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8 Tips for Traveling With An Elderly Parent

By July 29, 2016May 26th, 2017Moments

The Joys of “Slow Travel” Caring for an aging parent can be stressful. And one thing that could help — a long-needed vacation — sometimes only adds to the stress. However, getting old doesn’t mean that travel has to stop. With a bit of planning, as well as understanding the needs of older travels, taking a trip with an aged loved one is very doable. Here are some tips.

Image courtesy Venetian on Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Destinations and Trip Ideas

When you’re trying to figure out just where to travel with an aging parent or relative it’s important to remember to slow down and focus on what will actually be enjoyable. While younger people may have the stamina to embark on a tour of Europe, for older travelers even taking a tour of a city may be too much. If the goal of the trip is to spend quality time with an aged parent or other loved one, there are some options that help will make the trip enjoyable for everyone.

All-in-One Resorts

Many destinations around the world offer a wide variety of all-in-one resorts that suit a variety of budgets. These resorts will often be located in a desirable location, and will offer an on-site restaurant and a well-stocked kitchen in every suite. Some resorts will even arrange for a private chef to cook your meals. The benefit of an all-in-one resort is that once you’re there, you don’t have to spend any time traveling. The downside is that if you enjoy exploring it may be more difficult to get away and tour around. TripAdvisor offers a number of resort guides, and also provides excellent user reviews for just about any resort you’re consider.


Cruises are by far the most recommended option when planning a trip with an aged loved one. There are a variety of activities to suit every interest, meal planning is easy, and the stateroom is never very far away when it comes time for a rest. Cruise ships are feature qualified medical staff and other people who can help if problems arise. It can also be easy to explore a new city when the cruise stops in port. There are a number of places to search for cruises online. Expedia is a popular choice.

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are a cheaper alternative to all-in-one resorts. These rentals are often located in the heart of the city, close to sights. There is a kitchen, which makes meal-planning easier. The drawback of vacation rentals is that there is no linen service. You’re also taking a bit of a gamble in terms of quality and cleanliness. You’ll also typically have to plan excursions in order to truly get the feeling of going on vacation.

8 Tips for Traveling With An Elderly Parent

Planning the actual trip can be overwhelming. Besides finding the right destination and the perfect place to stay, when traveling with an aged parent there are a number of logistical details to keep track of as well. To make things easy, here are 8 tips for traveling with an elderly parent.

1) Aim to Arrive Early Everywhere

On the day you begin your travels, plan to get to the airport a minimum of two hours early. This will give you plenty of time to get checked in, have a snack before your flight and use the wheelchair accessible restrooms prior to boarding. The latter will decrease the likelihood that your parent will have to use the less hospitable restroom on the plane. Budgeting extra time into the rest of your schedule will help keep stress levels low and enjoyment high.

2) Plan on taking frequent breaks

Older travelers may not have the stamina to travel for longer periods. Plan on stopping more frequently for bathroom breaks, or just to take a rest, have something to drink and admire the scenery.

3) Choose Hotels That Are Centrally Located

If you do plan on traveling to an urban destination rather than taking a cruise or staying at an all-inclusive resort, make sure you choose a hotel that is close to restaurants, sites and other activities. While younger travelers may have the energy and stamina to explore every corner of a strange city by taxi, subway or bus, older travelers may prefer to travel for short periods of time. Make only loose plans for each day, and allow for several options depending on the energy level. If your senior feels like there are several great choices of activities on a given day, he or she won’t feel guilty, or like the spoiler, if they aren’t quite feeling up to that day trip or museum tour.

4) Consult With Your Doctor First

Even if there are no pre-existing conditions to plan for, before making your trip reservations it’s important to consult with your doctor. This can give you a clean bill of health or identify a previously undiagnosed condition. As well, typically any traveler over 65 will need to produce a medical history in order to qualify for travel insurance.

5) Make Plans for Medical Emergencies

While making travel plans is part of the fun of taking a vacation, and few people want to dwell on all of the things that could but may not necessarily happen, planning for medical emergencies may be a literal lifesaver. Compile a document that lists medical conditions, prescriptions, insurance details and contact information for your doctor back home. Consider laminating this information on a wallet-sized card.

6) Prepare Documentation Ahead of Time

Make at least four photocopy sets of the elderly traveler’s passport, driver’s license,Medicare and insurance cards, travel tickets and itinerary, boarding pass (if secured in advance online), plus any physician prescriptions and/or statements. One complete set is placed in your parent’s hand-carry bag, another in his or her roll-aboard luggage. One set is forwarded to family at the arrival destination, and one is left at home.

7) Pack “With Intention”

Try not to weigh yourself down with unnecessary baggage, as this will only make travelling with an elderly adult more difficult. Bring what you need, but make your load as light as possible so you can focus on assisting your loved one and enjoying your vacation. As well, take along travel items designed for elder travels. Take a folding cane from Elderluxe, and the folding stool I use is the TravelChair Slacker. It’s less than two pounds and folds up like a rolled-up newspaper.

8) Purchase Travel Insurance

You’ll need travel insurance before embarking on your trip. Failure to purchase insurance will leave you liable for potentially astronomical hospital bills, so it’s wise, no matter how young and healthy you are, to purchase insurance before setting foot outside of Canada. It’s best to shop around In Canada, travel insurance is offered by the insurance arms of major banks such as TC, RBC and CIBC. BC insurance providers such as BCAA and Blue Cross offer travel insurance as well. If you’re over 65 you’ll be required to submit a medical history. If you or your parent have experienced a serious medical condition recently, such as a heart attack or major surgery, you may not be able to purchase medical insurance. [textbox]

Travel Insurance — What to Purchase

When purchasing travel insurance, look for the following basics::

  • Emergency medical insurance
  • Option to enhance coverage for pre-existing health conditions
  • Single and annual plan options and various trip lengths to choose from

As well, travel insurance often provides useful coverage for non-medical situations and emergencies, including:

  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption/trip disruption insurance
  • Baggage insurance
  • Travelgold accident insurance
  • Additional air travel related expenses coverage (provides coverage for expenses resulting from a flight being delayed and when your baggage is lost or delayed)

Enjoy the Quiet Times

Being a tourist is secondary, spending time together on a special trip is what is most special. Travel with Mom or Dad. You may find it to be one of the best experiences of your life. Yes, you continue to be a caregiver, but your travel and destination will probably prove to be an escape, a freedom because of the new setting, environment and opportunity.