Travel Tips for the Elderly
Senior citizens and older travelers need to exercise some caution when flying, driving long distances or going on a cruise. Rapid changes in the temperature and climate, hours of walking and standing, and the stress of traveling itself can take their toll on an older person’s health and well-being. However, there are several ways to make the travel experience more comfortable and safe.
Arrange for Transportation inside the Airport
All airports offer cart or buggy rides for passengers with disabilities and those who need some extra assistance getting from one area of the terminal to another. Call ahead to make a reservation for one of these vehicles so there will be someone available to chauffeur you around the airport as needed.
Wear Loose Clothing
Wear comfortable and loose clothing so that there is a lower risk of heat stroke, hypertension and high blood pressure. Loose clothing reduces the risk of blood clots when you are sitting or standing for long periods of time. Compression stockings garments can help stimulate circulation in the lower legs on long flights.
Pack All Medications in Carry-On Luggage
Make sure you follow all airport guidelines for carry-on luggage, and stock medications in approved containers or bags in these bags for easy retrieval. Make sure to include all prescription information and other supplies needed to take the medication. Packing everything together in a clear plastic bag will make it easier to get through the baggage check.
Drink Lots of Water
Many older travelers suffer from dehydration which can cause fatigue and interfere with blood sugar levels. Make sure you are well-hydrated throughout the trip, and avoid caffeinated beverages or alcohol because these can deplete the body of water and essential minerals.
Get to the Airport Early
Being rushed for the flight can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, so plan your trip thoroughly to make your flight on time. Avoid booking transfer flights that are too close together, or you may end up rushing from one end of the terminal to the other just to catch the flight. It’s generally a good idea to arrive at the airport at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the flight leaves.
Rights for Senior Citizens in Airline Travel
The array of airport security regulations and the general discomfort that comes with airline travel can be especially trying for senior citizens. But airports and the Federal Aviation Administration have taken steps to ease the burden on older travelers, ensuring an easier trip. Senior citizens should know the rights and privileges afforded to them before they head to the airport.
Assistance in the Airport
Senior citizens can ask for help in the airport, from the time they arrive until the time they board. They can request assistance getting to the gate by asking at the check-in desk for a ride on a cart or to access boarding with a wheelchair. Seniors can also request assistance at security, where they may be able to go through a shorter line.
Eased Security Restrictions
The TSA has made several changes to its security policies to make the process easier for senior citizens. Passengers 75 and older can leave on their shoes and light jackets when going through security. Passengers in wheelchairs or those who don’t want to remain standing during the screening process will be accommodated with a variation on the screening process. Senior travelers with medical devices like pacemakers should request a pat-down at security rather than going through the scanner. Inform TSA personnel when traveling with a senior with memory problems. A senior with dementia or other cognitive problems won’t be separated from a traveling companion and can be screened in a private room if desired.
Traveling with Medications
Seniors traveling with medications will have no trouble transporting them through security as long as they’re properly prepared. Keep medications separated from other belongings in a plastic bag or another container that’s easy to pull out of a carry-on. Labeling medication facilitates the screening process but pill minder containers are okay. Medications may undergo X-ray screening, visual inspection or tests for traces of explosives. Liquid medications and prescribed creams are exempt from the 3-11 rule.
Seniors with oxygen tanks should prepare in advance, though, as these devices cannot be used on board a plane due to pressure inconsistencies making the tanks unstable. You will need to bring an FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrator and give your airline 48 hours’ notice.
Boarding the Plane
Seniors and those travelers requiring special assistance can board before other travelers through priority boarding. Most airlines simply call for travelers needing this special consideration to board first, no questions asked. Seniors can also request an escort to help them to the plane and into their seats. Elderly travelers should ask for help with their bags, especially if they need to be stowed in the overhead compartment. Airline staff on board can be of assistance.
Though increasingly rare, discounted airfare is occasionally available to senior travelers. Ask the airline for any available discounts, but keep in mind that offers may only be valid by booking directly with the airline rather than a third party. Simply calling the airline’s customer service department, or checking with a travel agent may lead to modest savings.