Traveling can be stressful—there’s no getting around that. Traveling with a senior companion can add another layer of stress on top of ordinary hectic nature of travel. Minimize travel stress and anxiety by keeping these things in mind on your next trip with a senior traveler.
Give yourself plenty of planning time
When planning a trip with a senior companion, you want to give yourself a lot of time to get all the logistics sorted out. It’s a good idea to give yourself at least a few weeks of planning time before the actual trip gets started. But for more extensive trips, especially those that involve flying or leaving the country, you’ll want to have much more time. For those extensive trips, start planning the details of the trip at least two months in advance. Having generous amounts of planning time means less stress for you and a smoother trip for your senior traveler.
Requesting special accommodations
Some establishments, like airlines, require you to submit special requests well in advance, and this length of time often varies. Always check with whatever travel accommodations—including transportation, hotels, etc.—you’ll be using during your trip well in advance to make sure you don’t miss their deadlines for submitting special requests.
Sort out travel insurance & medications
Before making any hard and fast decisions on where you will be going, make sure you have your travel insurance sorted out. This is especially important if traveling overseas. You don’t want to reach your destination and have a health emergency only to find out that your basic insurance doesn’t cover what you need.
You’ll also want to make sure any medications that your senior companion needs are packed, clearly organized, and easily accessible. It’s never a bad idea to pack a few extra days’ worth of medication, just in case. Check with your senior traveler’s doctor to make sure none of their medications have side effects that could interfere with travel plans. Also, ask if there are any medications that they recommend for senior travel, depending on your senior companion’s health considerations.
Prepare proper documentation
Have all of the documentation you’ll need for your trip gathered in a designated, easily accessible area of your luggage. A labeled mailing envelope is a convenient size and shape for holding all necessary documents. Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need different documents. But here are some things you should always have copies of:
- Driver’s license
- Passport, if applicable
- All current prescriptions
- Doctor’s notes, statements of medical conditions, and statements of allergies
- Insurance card(s)
- Travel tickets and schedules
- Emergency contact information
Other information that you might want (or need, depending on where you are traveling) to have include:
- Name and phone number of doctor
- List/map of local hospitals in the area you’re traveling to
- Additional insurance information and/or forms
Make at least three copies of your essential documentation: one for your senior companion’s carry-on luggage, one for their checked luggage (if applicable), and one for their caregiver or someone traveling near them. If they are traveling alone, these documents should go to someone who can be in contact with them throughout their travels. All original documents should be in a safe location at home, except where originals are required by travel establishments (i.e. airports).
Be smart while packing
As much as possible, you want to pack lightly while traveling with a senior companion. It can get very difficult for anyone to maneuver several bags, but for seniors, especially those who have physical constraints (like a wheelchair), getting multiple bags around a new terrain can be particularly difficult.
Additionally, make sure everything that you could need quickly is in an accessible location in carry-on or lap luggage (i.e. a purse or briefcase). This could include things like incontinence products and essential medications.
For a little extra help…
If you or a loved one needs a little extra help when it comes to travel, companies like FirstLight Home Care offer travel companion services! Their specially trained staff are more than happy to accompany you or your loved one on the vacation of a lifetime. See here how FirstLight prepares to take Bill on the road trip of his life: Bill's Excellent Road Trip.
While it may take a little extra preparation, traveling with an older loved one is extremely rewarding. The memories that you will make with your senior companion will be cherished by both of you for years to come. Don’t let the stress of travel get in the way of spending leisure time with a senior loved one in your life!