Guide for Smooth Senior Travel
Traveling is a great way to engage your mind, meet new people, and have fun doing something new and exciting. Plus, senior travel is one of the best ways to stay active and social.
Encountering new settings, cultures, and things is an excellent way to break out of your routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s the next town over or an entirely new country; it’s all about the experience!
If you think you’re too old to get around, think again: A 2018 AARP survey of older adults between 54 and 72 and found that nearly everyone anticipated traveling domestically.
Furthermore, almost ⅓ planned on four or more trips and nearly 50% expected to travel not just in the U.S., but also internationally.
Satisfy your craving for adventure at any age and check out this helpful guide for senior travel.
Doubtless, airplanes are the fastest way to reach your destination. But dealing with airlines, security, and everything in between can be a hassle.
These senior travel tips for air will hopefully make your trip less confusing, stressful, and possibly more affordable.
Discounts for older adults are available; you just have to know where to look! While not every airline offers them, it never hurts to ask.
Some places have specific rules for obtaining reduced rates, such as Delta Airlines. Some markets are eligible for discounts but are only available by calling the reservation’s department.
United also provides senior fares for select routes, but you might have to call and ask what is available and see if it’s any cheaper than the standard fare.
Southwest has one of the best deals for senior travel. Their reduced Anytime rates for those 65 and older are refundable and can be reserved both online and on the phone.
Online check-in can be a much better option than the airline counter, especially for budget airlines like Spirit that charge to do it in-person.
Many airlines offer online check-in through their mobile app or website up to 24 hours ahead of your flight. It saves time, and you can avoid the ticket counter and head right through security.
It’s especially advantageous for those trips when you only have a carry-on bag or don’t need a wheelchair or extra assistance.
Besides saving you time, another plus of online check-in is selecting your seat. To get the most of this benefit, check in early because the sooner you do, the more options you’ll have.
However, Southwest designates boarding positions (not seats) contingent on when you check in and the fare you bought.
Although your position in the line affects when you board, you can pick any open seat you wish once you board.
Print Your Boarding Pass
Having a physical copy of your boarding pass never hurts, even if you checked in online or have a smartphone. In the same vein, you should also screenshot your boarding pass.
You can show the agent the digital boarding pass you received when you checked in (e-tickets are not the same), but it’s best to have a backup, just in case.
You can print your pass at home, at the self-serve kiosks in the airport, or the ticket counter.
A good rule of thumb not just for senior travel, but for anyone, is arriving at the airport a minimum of two hours before your flight. If you’re traveling internationally, aim for three.
If you have mobility issues or checked bags, giving yourself enough time is even more vital since you need to drop it off by a set time.
Airports are stressful enough, and you don’t want to add to that by cutting it too close with time.
Of course, if you don’t need to check any luggage, things are a little easier. If you check in online, all you need to worry about is passing through security and getting to your gate.
But it’s hard to estimate how long it will take to go through security, so arriving earlier never hurts.
Whiz Through Security
Did you know that adults over 75 can get a break when it comes to security screenings? You don’t need to remove your shoes, and you can still wear a lightweight jacket.
You can bring medically-required liquids or gels in your carry on, but they will need a separate scan. Keep them together in a sealed plastic bag, away from other liquids, and let TSA know about them.
If you have a disability or medical concern, fill out a TSA Notification Card so you can relay your condition discreetly.
Another way to speed up security is by signing up for TSA PreCheck, available at participating airports.
Appy online, sign up for an in-person appointment for fingerprints and background check, and pay the $85 fee. This service lasts for five years.
For international travel, Global Entry works the same as PreCheck, with expedited lines for customs and immigration when re-entering the U.S. It costs $100 and lasts for five years.
Get Expedited Boarding
The advantage of getting expedited boarding lets you get situated sooner and gives you more of a chance to store your bag in the overhead.
Different airlines have different processes, so here’s what you can expect:
Older adults with disabilities can board during preboarding. But if you don’t have a disability, elite status, or a United-affiliated credit card, you can purchase Priority Boarding for $15 per flight segment.
This service lets you board before economy groups, but you can’t purchase this service if you already bought a Basic Economy ticket.
If you have a mobility issue or other disability that requires assistance, you might be eligible for American’s preboarding group.
You can pay for Priority boarding, which lets you get on with group four. Like United, Priority isn’t available if you’ve purchased Basic Economy.
Seniors who need assistance can get on the plane during preboarding. You can also pay $15 to guarantee your spot in the Main Cabin 1 group.
Those with disabilities are qualified to get on during preboarding, or you can pay for Even More Space.
These seats give you a few more inches of legroom and let you board before families with small children.
This service also lets you use security screening lines in participating airports. It costs between $15 and $65 each way.
In some cases, Southwest allows seniors to board early, like if you need a special seat because of a disability or extra assistance during boarding.
If you need some more time to get situated, you can board between A and B groups.
Southwest also offers Early Bird Check In, which automatically reserves a place 36 hours ahead of your flight.
You don’t need to check in with this service, but you can get your boarding pass online 24 hours before departure, checking in, and printing your pass.
This service doesn’t promise A group boarding, but it does improve the likelihood of getting a better boarding position.
Early Bird Check costs between $15 to $25 per direction.
Bring Your Mobility Device
Many airlines don’t charge for bringing canes, walkers, wheelchairs, or electric scooters. If you have difficulty walking, you can transfer from a wheelchair to an aisle chair that can fit in the plane aisle.
If your device fits, you can even take it into the plane and store it in the overhead compartments, under your seat, or in another storage spot.
But if it doesn’t fit, not to worry! Many airlines will check it as cargo without an extra charge. When you land, it will be brought to the door, unless you prefer picking it up at baggage claim.
Helping An Older Parent Plan a Trip
Whether you’re helping your parents plan a vacation across the country or arranging a visit to the next state, working out travel details can be challenging.
It can be risky for unprepared elders to fly alone. Here are some tips for senior travel arrangements:
Be Mindful of Travel Routes and Times
The best thing you can do when arranging flights for an aging parent is choosing the shortest, most straightforward route.
Also, be aware of the type of plane your parents will board. Some airports don’t use jetways for smaller aircraft, and so your parents may need to climb stairs.
Similarly, choose the time of day when your parent has the most energy and alertness. If they function better at certain times of day, always try and find departures during those times.
Make Requests and Follow-Ups Over the Phone
Its best to conduct some aspects of senior travel online, but sometimes talking to a real person on the phone is the best way to ensure travel accommodations for your parents.
If you need to ask for things like wheelchair assistance, bulkhead seats with more legroom, or expedited boarding, calling may be your best bet.
This is particularly important if your parent needs assistance with being seated, not just taken to the aircraft door.
By law, airlines must provide free wheelchair services upon request. If your parent needs help but doesn’t need a wheelchair, they can always ride an electric cart in the airport.
If your parents travel with portable oxygen, make sure they have all the necessary documentation to transport it. Moreover, let the airline know about any dietary restrictions your parents might have.
As the travel date gets closer, make sure you follow up with these arrangements. This way, you know your parents will be in good hands.
Encourage your parents to pack light so they can avoid checking in luggage and waiting at the baggage claim.
Remind your parents to keep essential documents and medicine in their hand luggage, not checked.
If your elderly parent has a phone, make sure they have your contact information and any emergency info, just in case.
If your parent does not use a cell phone, think about getting a go phone while they travel. Write down the steps for using it if necessary.
Arrange a Ride
If you can’t take your parents to the airport yourself, consider booking a taxi or rideshares like Uber or Lyft. There are also services specifically for senior travel as well, like ITN America and Papa.
Walk Your Parent to the Gate
Escort passes are available if you want to drop your parents off directly at their gate. To request one, visit the check-in counter and present a photo ID. You can also call a day ahead to ask.
For times when you are unable to be with your parents at the airport, you can always talk to the airline about free assistance.
Concierge services like MUrgency and Royal Airport Concierge Service assist with luggage, check-in, and security as well.
If possible, make arrangements for another relative or family friend to greet your parents at their destination.
If your parent is disabled, some airlines offer escort passes so you can meet them upon arrival (although this only works for domestic flights).
You can also ask the airline to send an attend to help your parents through customs.
Enjoy Your Senior Travel Experience
There are many options for older adults with disabilities or mobility issues, so don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations or assistance.
Aging doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop traveling. If anything, your golden years are the best time to do it!
Check out the 10 best senior travel destinations and get inspired!
MeetCaregivers can help provide qualified professionals to assist with whatever needs you may have. Contact us at 1-888-541-1136.
Finding the perfect match for you or your loved one will ensure your peace of mind and make sure they are in the best possible care.
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- Gelfeld, Vicki. “AARP Travel Research: 2019 Boomer Travel Trends.” Apr. 2018, doi:10.26419/res.00263.001.
- Living, Great Senior. “30 Tips for Smoother Senior Travel.” Greatseniorliving.com, 23 July 2019, www.greatseniorliving.com/articles/senior-travel.