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The author's husband and father-in-law in Pointe du Hoc, France

The author’s husband and father-in-law in Pointe du Hoc, France

One Saturday, my husband’s 87-year-old father announced he was going to Normandy for a D-day celebration. He hadn’t used a passport in more than ten years, so we didn’t think he could go. A day later he called and said he had his passport, tickets and was headed to France. My husband’s aging dad with heart disease who has been taken off a plane twice before with acute symptoms was going to Normandy alone in two weeks. There was only one thing to do: We started packing. As we’d see, there was a lot to learn about traveling with an older family member. Follow these senior travel tips to make your next trip with a love one safe, comfortable and enjoyable, for everybody.

Planning Find out what’s important to your senior. For example, ask about meals: Do they need three square meals or are they okay with just eating on the go? What kind of evenings do they prefer? Early bedtime, early rise? Our dad likes routine, and thankfully we were able to provide that.

Flying It’s important to make sure your senior doesn’t feel like they’re an inconvenience. Over the years, airlines and airports have improved their care for seniors and their needs. Many airlines offer priority boarding, and in most airports you’ll find wheelchairs and assistants, and electric carts that can take you from gate to gate. Some airlines even provide a concierge service, you just have to ask. Be sure and call your airline ahead of time to notify them of your needs. Also, checked bags may cost more, but it’s better than trying to negotiate a carry-on with a senior who wants to save a few dollars.

Hotels  Stick with the chains. While that bed and breakfast may look cute or a boutique hotel may have the right price, they may not be senior friendly. Call ahead to ask if the property has an elevator, if the rooms are set up for a disability, do they have someone to help with luggage, is there a dining room? What works for a young family may not work for an older one. Large hotel chains such as Marriott, which comes recommended by the National Disability Rights Network for its accessibility, typically have valet/bell service, concierge check-in, wheelchair ramps and accessible rooms. You never realize what it’s like to be limited with stairs until traveling with a wheelchair or a stroller. Most hotels also offer senior citizen discounts.

Slow down No matter what the age, there is a limit to how much you want to see and take in every day. Do you want the 4-hour tour of the Vatican or will the 90 minute tour do? Discuss this before you commit your group to something too challenging.

Plan your meals  Eating and staying hydrated is crucial for all travelers, but especially seniors. Being stuck at the Eiffel Tower at noon with no place to sit down and eat, and a hungry senior is stressful. Traveling on a tour that caters to seniors works, but if you want to drive, know that many seniors can only spend a few hours at a time in a car. Get a mini-van; it’s easier. Better yet, get a driver and relax and enjoy the trip.

For more articles and advice related to family travel, check out April’s blog Eat Pack Go or follow her on Twitter @EatPackGo.

Tagged: Family time, Hotels, Uncategorized

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April Simpson
April Simpson has shot, edited and hosted travel features from Beijing to the Amalfi Coast, and now blogs with her husband on their family travel site, Find them on Twitter @EatPackGo.
April Simpson

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