The summer is, of course, an excellent time to travel — and there is no better way to celebrate Senior Citizens Day in August than by traveling someplace with your senior loved one. While traveling with a senior can present some challenges, you will be sure to have fun and make lasting memories if you plan ahead.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Traveling with a senior can be a wonderful experience, but it is important to set realistic expectations. It may not be possible to do everything they may have wanted to do in their youth — trekking the Andes or running with the bulls in Spain may no longer be in the cards. Plan a trip that allows enough time to get around and take in the sights, but allows a few days for rest. If you pack your schedule, there is a good chance you may not see it all. Stick to the highlights and easier things to do and see.
2. Do Something Meaningful
When planning a trip with a senior loved one, they should be the first person you ask when it comes to where to go. Pick some place meaningful to them: perhaps it is a place they always used to spend their summers, but have not visited in a long time. You could also visit a relative who moved away, or even the place their parents or grandparents came from. You can also travel to a hall of fame of their favorite sport or see their favorite historical museum.
3. Understand Your Role
In the past, when you traveled with your loved one, it was probably he or she who took the lead in terms of planning what to do and see during the trip. Now, the roles have reversed: understand that you will most likely be looked upon as the caregiver. This role reversal may not be easy to accept for both parties at first, but understanding your role will help you have a healthy and happy trip.
4. Be Medically Prepared
Your senior loved one’s health should be a top priority when planning a trip, especially if they have any health issues. Before leaving, make sure to pack all medical supplies, including refilled prescriptions, you may need for the duration of the trip, and talk with their doctor to ensure they are healthy enough to make the particular trip you are planning. Find out where the closest hospital is in case of an emergency, and call ahead to the hotel to check if they have all the amenities you may need as well as a safe place to keep your medical supplies while you are out and about.
5. Eat Healthy and Drink Plenty of Fluids
It is always tempting to enjoy a few unhealthy meals while you are away. After all, trying the local fare is one of the best parts of travel. However, remember who you are traveling with — eating out can be fun, but avoid foods that you would not eat at home. Diet is very important for seniors, and sticking to their regular diet is essential. Since you will most likely be moving around more during hot weather, it’s also important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
6. Stay Active
If possible, plan a trip that involves some degree of walking. Vacations are great opportunities to stay in shape and enjoy some unforgettable walks. A stroll through a new city, a museum or a park can be both scenic and healthy. However, you should be careful when planning a walk, keeping them to a doable distance and healthy pace. If your senior loved one seems too tired, take a car to your next destination.
7. Take Time to Relax
Relaxing is just as important as being active on a trip, so make sure to take breaks often throughout the day. Work breaks and time of relaxation into your itinerary. Travel should not feel like work or an extended workout — it is a time to relax and get away from the stress of daily life at home. The best thing to do between all the seeing and doing is to sit back, relax and take it all in.
8. Ask for Assistance
Places are more than equipped to help when it comes to traveling with a senior. For example, if you are traveling by plane, airports will provide you with assistance such as a wheelchair or rides to the gate if needed. Many places will even let you skip lines. It never hurts to ask what kind of assistance can be provided whenever you may need it. Call your hotel and the locations you will visit ahead of time, as they may need to prepare arrangements for assistance before your arrival, especially if your senior has limited mobility.
9. Ask for Discounts
From airlines to museums, senior discounts are a regular occurrence in the travel and tourism industry — and it makes sense to take advantage of them. Even if you do not see a senior discount when buying tickets or online ahead of time, once again, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some discounts may not be related to age, but can still be used, such as a veteran discount or a discount provided through a company for which your senior loved one previously worked. Research ahead of time to save the most money.
10. Sort Out Transportation
Your plans may change while you are on your trip, but certain rides should be booked ahead of time — the most important of which is getting to and from an airport or train station. Your senior loved one may not be able to wait in a long taxi line or stand around while you are trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B. If your senior loved one requires a handicapped-accessible car, find a service ahead of time.
11. Take a Tour
One of the best ways to see the sights is with a designated tour guide, who are often accustomed to guiding seniors through museums or cities. There are a number of tour companies and special tour packages that cater to seniors, all of which move at the right pace and have the amenities to make a senior comfortable during the trip.
12. Be Ready to Change Your Plans
One of the most important things to remember is that no matter how hard you try to stick to your itinerary, your plans will likely change. Factors such as the weather and traffic can change in an instant, requiring you to improvise — and with a senior, it may require some quick thinking.
It is important to always be in tune to your senior loved one’s health and wishes, and remember your role as caretaker. Do not be disappointed if you cannot do everything you thought you could on your trip. But with the right preparation and the right pace, you are sure to create memories and moments that will last a lifetime, no matter what kind of vacation you take with your loved one.