Senior Scene : Travel with an Elder Part 2 of 2

Serene Karplus, Nederland.  Last week we provided a few of the many considerations for preparations for elder travel through the eyes of their escort or companion. We continue here with a few more helpful tips…



Help the elder pack days in advance and set everything aside. Supplying a packing list may work for some, but others need assistance to ensure focused attention. Think through all major events to determine what attire is needed and select comfortable clothing in good condition for leisure. Plan flight clothing in the mix, including keeping out the safest and most comfortable footwear to ensure good balance and walking in airports, regardless of wheelchair assist. Buying an extra toothbrush and other daily necessities is worth the small expense for the comfort of knowing it is pre-packed and not forgotten. Packing early helps discover needs while there is still time to run an errand or a load of laundry.


Depending on how easily your companion gets confused or loses things, it may be best to supply only copies of everything for their information and keep the original passport, visa, boarding pass, credit/debit cards, cash, flight itineraries, hotel booking codes, phone numbers for every service provided, or other necessary documents in your possession to ensure they do not disappear at critical junctures. Be sure to take all contact information for medical providers and insurance companies. Remember, Medicare does not operate in foreign countries. Purchasing separate travel health insurance can help with claims up to $50,000. Such a package can include trip cancellation insurance should a last-minute health issue delay or cancel the trip, so it may be redundant to buy trip protection from the airline or flight booking agent.



On the travel day, arrive early to address any urgent issues. Allow more time for getting in and out of vehicles and across depots than you might allow if traveling alone. Only use public transportation if the elder can board easily, there is not a long walk from the depot to the terminal (wheelchair assist providers may only operate within the terminal building and cannot pick up at the transportation stop), and it does not require hundreds of stairs to underground levels. Elevators may be elusive and escalators can prove challenging to those with poor balance. Plan on spending money for taxis in unfamiliar places or cities where public transportation relies on underground stations with many levels. Arrange in advance with a local taxi service to meet you at your destination airport, rather than relying on waiting cabs at higher prices.



Airports have become enormous, confusing, high-tech machines. It can be challenging to figure out where to go to even ask for help. Figuring out all the automated systems for advance reservations, check-in and printing, onsite computerized boarding pass check-in, which checkpoints require which identification, how to insert the passport and look at the boarding camera while pressing the right button – all present new things to learn quickly while anxious travelers line up behind and glare at slower travelers.



On arrival at the place you will stay, learn how everything works in the room and show the elder everything from odd faucets to hidden light switches and spread the bed duvet as needed. Anything not identical to home can be confusing – rolling shower bar faucets, wall-mounted sink faucet controls, and key-card-powered light switches. If windows open, show them how to operate them and double check they are closed and locked before departing the room. If a room safe is provided, supervise setting the code, write it down, and carry the information with you, slightly disguised so a dropped piece of paper does not invite a robber. Ensure the elder knows how to call the front desk, knows your room number as well as their own (written down by phone), and place a card in their wallet or pocket immediately declaring where they are staying for how long, with contact information for both the hotel/host and you.



Now, go out and enjoy your destination!



Many seasoned travelers will recognize multiple other tasks and considerations not included here. To add your tips, please email us at

Serene Karplus

About the Author: Serene Karplus – is the Executive Director of the Nederland Area Seniors, Inc. (NAS) which assists senior citizens in enhancing their quality of life, enabling them to live a life of respect and honor.  This is accomplished through the facilitation of nutrition, transportation, education, recreation, socialization and outreach programs for all seniors living in the Greater Nederland Area. Serene is a contributor to The Mountain-Ear with her Senior Scene column.