Traveling during the holiday season can be the perfect opportunity for seniors to visit with children, grandchildren, other family members, and friends — especially those who live far away. Seeing loved ones and participating in joyful holiday events can greatly benefit seniors’ mental health and well-being.
Therefore, as long as their health allows, traveling can be extremely beneficial for seniors — as long as it is done safely. As usual, be sure to consult your doctor if you are unsure about your ability to travel.
Below are 7 safety tips for seniors who are traveling this holiday season.
Travel Safety Tips for Seniors During the Holidays
1. Take health precautions before traveling
Seniors should try to stay as healthy as possible before embarking on holiday travel. After all, you wouldn’t want to have to cancel your plans! It is wise for seniors to follow somehealth precautions to avoid catching a cold, flu, or other illnesses. These precautions include frequent hand washing, avoiding overly-crowded areas, drinking plenty of fluids, getting sufficient rest, and getting a flu shot.
2. Pick your mode of transportation wisely, and plan ahead.
These days, there are a number of ways to travel, between cars, airplanes, trains, buses, ride sharing, and more. Think about the distance you are traveling, your mobility, and your budget to decide the best way to get there.
Flying can be an efficient way to travel if venturing a long distance. You can also make special arrangements ahead of time to get assistance at the airport (continue reading for more information about this). But, flying does require some strategic packing and can be strenuous. It can also be pricey — but it doesn’t have to be. Some airlines like United offer senior discounts, while others like JetBlue, Allegiant, and American Airlines offer discounts for Veterans. Be sure to inquire about these discounts before purchasing your ticket.
Trains and buses can be a great way to travel as well, and do not require all the preparation of flying. Some bus and train companies like Greyhound and Amtrak offer senior or Veteran discounts, so make sure to inquire in advance.
Keep in mind, if you are bringing a suitcase or duffel bag on a plane, train, or bus, you will probably need to stow it in the overhead compartments. Try to keep your bags light, and don’t hesitate to ask someone for help lifting it — most people will happily assist.
Driving is a good way to travel shorter distances. However, be mindful of heavy traffic on busy travel days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve — and be vigilant on these days as they usually involve alcohol. Also, be mindful of inclement weather around the holiday season. Click here to read more driving safety tips for seniors.
For some seniors who don’t drive — and even those who do — the easiest way to travel may be driving with friends or family members. That way, the senior can relax without worrying about navigating traffic, busy roads, and inclement weather.
Another alternative is to use ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft to get to your destination. Click here to learn more about these options. Senior transportation services can be a great option for getting from Point A to Point B, as well.
3. Ask for special accommodations in advance
Under the Air Travel Assistance Act, airlines must accommodate seniors who need assistance with flying. This can include help with boarding, deplaning, providing wheelchairs, getting to the gate, and some assistance on the plane. Note that all personal care needs will need to be met by a companion or caregiver traveling with the senior, and is not provided by the airline.
Keep in mind, you do need to arrange this help ahead of time – usually at least 48 hours in advance. These services can be arranged by visiting your airline’s website, or calling the airline or airport.
As a bonus, TSA will usually allow people 75 years or older to go through the pre-check security line, which means they do not need to remove their shoes or separate their laptops and liquids. This is helpful for seniors who may not be able to wait in long security lines or easily maneuver through the security process. Click here to read more about this accommodation.
4. Make sure your carry-on has all essentials
If you choose to check luggage at the airport, be sure to bring a carry-on bag you can bring onto the plane, as well. In your carry-on bag, it is crucial to pack all your needed medications and medical devices in case your luggage gets delayed or lost.
Other items to bring in your carry-on include your ID, wallet, boarding pass, cash, credit cards, snacks, water (purchased or filled after going through security), medical alert systems, and important documents like health insurance cards, medical IDs, and emergency contacts.
5. Take precautions during travel
Traveling long distances can be hard on the body, no matter the age. On long flights or car rides, it is wise for seniors to wear compression socks to help prevent blood clots. Walking through the aisles or taking frequent stops to stretch your legs can help prevent blood clots, as well. This is especially important for those who have recently had surgery, hospitalizations, cancer, or a family history of blood clots.
In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water when flying, as different air pressures can put seniors at a higher risk of dehydration.
6. Choose lodging wisely
Between staying with relatives or booking a hotel or bed and breakfast, there are many options for lodging while traveling. However, if you have certain mobility challenges, make sure to pick an option that will suit your needs in order to prevent falling. For example, if staying at your loved one’s house would require the use of many stairs, that may not be the best option for certain seniors.
Additionally, some older hotels and bed and breakfasts may not be up-to-date on modern accessibility standards. Therefore, if mobility is an issue, always make sure to contact the lodging in advance to ensure there is an elevator or, if needed, that it is wheelchair accessible. The hotel may even be able to provide you a first floor or handicapped room — it never hurts to ask.
7. Don’t publicize your upcoming trip on social media
Traveling for the holidays is exciting, and it is natural to want to share your excitement with others online. However, avoid publicizing your travel plans in advance on social media. There are many reported cases of burglars using people’s social media posts to target homes for theft. Thus, letting people know you will be traveling makes your empty house an easy target. So, be sure to wait until after you have gone on your trip to share online.
Happy Holidays from Florida Senior Consulting!
Traveling is a great opportunity for seniors to explore new surroundings, enjoy holiday traditions, and make memories with loved ones. By following these safety tips, seniors can be sure to have a meaningful, enjoyable holiday season.
Need assistance with senior care?
Along with parties and celebrations, the holidays offer a chance to observe your senior relatives’ lifestyle and determine if they are living safely and getting the care they need. Additionally, the holidays can be a good time to have important discussions with your loved ones about their living arrangements and future plans.