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Practical tips for senior travel

by Sue Lanza

Traveling can be trying in the best of times but when you are caregiving a senior while traveling, you really need to be organized. Check out these simple travel tips that could help turn your next caregiving trip into a win-win for all.

Returning from a recent trip across the country had me thinking of the good old days when travel was simpler. I was traveling alone this time but I know the trials of being a caregiver to a senior while using planes, trains and automobiles.

Over the years, I've tried to make my travel easier by adhering to some guidelines I've picked up along the way. Now that I am an official senior traveler too (according to AARP), these tips became even more valuable.

Here they are in no particular order:

Before you leave……

  • Pre-planning is everything!
  • Make extra copies of your itinerary and leave it with a few different relatives or friends.
  • Keep a list of all of your emergency contact numbers, credit card numbers, physician info, meds you are taking, etc. in a safe spot near your passport
  • Research the weather before you go and pack accordingly. Before my latest trip, I saw that the San Diego weather was unusually hot (more like New Jersey's), so I only took one long pair of pants and one jacket.
  • Stock up on your necessary medications ahead of time. My insurance company requires that routine meds be done via mail so this takes some advanced planning to be sure you have plenty. Another tip--be sure to bring a few extra day's doses in case of flight delays or schedule changes.
  • If you or your companion have a pre-existing medical condition that causes you worry when you travel, you may want to research physicians who participate in your insurance plan who are in your travel area. In addition, think about taking out traveler's insurance as an extra protection.

While packing…….

  • Use a pre-made packing list that you've customized for yourself. Using this list (mine is laminated), you never need to worry about forgetting anything important.
  • Don't overpack. Seriously! Not only will this extra stuff cost you more if your luggage exceeds the weight limits, but you have to drag around that extra weight. Many places have access to on site laundry or a cleaning service.
  • Organize your medications and other reminders in those handy, see-through pill boxes so you never need to wonder whether you took all your daily medications. I also jam notes into the slots for some of the days to remind me of important things while I'm away, like "mail electric bill" or "call Carol".

During your trip….

  • Be smart and wear loose clothing and shoes. Some people find that compression stockings or socks help with circulation.
  • Whether driving or flying, get up every hour or so to stretch your legs. This will help you improve your circulation and avoid stiffness.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking fluids with water being the best choice. Plane travel especially can really deplete your fluids so stay ahead of it.

On arrival……

  • Begin acclimating to the new time zone and weather gently. Some people find that the abrupt changes in schedule can ruin the first day or so of travel. Rest a bit when you arrive but try to get yourself on the new schedule as soon as possible without skipping valuable sleep or meals.
  • Be sure the excitement of visiting a new place doesn't prevent you from keeping your hands clean and germ-free. Bring a travel size hand sanitizer or wipes for times when soap and water is not available.
  • Call all your contacts back home to let them know you have arrived safely or better yet--call one person at home who then calls the others for you. If your schedule changes during your trip, let others know as well.

And for the best travel tip I've ever heard but haven't used…….

Pack your oldest, rattiest underwear and throw them away daily during your trip. You will return with a lighter suitcase and be greeted at home by fresh, new underwear.

Bon Voyage!!!