Written by Jeff Smith
Traveling can be complicated at any age, from packing the right clothes to printing flight tickets to making a schedule that everyone enjoys. Traveling as a senior has even more complications. Seniors have the added stress of needing to remember medications, packing important emergency documents, ensuring they get the proper care while they're traveling, packing and managing medical equipment, and taking special considerations based on their condition and their destination.
That being said, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t enjoy travel as we continue to age. As a matter of fact, it’s likely the best time of our lives to travel as often as possible. In the spirit of making senior travel simple without sacrificing any important health and luxury comforts, we put together this list.
Medications should be the first thing packed before any trip. Make sure that all of your prescriptions are filled, and you have enough medication to last the duration of the trip, with some extra for emergencies or delays. The last thing you want is to be stranded without important, potentially life-saving medication on hand.
Medication should be packed in the original pill bottle (with the prescription label). If for some reason bringing the original bottle isn’t reasonable, having the proper label is still a necessity. If something happens and you need to refill a prescription away from home for any reason, you will need proof. And TSA requires proper identification of your medications as well as you move through the airports.
Don’t Forget Important Documents
Important documents that seniors should never go on an extended trip without include things like: a medication list, full contact information for your primary care doctor in case of emergency, and an allergy list to be used in the event of medical treatments. It is also always advisable to travel with an additional paper copy of your photo id and passport, just in case you lose the originals.
Be Careful with Medical Equipment
Even simple medical equipment requires special consideration when packing for an extended trip. If you wear hearing aids be sure to replace the batteries before leaving home and bring additional spares. If you don’t already own a carrying case you should consult your doctor so you have somewhere safe to put spares.
If you rely on oxygen you should be sure to have a medical professional check your tank before leaving home. A leak or problem with the nose piece could put a serious damper on your trip, so it’s always best to make sure that problems never even present themselves.
It is also important to make sure you have spares and care supplies for more minor medical equipment like glasses and dentures. While it wouldn’t be a trip-ender, not having dentures for an entire trip wouldn’t make for a great time. It is recommended to bring two sets of anything you can, that way you always have a back up in case of emergency.
Airport vs. Car Travel
There is a substantial difference between traveling as a senior in the airport versus by car. Both come with a unique set of advantages and challenges.
The greatest advantage of traveling by airplane is...
- The overall time of travel between point A and your destination (point B) is much shorter.
- Cutting down on travel time is a great way to minimize the inherent risks of long trips
- Shorter travel time typically results in a much more comfortable journey
- Seniors also have access to restrooms for the majority of flights, so no pulling over for pitstops, and no discomfort from holding it in.
- Traveling by plane is safer overall. Car traffic-related incidents happen significantly more often than flight-related incidents.
Traveling by airplane does come with a set of disadvantages as well, however:
- Potential severe discomfort some seniors can feel when rapidly changing elevations.
- The shift in air pressure can cause pain, especially in individuals that have sinus issues.
- Pressure shifts have even been known to cause issues with pacemakers.
- Flying for extended periods also inherently means sitting for extended periods, if you are the type of person that needs to stretch every-so-often, or is prone to blood clots, flying may be a no go.
- The largest disadvantage is transporting medical equipment if you need to. Traveling with oxygen, spare batteries, additional electronics, or even pacemakers can cause trouble not only with TSA but also with your equipment.
Traveling by car, on the other hand, is a great way to make sure you can be fully packed and supplied for any journey. Some benefits of car travel as a senior are:
- It is easy to pack spare medical equipment and ensure that it is well taken care of since it’s sitting a few feet away from you. You can also pack other comforts that you might have had to leave behind when packing light for a flight.
- Changes in elevation and air pressure are far more gradual when traveling in a car as well, so they are a non-issue.
- You can also stop and stretch your legs as often as you’d like, so the stiffness or blood clot dangers involved with long flights aren't an issue when driving.
Then again, trips in cars do have some downsides:
- Traveling by car takes substantially longer than flying to your destination.
- Seniors often require frequent pitstops, and the amount of time spent driving without interruption is much lower.
- Longer trips mean amplified levels of risk of health issues developing and overall discomfort.
At the end of the day it is up to you and your family to decide which travel option is best for you and your specific needs.
Pack for Your Destination
Packing for your destination is valuable travel advice for anyone, regardless of age. Seniors should especially make sure they are properly packed for the weather where they are traveling. Check annual weather patterns and check the weekly forecast before packing to ensure you have clothing packed for the full range of potential temperatures. The last thing you want to do is step off the plane in Florida ready for fresh fall weather, only to discover there is a warm front and the temperatures will be up to the 90s again, and all you have is sweaters! Not only is it generally uncomfortable, it can be downright dangerous for seniors.
If you or a loved one would like help preparing for travel, or you are interested in a consultation to gauge travel readiness, we can help. We refer qualified and compassionate care providers who can help with many different services to help your loved one feel safe and happy when traveling, including respite care in Tampa. For more information about our services and coverage area, contact us to speak with a Client Care Liaison.