Traveling with Seniors: 5 Things You Need to Know

Traveling is already stressful enough for the young and healthy. It’s more difficult to plan a long-distance trip when seniors, especially those with medical conditions or disabilities, are involved. Many seniors spend their retirement years traveling. While a trip abroad can be an exhilarating and life-changing experience, one shouldn’t rush to leave without a proper plan.

Just think about all the things travelers have to deal with. If they’re lucky, they only have to contend with long lines at the airport, uncomfortable seating, dense crowds in tight spaces, shoddy food, overzealous airport security, among others. And that doesn’t include sudden weather changes and crimes against tourists. If younger people already struggle with these problems, your experience is going to be tenfold worse.

Of course, old age should not deter you from leaving the confines of your room and seeing the majesty of the world. Seniors who live in assisted-living facilities also deserve a good vacation. But you need to understand that you need to make the necessary preparations to ensure a smooth and comfortable trip.

Whether you’re traveling by car, ship, or airplane, a proper plan should help you cruise through some of the most common trip difficulties. Here are a few travel tips to get you started.

1. Ask ahead

In most jurisdictions, transport companies must render special assistance to persons with disabilities and the elderly. In the United States, common carriers such as passenger airplanes and cruise ships have accessibility features to improve all passengers’ safety and access.

While many companies will go above and beyond to ensure all their clients’ happiness, you shouldn’t expect that it’s the standard across the industry. Accessibility laws differ from country to country, and If you’re traveling abroad, you may find it more difficult to move around without a helper. Make sure to call ahead to check whether they can accommodate your needs.

2. Know the law

In the United States, laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Even if you don’t have a disability, you can expect a smoother experience thanks to the improvements mandated by these laws.

However, your experience may be different if you’re traveling internationally. While common carriers that operate within the United States must comply with local laws, the same cannot be said once you set foot on local soil. It pays to do some research about the accessibility laws in your destination. That way, you can check whether they offer the same protections and privileges towards seniors and persons with disabilities.

seniors - elderly couple

3. Ask for special seating

If you’re traveling by air, you can ask the airline if they have special seating for seniors or persons with disabilities. Able-bodied seniors may want to ask for an aisle seat so you can easily get up and go to the lavatory when needed. Seniors in wheelchairs should ask for a special needs seat to minimize discomfort.

Most large carriers have designated seating for special needs passengers, so you’ll have no trouble finding a good seat if you’re flying out of a major city. However, things may be different if you’re flying to a small destination. Ask the airline ahead of time to check if special needs seats are available.

4. Plan for long layovers

If your travel involves multiple stops (e.g., connecting flights, transferring from an airplane to a ship), make sure that there’s enough wiggle room between stops. If your schedule is packed too tightly, you’re going to have to rush to get from point A to point B. Keep your schedule open so you can proceed at your own pace.

For instance, if you are flying to a connection to your final destination, a long layover will allow you time to proceed to the next gate or airport without having to worry about missing the flight. If you’re traveling with mobility equipment, your airline may require you to check-in early.

5. Ask for help

Airline staff are more than happy to help you, so make sure to tell the booking agent that you will need special assistance when you arrive at the point of departure. For instance, you can ask for someone to escort you all the way to the departure gate. Many airlines offer wheelchair assistance so take advantage of this service whenever you can.

A final word

Traveling can be a challenge for seniors, and these five tips should help you navigate the complex world of arrivals and departures with little difficulty. A little bit of planning and preparation can go a long way in ensuring a smoother experience.

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