of the country, your doctor can recommend any location-specific vaccines that may be appropriate. Consider getting a flu and pneumonia vaccination. Discuss your medications and make sure you have enough to last for the whole trip plus a couple of days extra. Ask about certain foods that are popular in your vacation destination and if they are off-limits with the medications you take. Since you’ll come into contact with foods you may not normally eat, make sure you know which foods should be avoided with your medications.
Watch What You Eat
Older adults often have sensitive stomachs or are on restricted diets. While certain food can be tempting, avoid certain foods that are known to cause problems. This may include spicy, heavy, greasy and cheesy foods. Again, make sure to avoid any foods that have interactions with the medicines you take.
Use a Senior Travel Specialist
If you intend to use the services of a travel agent, find one that specializes in senior travel. Trip Savvy has put together a list of tips that will help you do just that in their article, How to Find a Senior Friendly Travel Agent.
Consider Travel Insurance
A travel insurance plan protects you from certain travel related financial risks and losses such as delayed luggage, last-minute trip cancellations or an overseas medical emergency. Make sure pre-existing conditions are covered. Travel insurance can be extremely valuable for older adults who are more prone to illness and injury. Want to know more? Check out this article, Travel Insurance 101: How Travel Insurance Works.
Check into Airline Services for Seniors
Airline travel can be particularly difficult and frustrating during the holiday season. The Air Carrier Access Act makes airline travel easier for persons with disabilities. This law applies to all U.S. airlines and to foreign airlines when their flights take off or land in the U.S. Ask the airline on which you are flying if they offer any additional services to seniors who are traveling with them. Some have special programs to help with security and the boarding process.
Most have a desk in the airport that is dedicated to assisting passengers. Since the staff who man these desks are specially trained, older adults requiring assistance usually receive better customer service by contacting the airline’s special needs representative. You should contact the department in advance if you are in need of a wheelchair or will need to bring medical devices with you during your flight.
If an airline representative is unable to answer all of your questions, feel free to contact the Transportation Security Administration at the toll-free hotline, 1-855-787-2227. Call prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what you can expect at the security checkpoint.
Want to know more? Check out this article, Booking Airline Flights for an Elderly Loved One Needing Assistance or Special Accommodations which provides a step-by-step guide to issues older adults and their family members should consider when planning a trip.
From plane tickets and hotel accommodations to Amtrak tickets and various entertainment venues, many places and services offer senior discounts. Be sure to ask to get the best price for the services you’ll be using.
Download Helpful Apps
Download several different apps on your tablet or smartphone to make your next flight more efficient, less stressful and a little more fun. These apps will let you review your reservation, check in and have a mobile boarding pass; access flight status information; check out what restaurants, cafes and shops are available at each airport; gives you information about airport lounges; and much, much more.
If you download no other, be sure to download the airline’s app on which you are flying. It will help you check for gate assignments, seat assignments and flight times.
Flight Booking Tips
- Book your flight to be the first of the day. Sure, it’s not fun to get up early to be on the first flight of the day; but by doing so, your flight is liable to leave on time which makes the whole process easier when it comes to connecting flights and other travel plans
- To minimize the risk of missing connecting flights, always book layovers of two or more hours
- Check the weather forecast beforehand for the days around your trip. If bad weather is expected, airlines generally allow you to change your flights at no cost
- Consider whether you really need a carry-on. If you are late in the boarding process, you may find the overhead bins full and have no place to put your bags.
- Never put medications and valuables in a checked bag. They should be with you at all times.
- Weigh bags to be checked beforehand to ensure you don’t exceed the weight limits and incur additional charges
- Bring your own snacks on the plane. This can be especially helpful to those with special dietary needs. Be sure that what you pack is allowed through TSA checkpoints. This article will help, TSA Rules for Traveling with Food.
- Bring a water bottle. It must be empty when you go through the security checkpoint but can be filled before boarding the plane.
- Make sure you pack only permitted items in your carry-on and checked luggage. Bringing prohibited items to checkpoints slows down the process for you and others. Want to know if an item is permitted? Check out the TSAs, What Can I Bring page.
- Ensure that liquids, creams, gels, pastes and aerosols are in compliance with the 3-1-1 liquids rule
- Make sure you pack extra medications, at least two or three days extra, just in case your flight gets canceled
- Wear comfortable, flat-heeled shoes. Your shoes should provide support and keep you balanced.
Other Travel Tips for Older Adults
- Travelers with disabilities or medical conditions should call TSA Cares toll-free helpline prior to their trip (at least 72 hours in advance) to ask about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at checkpoints. Their number is 1-855-787-2227.
- Make advanced arrangements for wheelchairs, guide dogs and special seating arrangements
- Arrive at the airport early. Two hours early for a domestic flight and three for an international flight. This gives you enough time to park, check your luggage, get your boarding pass and go through the checkpoints.
- To make it easier to go through security, wear easy on/off shoes; but, make sure your shoes provide the balance and support you need.
- Wear layers to deal with the temperature fluctuations that frequently occur on a flight.
- Print out boarding passes before arriving at the airport or use one of the mobile apps previously discussed to create a mobile boarding pass.
- Don’t wear large metal jewelry or clothing with large metal embellishments through airport security
- Look for a hotel location that is easy to access and central to your plans. Before making your reservation, ask if they offer any special considerations for senior travelers.
- Keep valuables in the hotel safe
- Leave your valuables at home
- If you’re traveling alone, keep family and friends in the loop about your schedule
- Carry a cell phone with you at all times
- Give yourself time to rest and recuperate every single day. Make sure you begin each day rested.
This sounds like a lot, but by following these tips, your travel will be safer and you’re sure to create many wonderful memories. After your vacation, wouldn’t it be wonderful to return to the carefree lifestyle of Forest Hill? We would love to have you join us. Contact us today to schedule a tour of our Pacific Grove continuing care retirement community.