8 Helpful Tips for Traveling with Seniors
If you want to take your parents on your next vacation, you could be up for a challenge. Here are special considerations to keep in mind, and advice on keeping everyone happy.
One stop resorts are fantastic for traveling with seniors, as they offer so many programs, accommodation styles and dining options that can please the entire family. Think they're too pricey? Check out these incredible and affordable all-inclusive resort options. "Seniors can enjoy cooking classes while kids splash in the pool and parents hit the nightclubs in the evening. Excursions off-resort can also be tailored to multiple generations so everyone enjoys the visit," says Lissa Poirot, editor in chief of Family Traveller USA and a family travel expert.
Take a cruise
If you want to cover ground but don't have spare time to plan every detail, a cruise is always a great option—just make sure to check out these cruise-booking dos and dont's before you sign on the dotted line. "You can experience all that new cities have to offer through daily excursions, and then, back on the boat, on-board activities and meal options are available for you to choose from based on your mood or whim at the time," says Matthew Phillips, director of travel for AARP Services.
"When people tell me a cruise doesn't appeal to them, I always like to remind them that there are now so many types of cruises. In addition to the large mega-ships that offer so many options, there are smaller ships that go where the big ships cannot, both in the U.S. as well as Caribbean and overseas that have incredible experiences. AARP Advantages can help you take advantage of your time at sea when you book through the AARP travel center powered by Expedia," says Phillips.
Make sure the crowd's a good fit
Select a resort or cruise with adult-only and family-friendly accommodations. "Families can stay in the more active areas, while grandparents can enjoy family time on the resort or ship and then retire to areas that are quieter when they need a break," says Poirot. Or, find a tour group that specializes in families, such as Adventures by Disney. (Check out ways to save serious money on your next Disney trip.) "These tours are high-end and are not Mickey Mouse themed. Rather they are led by adventurers who understand the needs of seniors to children and programs provide alternatives for the active versus those wanting a slower pace," says Poirot.
Consider the access
Look for destinations with easy walkability and public transportation. "A trip with my grandmother to Boston proved to be disappointing because she was in a wheelchair and many of the streets were cobblestoned and hard to maneuver," says Poirot. Keep these emergency accessories with you when you travel.
Stay close to the ground
Traveling abroad? Make sure you have these emergency phrases at the ready. And be prepared for emergencies in general with this advice: "In developing nations or on some of our budget trips I request to have the elders 1-2 floors above lobby level in case an elevator goes out," says Malia Everette, who organizes and customizes responsible/educational tours to over 80 destinations around the world. "We can also request to have rooms close to the elevator. If you have a tour bus make sure that there is a step stool to assist people getting in and out, and consider having your guide or driver, or point person, there at the door to help stabilize the hand or arms as needed," says Everette.
Explore travel insurance
People often decline add ons when they travel, but that can be a mistake when it comes to travel insurance. "The single most important thing seniors need to think about when traveling, and in particular traveling internationally, is whether their existing health insurance covers them," says Stan Sandberg, a travel expert, and co-founder of TravelInsurance.com.
Medicare alone won't cover patients when they travel outside of the United States. Even for travel within the country, seniors should check whether their Medicare plans or other health plans cover them outside of their home network. "Many plans only provide limited urgent care or emergency coverage when outside of the home network," says Sanberg. "Travel insurance is an easy and affordable way to get medical coverage when your existing plan doesn't."
Keep track of meds
Check what your parents are taking, how often, and where they keep it. For example if any medications need to be kept cold, make sure they'll have access to a fridge or minibar, says Everette. (Here are 10 medication mistakes to avoid.) Also, she advises walking the traveler through a plan B of having a portable small ice pack/cooler that they can keep their meds cool during travel days or again just in case.
Check their stamina
Lastly don't ever assume because folks are up in years that they are not in excellent shape. "I have seen over and over in my professional travels—from walking the streets of Cartagena, to dancing salsa in Havana, and trekking Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda—elders showing me up with their physical stamina and prowess!" says Everette.