I have brought my ninety year old Mum on many holidays and I learned a few tips along the way! Here are my top tips for travelling with the elderly.
1. Choose your destination wisely.
For many elderly people, travelling is a huge ordeal. Choose somewhere that they would like to see, not necessarily where you would like to go. Scenic destinations with nice views, plenty of sightseeing and most importantly not too many hills or noisy bars! Heat is also a big factor so choose somewhere that is not normally 40 degrees at the time you are going. If there is a nice breeze like in the Canary Islands or the Algarve, that’s a bonus. If they like the beach make sure the water is shallow with no sudden drops or large waves, a travel agent or websites like tripadvisor should be able to advise you of this.
2. Where possible choose short flights.
Long haul flights can be uncomfortable for them and the risk of DVT is slightly higher in flights over five hours. If you are in the fortunate position to be able to travel business class, go for it! Failing that, make sure they move about on the flight, walk regularly up and down the aisles and stay hydrated. Mind you this applies to all of us!
3. Take your time and arrive at the airport early.
Take advantage of the excellent facilities at the airport. If they are unsteady on their feet or simply find the walk from check in to the departure gate too long, book a wheelchair to bring them to the gate. Check in early and have a nice relaxed meal before you go, as the airplane food may not suit them.
4. Email the hotel or discuss requirements with your travel agent before you leave.
If booking with a travel agent request a low floor or a room beside the lift or reception. Some hotels are so big now that the rooms can be quite a distance from the reception or swimming pool. If booking independently, email the hotel before you go and let them know you have an elderly person with you.
Unless your hotel is a long distance from the airport, try to book private transfers or take a taxi from the airport to the Hotel. Some shuttle transfers can be extremely long and the price difference is normally minimal.
6. Travel Insurance
This may sound obvious but make sure they have adequate travel insurance. The E111 form only covers them in a public hospital. If they have a major injury and require an air ambulance for instance, only an official travel insurance policy will cover that. Make sure they declare any pre existing illnesses to the Insurance provider before they go, otherwise they may not be covered.
7. Stock up!
It should go without saying but bring plenty of sunscreen, a sun hat and insect repellent. Their skin is very sensitive and the last thing you or they need is to get bitten or sunburned.
8. Take it easy!
Don’t pressure them to go with you to the beach every day or to visit that ‘must see’ cathedral. They are used to quiet time and would probably be quite happy to chill out and read a book in their room. You may want to trek off sightseeing for the day or go out during the mid day sun, but don’t feel you have to bring them with you each time. Remember holidays are for relaxing too, if they want to take it easy – let them.
I still recall the tear in my Mum’s eye when she saw the Vatican for the first time, that memory will always stay with me. Taking an elderly person away with you may not seem like a big deal, but it could mean the world to them.