How many of you remember travelling abroad with your parents as a child? Do you remember the fear, the anxiety, the rush and the push? No, probably not, but I bet they do. Travelling with the family can be a tiring and stressful exercise, especially if you’re doing it with children. Now, take that statement and invert it. Senior travel, or rather, travelling with parents can be even more harrowing.
The older we get, the less mobile we tend to become. To that end, holidaying as an adult with an aged parent can be a real challenge.
Like anything, preparation is key. Here are our top senior travel tips for family members travelling the world with aged and or disabled parents.
Think about why you want to go away with your parents in the first place. This may very well be the first and or last time you can take them away. Your finances may, for the first time in your life, be at a point where you can ‘treat’ them to that dream holiday. Whether they are physically able or not, the opportunity to take care of them the way they have you is incalculable. With that in mind – plan ahead. Think about who they are, what they like, what they can do and where you all want to go.
For a parent with a physical disability, trekking the Andes might be a bit much, but if you are of a mood, heading off on safari might be even better. Check well in advance with your tour operator if you have one. Alert them to your parents’ needs – elevator, ground floor room, handlebars in the toilet or a mobility aid.
If you think ahead, you might be surprised at the benefits available to your parents and the options available to you.
It doesn’t matter where you’re going, you can’t go without your documents. If your family members haven’t travelled in a while – which is likely if they are physically impaired, their passport or Visa is potentially out of date. Renewing a passport can take up to a month and it’s worth your while having this in order even before you decide on where you’re going.
Things to remember to take include: passport, passport photocopies (photocopies of everything actually), Driver’s License, prescriptions, itinerary (a copy for each and every one), tickets and if you can, a translation of your key information into the language of the country you are visiting.
Travel insurance, especially medical travel insurance is essential for people over a certain age. Seniors travel insurance is available at a much more reasonable rate than ever before and while added costs might be the last thing you would wish for, travelling without adequate medical travel insurance is a mistake. Elderly people have a propensity to fall, contract illnesses and generally find themselves in need of medical assistance. With even travel insurance, medical care can be covered to a high degree, meaning travelling with your elderly or infirm parents can be easier and your sense of composure that much greater. Medical Travel Compared can provide you with a fair and easy quote.
If you’re flying or however you are intending to travel – arrive early for your transport. Airlines always advise arriving well ahead of your flight. Many people get to their airport 2 hours early. With elder travel, it might be worth getting there even earlier. Don’t forget that the stress of travel effects everyone involved. If you’re feeling relaxed, so will your travel companions. They don’t want you running around like a march hare. They want you to have fun too – after all, it’s your holiday as well.
Air travel assistance for elderly people can be found on most airlines, with many companies able to accommodate passengers with disabilities. They will likely make a more spacious seat available or (and it’s always worth asking) an upgrade. Talking of upgrade – if you are financially able, why not treat Mum and or Dad to the Business or First Class seating option? Just don’t let them drink too much – you know how they get.
If you are off to the outback of Australia or the wilds of Kenya, you are less likely to have access to a hospital or medical centre. However – it is worth knowing where the emergency care is situated. Tour guides (properly advised) will carry the relevant medical care kits and devices, whereas hospitals are generally staffed and stocked to cater to your emergency needs.
It is worth taking a first aid kit with you and if you can, a reserve dose or your required medication can be of real benefit.
Land excursions might not be right for your elderly parents. How about a cruise? Cruises are becoming more and more popular to all ages and it’s not just the Caribbean that’s available. A trip to the far north and a view of the Northern Lights is now commonplace. With a wealth of possibilities and amenities, cruise ships are effectively cities on the sea. Most provide care and comfort to a level you can only dream of.
If you are separated for any reason, be ready. Phones are cheap and it takes a little time to program in a telephone number and show a parent how to use it. If your elderly parents are unable to use the phone, make sure they have a written card with emergency contact details available. Either place the card in a pocket or hang it in a plastic envelope around his or her neck.
You’re on holiday with Mum and Dad. As a child, you likely took advantage of time away from them. Now shouldn’t be any different. Be sure to spoil them, as they did you, but when you can, remember to enjoy yourselves with each other.
Some locations have the ability to provide respite care. If you planned ahead, you know that your hotel/resort may have in-house carers that can and will cater for your parents while you take a deserved break.
Travelling with your parents as an adult is a far cry from travelling with them as a child or even a teenager. Memories are worth a thousand pictures. Now, a thousand pictures are the equivalent of a cheap camera and a fast shutter. Take photographs constantly. This is valid advice for all travellers, young and old. Digital memories allow for post-holiday editing and you never know when you’re going to catch that iconic, wonderful shot.
For more information on travelling with elderly parents please see our Over 65s Travel Insurance Guide.