Tips for Traveling with Senior Citizens that Make it Fun for Everyone

Terri Marshall Avatar

Two traveling seniors with backpacks
Photo credit: Pixabay

With the youngest baby boomers turning 60, older travelers have become the norm for destinations all over the world. Many senior travelers continue their explorations well into their 80s and beyond. Often as family members age, traveling with children and grandchildren provides ample opportunities to make priceless memories. But, traveling with seniors isn’t always easy. These tips for traveling with senior citizens can help you make the most of time together no matter where you go.

Choose a Destination that Works for Your Family Members

While some senior citizens have no issue with flying across the pond to Europe, others prefer staying in the United States where things are more familiar. Be sure to discuss your ideas with your loved one before making travel plans.

Even if your loved one traveled extensively in the past, long flights and unpacking and repacking every day might not be as much fun now. Cruises continue to be a favorite multi-generational trip for the simplicity they provide. Everyone can settle in, unpack once and enjoy the experience. Also cruise lines offer so many options for destinations, you’re certain to find an itinerary that works for your group.

SheBuysTravel Breeze Leonard has traveled several times with her now 88-year-old grandmother.

“Every trip we plan with her, I’m careful to make sure the destination is very family-friendly. For instance, we went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, because I knew there would be things for both her and my younger kids to enjoy, like the shows,” she says.

“We’re careful not to plan any activities on travel days so that we don’t wear anyone out. We also hire a photographer to do family photos during our vacations and I realize that one day those memories and photos will be the things I cherish most!”

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Tips for Traveling with Senior Citizens on SheBuysTravel
Touring New York City with two sets of grandparents. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Introduce Your Loved Ones to Places You Know Well

Think your hometown is boring? Lead a multigenerational trip around town and you will rediscover the beauty of where you live. Kim Orlando took her dad, his wife and two of their friends all around New York City, a city she often takes for granted since it is only a 45-minute train ride away.

“I had a great time with them even though I had seen these sites several times before,” says Kim. “They were grateful for the private tour and I was grateful for the reminder of how wonderful the city is.”

Being familiar with a destination also helps with basic things like knowing the location of public restrooms. And, in New York City, knowing which subway stations have elevators or escalators helps older travelers with limited mobility.

Get a List of Their Must-See Sights

Sitting on the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
A 6-year-old sits on the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Credit; Kim Orlando

Before you start the trip, find out exactly what your group wants to see, eat and do.

In Kim’s case, her tour of seniors had to include the Statue of Liberty – they wanted to touch it, not just float past it. And they wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial, so she made sure that we were guaranteed to hit their must-sees.

Research All the Details

Doing your research ahead of time will definitely save undue aggravation. Kim’s group wanted to go in the Statue of Liberty monument so they took a Statue Cruise.

The New York Pass would get them a free ferry ride to the island but not admission – you have to purchase those tickets separately. And did you know that if you want to tour the crown, you have to reserve several weeks in advance? Imagine how disappointed her group would have been if they’d taken the trek out there only to be turned away?

Do a Transportation Check 

How to get from JFK to Manhattan on TRaveling Mom
Taxis or Subway? What’s best for your group? Photo: Pixabay

Make sure that the public transportation you’ve chosen for your group is appropriate. The City Sights NY bus Kim took in New York made all the stops but it only had one level – upstairs, uncovered. Great for sightseeing with kids. Not so good for senior travelers who get cold easily.

One form of transportation that works for all ages is the train. Consider booking an Amtrak trip either across country or just for a day trip. There’s more room to stretch out and get comfortable than you have on a plane. And, you can enjoy meals in the dining room as you watch the countryside roll by.

My husband and I traveled from Chicago to Seattle on Amtrak. Along the way, we met grandparents traveling with grandkids, a dad and his son celebrating high school graduation and senior travelers with their couple friends.

The experience was delightful and I’d love to take my grandkids along next time.

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Buy Up Front 

If you can purchase activity tickets ahead of time, do so. In our case, we cut some of the stress and much of the waiting by using the New York PASS for easy and fast entry to the attractions we visited. The New York Pass saves time and money, which starts everyone out with a smile.

Most major cities in the United States have a CityPass with significant discounted admission prices for top tourist attractions. Check on this before you go and buy your passes in advance.

Take Advantage of Senior Citizen Discounts

Lots of locations from venues, attractions and restaurants offer senior discounts for people over a certain age (usually 65). Inquire about a senior pass and be sure to check AARP rates for hotel rooms. It never hurts to ask.

Those discounts can add up to big savings!

Ask about Food Preferences

Are there allergies, aversions, or foods they never get to try at home? Kim’s dad and his friends are from Kentucky, so they ate at Carmine’s, a family-style Italian restaurant. Her Italian mother-in-law would not have approved, but Kim’s Kentucky relatives enjoyed it and the atmosphere.

Include Some Local Fun

Smiles for all generations is the goal on an extended family trip!
Smiles for all generations is the goal on a multigenerational family trip! Photo credit: Jennifer Acocella

In New York City, food trucks, dirty water dogs and pretzels from street vendors are worth a try – just because that’s what locals do. You’ll find even more local “flavor” on the subways.

If you venture to Europe, trains are certain to be part of the experience. You might want to let your senior travelers know ahead of time how the trains operate outside the US.

When my friend, Kelly Habenicht traveled with her parents to Portugal, she hopped on the train and the door closed behind her leaving Mom and Dad on the platform. She knew there was a button to push that opens the door (and it was 10 minutes before departure) so she just smiled and waved as her parents stared in horror! Fortunately, her parents have a good sense of humor, but if you have panic-prone senior travelers along it’s best not to have surprises!

Bring Water & Snacks

Yes, it’s like packing a bag for your kids. But having some snacks and water goes a long way in keeping everyone hydrated. The snacks will keep the kids and the senior citizens from getting “hangry!”

Keep Your Group Small

Instead of dragging everyone of all ages around a city, keep the tour to just those of a particular age. Teens and younger children probably aren’t going to enjoy spending the day waiting on the slower paced senior travelers. But a city trip works well for mothers and daughters.

Canadian writer Lori Sweet has traveled with her now 82-year-old mother for years.

“Our last big trip to Vancouver from Toronto for a week, was summer of 2019. We have traveled across Canada by car and by plane and have been to New York City 35 times together. As she got older, we just needed to be cognizant of bathroom locations and when her back or hip needed a rest. We were always able to find a café to sit and sip and people watch.”

Have a Conversation about Health & Medicine

traveling-with-meds requires figuring out how to gather it up for the trip.
Traveling families can soften the reality by packing travel meds in handwoven baskets or picnic totes. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts.

If your senior travelers take regular medications, be sure to get a list with names and dosage as a back-up. Also, be sure they pack an extra day or two of meds just in case the trip gets delayed for some reason. Learn more about traveling with medications.

Know where to find the nearest hospital. You don’t have to tell them you are doing this. But know where it is JUST IN CASE. Also, if you’re traveling longer distances, it’s important to have a copy of your loved one’s health insurance card in case of an emergency.

More Considerations for Traveling with Senior Citizens Internationally 

If you’re traveling with senior citizens on an international trip, a bit of extra preparation goes a long way. If your loved one doesn’t fly frequently, the check-in process and TSA checkpoints can be intimidating. Pack your patience and guide them through the experience. Be sure to have extra medication and keep it in a carry on bag.

Travel insurance is especially important for international trips where Medicare or other health insurance policies may not provide full coverage in the event of an emergency.

If your flight is extremely long, like New York to Sydney, consider planning extended layovers coming and going. An extra day or two in Hawaii or San Francisco along the way wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Let Active Senior Citizens Do Their Thing!

Not all senior travelers have special needs. Some are as active as younger family members. As someone at the edge of the senior citizen category, the last thing I want to do is slow down and take it easy. If you have a loved one like me, go ahead and tackle those long distance hikes in national parks.

Kevin and Sue McCarthy of Travel Planners Radio once traveled to China with a lady who was 90 years old, a Mensa member, and mowed her own 3-acre lawn, although she confessed to buying a riding mower the previous year. She said her doctor didn’t think she should travel that far and her response was “you have to die somewhere.” She also carried her own flask of vodka and shared a nip with Kevin.

We can only aspire to follow in her footsteps!

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