Holiday travel is stressful for everyone, but it’s especially difficult and taxing for seniors. Older adults who have mobility issues and other limitations can have a hard time finding their way around crowded airports, especially if they’re traveling alone. If your aging parent is taking a trip with or without you this holiday season, you can help them have better, safer travels by arranging special services for them.
To help you take advantage of all the services that airlines offer to seniors and reduce travel stress this Christmas, we’ve put together this list of eight tips.
1. Check all medications to see if refills are needed
There’s nothing worse than making it to your destination and realizing that you’ve run out of your medication. To prevent this stressful situation from happening to your loved one, check all of their medications ahead of time to see if they need refills. You should also make a list of the medications they take with dosages in case they have to see a doctor while they’re on vacation.
Make sure that your parent puts all of their medication in a bag they’re taking with them on the plane. And if your loved one needs to take medication during their flight, it’s a good idea to set alarms on a phone or smartwatch to remind them to take their pills.
2. Make sure the destination has the accommodations your loved one needs
If your loved one is staying at a hotel during their trip, it’s important to book an accessible room for them. You should call the hotel to confirm that their accessible rooms have things like handrails in the bathrooms and walk-in showers that will make your parent’s stay easier.
If your parent is visiting you or other relatives this Christmas, make sure that the home they’ll be staying in has the accommodations they need. A downstairs bedroom and bathroom, for example, is essential for seniors with mobility issues. If the home they’re visiting isn’t accessible, book them a room at a nearby hotel instead.
3. Choose the right flight or train ride
Seniors tend to tire out quickly, so it’s important to make their travel day as short as possible. Book direct flights and high-speed trains whenever you can. You should also try to choose flights and trains that leave during the day rather than early in the morning or late at night. That way your loved one’s sleep schedule won’t be interrupted and they’ll be rested and ready to travel.
4. Request disability services from Amtrak or the airline ahead of time
If your loved one requires boarding assistance, has special medical equipment that needs to be stowed away, or has vision or hearing problems, you should let Amtrak or the airline know ahead of time. Amtrak allows passengers to specify the disability services they need when they book their tickets online.
Some airlines like Southwest also allow you to request disability services online, but it’s usually better to call the airline directly. Most airlines have special needs departments that are devoted to helping customers with disabilities, so ask to be connected to them when you call to get the best customer service.
5. Consider requesting a meet and assist services
Airports can be confusing, especially for seniors. If you think your parent will need assistance to make it to their gate, there are a number of free and paid services available to help them.
Airlines are required to provide wheelchair assistance to people who can’t navigate the airport on their own. Although you can request this service on the day of the flight, it’s best to inform the airline ahead of time to ensure that a wheelchair and attendant is available for your loved one.
Additionally, many airlines like American Airlines and United have meet and assist services that you can reserve for a fee. A staff member will be there to guide your loved one through security and ensure that they make it to their gate. Another staff member will meet your loved one as soon as they arrive at their destination to help them get their bags and locate their transportation. This service is especially helpful for seniors traveling alone.
If you don’t have the money to spend on meet and assist services, you can get free gate passes. They allow someone to stay with your loved one until they board the plane and meet them at their destination. If you get gate passes, someone you trust will be with your parent during the majority of their trip, which will give you peace of mind.
Even though these services are pretty comprehensive, they may not be enough for some seniors. If your parent has dementia or needs assistance with toileting or eating, then they’ll need to have a companion with them on the flight.
6. Arrange transportation to and from the airport or train station
If you can’t drive your parent to the airport, you’ll have to arrange transportation for them ahead of time. If your loved one uses a wheelchair or has mobility issues, you should try to arrange medical transportation or a volunteer driving service instead of a taxi. Call A Ride of Southlake, for example, is a great organization to contact. They provide free transportation for seniors and disabled adults in and around the Southlake area. An organization like this will be more attuned to the needs of your aging parent than a taxi service, so try to find one in your loved one’s area.
7. Get to the airport or train station early
Running late is stressful for everyone, not just seniors. To start your vacation off on the right foot, make sure that you and your loved one have plenty of time to find the right train platform or get to the gate.
8. Encourage your loved one to take it easy on their vacation
Seniors need more time to rest and relax than the rest of us. Remind your aging parent not to participate in too many activities on vacation. They should schedule a time to relax each day so that they don’t overexert themselves and come home exhausted.
Traveling during the holidays can be stressful for you and your loved one. But taking advantage of these services will help ensure that both of you have a positive travel experience.