We’re about to mark the official end of summer on Labor Day weekend, observed this year September 2-4, when many families choose to make their final travel plans before the holidays. The holidays…they’re right around the corner, too, you know!
If your family is planning to take a trip that includes senior loved ones, I have discovered 10 safe travel suggestions for seniors to ensure everyone has a spectacular time.
Donya Currie, Senior Editor at the National Council on Aging (NCOA) says, “Traveling is vital for our mental health. Whether you’re traveling a thousand miles a year, or taking an occasional trip, you can avoid extra risks by following these tips. Planning ahead and having a backup plan can help you dodge common hazards and pitfalls.”
Follow public health guidance.
COVID is still a concern which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone over the age of 50 should continue to wear masks while in the airport, at the gate, and on the plane for the entire trip. If traveling internationally, be sure to consult with your physician about additional immunizations that may be required.
Choose a hotel that meets your needs.
Most hotels are ADA-compliant to accommodate their guests with physical and ambulatory needs. However, older, more historical hotels may not have been updated. This can present falling hazards on stairs or uneven floors, or accessibility issues at the entrance to the hotel and its rooms.
“Before booking a hotel, call ahead to make sure the hotel has elevators, and ask if the elevator is wheelchair accessible if you need it. If not, ask if they can accommodate a first-floor request.”
Furthermore, “Even if you’re traveling with a tour group, don’t hesitate to call a hotel directly if you have concerns about accessibility.”
Don’t publicize your trip on social media.
I understand your excitement about an upcoming trip, but when you post about it on social media, you are not only sharing your excitement with your friends and followers, but you may also be sharing an invitation to thieves who can target your home while you’re away.
“Facebook’s default privacy setting isn’t particularly private. You may think only your closest friends can see your post, but unless you have strict privacy settings enabled, anyone who is friends with your friends, and even some people who aren’t acquainted with you at all, can see your post.” Consider asking a trusted family member or friend to house-sit while you’re away.
Know the TSA rules, especially regarding prescriptions.
Prescriptions should always be packed in a carry-on bag when traveling by plane, so they do not get lost by the airline. “If your medication is a liquid and requires that you also have syringes, pumps, freezer packs, or IV bags, the TSA will allow you to carry it all on the plane. Before you pack, check the TSA’s rules, so you know how to pack them.
Additionally, “It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Make sure to take a list of your medications, doctors, and the location of a pharmacy covered by your insurance or Medicare at your destination.”
Bonus: If you’re 75 or older, TSA usually allows you to go through the security pre-check line, which means you don’t have to remove your shoes or separate laptops or liquids from your carry-on. For those younger than 75 who can’t—or don’t want to—stand in long security lines, the TSA Precheck or Global Entry program are options. TSA Precheck is for flights between U.S. airports, and Global Entry is for international flights. Each program has a non-refundable application fee, and you have to apply for the program well in advance of your travel. But if approved, your status lasts for five years.
Stay healthy on the route to and on planes.
There are several health concerns while traveling by plane: falling, dietary requirements, respiratory issues, and blood clots when traveling long distances.
“Busy airports and tight spaces while getting on an airplane can be a fall risk. The airline will help if you call ahead and ask about priority boarding.”
If you have a chronic health condition that has dietary restrictions, let an airline representative know so they can determine if they can accommodate those needs. If not, bring your own meal or snack for the trip.
“Airplane air can pose challenges. A plane cabin at high altitudes typically has much less humidity than a normal environment,2 which can put you at higher risk of dehydration and respiratory diseases. Be sure to drink lots of water on the plane.”
When taking extended flights, be sure to stand and walk the aisle to prevent blood clots, especially if you are at high risk. DVT, or Deep-vein thrombosis, typically occurs when seniors must sit for long periods of time in a plane, train, or automobile. Dangerous blood clots can form in the veins – primarily veins in the legs – which inhibits blood flow. To prevent DVT, seniors should take frequent breaks, walk around, or do some form of exercise or stretching to keep blood circulating properly.
Don’t be a target for theft.
Seniors are common targets for fraud and theft, so do your due diligence to keep yourself and your valuables safe.
Check with your hotel to see if it has a safe in your room for your passport, jewelry, or excess cash. And always double-check to make sure the code works before placing your belongings inside. Keep anything you consider valuable inside the safe.
If possible, invest in pick-pocket proof travel clothes. Many companies design fashionable pants and jackets that come with deep inside zipper and magnetically sealed pockets that help keep your valuables safe from pick pocketers.
When traveling internationally, consider using cash for most purchases. Credit card fraud is prevalent in tourist destinations. Unless you plan to monitor your transaction history via a mobile app, cash will reduce your risk.
Getting foreign currency is easier than ever. Check with your home bank to see if you can use your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs at your destination. Some banks will even let you withdraw without additional fees. Plus, you may get a better conversion rate doing it this way.
If you opt for the credit card route, call the credit card issuer before your trip to let them know where and when you’re traveling. They can tell you if there is a foreign transaction fee for using your card abroad and how the conversion rate is applied to charges. Alerting the company allows it to track potentially fraudulent activity and issue a refund quickly if you get hit. However, most credit card companies will deactivate your card in the case of fraud and will only mail a replacement to your account address. So, take a backup card just in case.
Keep important documents on hand.
Request copies of prescriptions and statements of medical conditions from each physician and medical center for verification. Make photocopies of passports, driver’s licenses, insurance cards, and travel tickets, and keep them along with the trip’s itinerary as a backup in case of any unforeseen emergencies.
Many seniors no longer have a driver’s license, which can present a problem when going through airport security, so make sure that you have the proper identification, be it a REAL state ID, military ID, passport, or similar credentials. Keep a copy with you, place a copy of the documents in your carry-on bag, and forward a set of the documents to your destination.
Take a break every two hours that you’re onthe road.
It’s very important to take a break every two hours to walk around and stretch to prevent back and neck pain, or numbness and tingling in the extremities. A short rest stop break will also give the driver a chance to refresh mentally and physically.
Stretch out your back by standing tall and circling your shoulders five times. Reach your arms overhead and hold for five seconds. Lower your arms and repeat the stretch a few times. Passengers can also stretch out their ankles and lower legs while in the car. Do ankle rolls and alternate flexing and pointing your feet every half hour or so to reduce the risk of DVT.
Watch your posture.
On a long car, train, or plane ride, our posture often suffers, which can have uncomfortable side effects. Use a lumbar or neck travel pillow for support, and if you are driving, make sure you are not too close or too far away from the steering wheel. Also, mirrors should be adjusted to prevent the dropping or raising of the chin to see your surroundings.
Eat healthy snacks and meals.
Avoid greasy fast food and sodium-laden convenience store snacks to prevent uncomfortable swelling and gastrointestinal issues. Registered Dietician, Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo recommends, “Road trippers (should) plan ahead by packing healthy snacks and meals to eat on the road. (Bring) dried and fresh fruit, cheese sticks, and nuts to ward off cravings for unhealthy food while on the road. Pack your cooler with plain or vitamin water and stay hydrated, too.”
If you or a senior loved one is unable to travel with family but requires in-home care, Home Helpers® is your family when family can’t be there! Our compassionate caregivers are local, and they are happy to help in a variety of ways.
I am proud that my team of caregivers provides exceptional non-medical in-home care for seniors, and they are always ready, willing, and able to help family caregivers with respite care, as well as clients who deal with physical or mental health conditions, those recuperating from surgery, recovering from a stroke, coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia, or who live alone and simply need companionship and engagement.
Regardless of the situation, I gladly offer a FREE Consultation to assess specific needs, create a custom care plan to follow when the family is away, and match the perfect caregiver to provide the necessary assistance to make life easier for everyone!
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have been ranked among the Home Care Pulse Top 100 Leaders in Experience for home care providers in 2023 and to have received the Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award 2023, the Best of Home Care® Employer of Choice Award 2023, and the Best of Home Care® Leader in Experience Award 2023.
We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539
National Council on Aging