Plan ahead for smoother travel with seniors

Talking to your transportation company and accommodation provider well in advance is probably the most important thing you can do (and of course reading this column!) to make travel as a senior or with a senior easier.

Several of our clients have enjoyed travelling this summer, and we’ve had the privilege of assisting them with their planning.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few new things about seniors travelling on their own and with a family member. It seems like a good time to share them.

Whether you are taking a train, plane or tent trailer, you can find a few tips for a safe and enjoyable trip!

Although a spontaneous trip is exciting, so can the trip to a hospital be because you forgot to pack your medication in your carry-on or you didn’t realize the hostel only had stairs, causing joint pain.

Talking to your transportation company and accommodation provider well in advance is probably the most important thing you can do (and of course reading this column!).

• Don’t underplay your challenges. Be very clear with your travel agent, transportation company (plane, cruise, train, bus) and accommodation provider about your limitations. This is not the time to overestimate your abilities or minimize your health, mental or mobility challenges. Not all disabilities or challenges are evident, and giving specific details allows for better service.

• Research your destination. Take the time to become familiar with climate and ease-of-access places to go and see. Most cities are investing in age-friendly communities and will often provide information on accessible attractions. It’s also handy to find out about medical and health facilities at your final destination.

• Medications. Ask about how medications are handled at security checkpoints and what documentation you need to bring. For example, most transportation providers request that you keep all medications in their original containers, and some over the counter products from Canadian require prescriptions in other countries, including the United States. Keep all information about your prescriptions with other documentation close at hand. Pack an extra supply of medication. If you use oxygen, airlines have rules about how they handle it and may not allow yours on board.

• Assistive Devices. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility aids, let your transportation company know ahead of time to allow for proper preparations. You may need to transfer to a boarding wheelchair somewhere between check-in and boarding, and you can ask to delay this as long as possible. Ask how your mobility aid will be secured and stored on board. If you have a hearing aid, be sure to carry extra batteries, and always carry an extra set of glasses as well as the prescription for replacement.

• Ask for help. When travelling, there are several points along your journey where you can receive help from check-in to transferring from a personal wheelchair to a seat and moving through customs and immigration zones. Giving travel providers at least 72 hours of advanced notice will ensure you get the help you need. You may also want a friend or family member to assist you through the terminal. Ask ahead of time if you can get a temporary pass to get your escort through the secure zone to the boarding area.

These are just a few tips and suggestions for a safe and enjoyable trip. The Canadian Transportation Agency has a great publication for download at called Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities or call 1-888-222-2592 or by TTY at 1-800-669-5575.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.