Ten Travel Tips for Seniors

Holiday air travel is almost never easy – airports are crowded, flights are overbooked and tempers can be short. For families traveling with seniors, there may also be other unique challenges along the way.

“Many seniors haven’t traveled in a while, because of COVID-19,” said Sierra Goetz, operations manager at the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “With all the stress and excitement that comes with air travel, it’s a good idea to take a few extra steps to ensure your senior loved one feels comfortable and confident on your trip.”

Mask up

Masks are required in all U.S. airports and on all planes and trains. Have one or two hands and make sure they’re comfortable – fitting snugly around the nose, mouth, sides of the face, and under the chin.

Have a valid form of identification

If your senior loved one no longer drives, you’ll need to make sure they have a valid, state-issued personal ID card, passport, or another government-issued document.

Bring important medical information

Pack a copy of your senior’s medical information detailing health conditions, prescriptions, and doctor contact information. If your loved one injects medication, be sure to bring a doctor’s note that explains why you’re traveling with needles and syringes.

Notify the airline about any special needs

Call the airline prior to your flight to learn about available assistance and accommodations. Airlines are required to arrange transportation assistance between connecting gates as well as pre-boarding for people who need extra time or help to get to their seats. Flight attendants should be available to help with carry-on bags and medical assistive devices.

Plan ahead

Review a map of the airports through which you will be traveling and map out drop-off points, gates, restaurants, restrooms, etc. This will allow you to make the most of your time at every stop and keep walking to a minimum.

Be careful packing medications when you travel

Don’t pack important medications in checked bags. If a flight is canceled or delayed, you probably won’t be able to retrieve them. If you have medically necessary liquids, gels, or aerosols, be sure to alert a TSA agent prior to screening.

Get to the airport early

Arrive early enough to let your senior move through check-in and security without pressure. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends arriving two hours before domestic flights and three hours for international travel.

Prepare for pre-flight screenings

Passengers 75 and older can receive expedited screening. For example, they can leave on their shoes and light jackets. If they use medical devices that can’t go through metal detectors, alert the TSA agent assisting them. The agent will use an alternative screening method.

Select an aisle seat on long flights

Sitting on the aisle will allow your senior to easily stand up, stretch and move about when needed.

Drink lots of water

To avoid dehydration, put an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag and fill it up after your loved one passes through security.

For more information about TSA screening and procedures for those with medical issues or disabilities, visit tsa.org.