Travel Tips for Senior Airline Passengers
Whether it’s a trip to see the grandkids, or to see the world, traveling by plane usually goes more smoothly with some advance planning. Air travel is not the luxury it once was! Remember the days when you would get all dressed up for a plane trip? Chances are there would be an empty seat beside you so you could stretch out in comfort, and they would even feed you a hot meal.
Today, air travel is much less comfortable. In fact, it can be downright stressful. If you will be vacationing by air this summer, or helping an older loved one do so, here are six ways to have a safer, healthier trip.
Don’t rush. Studies show that more older adults are injured in airports than during the flight itself. If you’ll need special assistance in boarding, going through security or making it to the gate, make arrangements ahead of time. Leave yourself time to carry your suitcase on the elevator rather than wrangle it onto the escalator (a prime spot for injuries, especially among older adults). And if you are carrying a medically necessary liquid, or have a metal hip, brace or other medical device, alert TSA personnel ahead of time. For more information, visit the TSA website.
Lower your risk of blood clots. You’ve probably heard that sitting for a long time raises the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a dangerous clot that forms in a large vein, most often of the legs or pelvis. To avoid it, we’re advised to avoid prolonged sitting—but air travel is all about sitting for hours cramped in a small space! Lower the risk by walking around the waiting area until it’s time to board. Then, during your flight, walk up and down the aisle every few hours. Stretch and move your legs in your seat every so often. If you are at risk of a blood clot, ask your healthcare provider’s advice before the trip.
Practice suitcase safety. Suitcases with wheels are one of the great modern inventions! But nonetheless, pulling and lifting heavy luggage can do a real number on our back. Travel lightly if you can—most likely, no one at your destination will care if you wear the same outfit over and over. Consider checking your bag, rather than having to wrestle it into the overhead compartment. Don’t twist when lifting a suitcase, and practice good body mechanics—lift with your legs.
Get the recommended immunizations. Traveling out of the country? Make sure you are up to date on your usual vaccines, and ask your doctor which vaccines are recommended for people of your age who are traveling to your destination. Get vaccines somewhat ahead of time. Some take several weeks to become effective, and if there are side effects, say from the immunizations for typhoid, Japanese encephalitis or yellow fever, it’s better to have that over with before the trip.
Pack medications and other health needs in your carry-on luggage. We always hope our bags will arrive along with us … but, that doesn’t always happen! Keep your medications with you, in their original containers, along with a copy of your prescription. (Many experts recommend bringing along twice the supply of medication that you think you will need.) Bring along any other necessary health accessories, such as hearing aids and diabetes supplies. Plan to obtain water once you’re past security to avoid dehydration, and bring along some snacks in case of delay.
Review your health insurance before you go. If you were to be injured or become ill while on your trip, will your Medicare or other insurance cover it? Check with your insurance plan—it might be advisable to purchase supplemental travel insurance, especially if you’re traveling outside the U.S.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Share any concerns with your doctor before taking an airplane trip.