The writer, her husband and her mother-in-law made time to stop at L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon in London’s West End for a birthday treat. // © 2016 Angela Fairhurst
Feature image (above): The writer chose to stay at centrally located St. James's Hotel and Club for easy access to sights. // © 2016 St. James's Hotel and Club
As our population ages, new travel options are emerging for seniors. Traveling with those in the demographic can often have obstacles, but it is worth it to see a senior enjoying their journey with childlike wonderment.
I took my mother-in-law, Martha, on the trip of a lifetime for her 90th birthday, and we gained so much useful knowledge on how to best travel with a senior. I recommend following these tips to make a vacation as effortless as possible and to maximize your time.
Consider a Place Where the Language Is Familiar
Martha had never left North America, and her Irish heritage made a trip abroad to her ancestors’ home country an obvious choice. Adding London to the itinerary gave her the full U.K. experience. In general, seniors like to socialize. Being able to speak English (or whatever language is the senior’s native tongue) and learn people’s names can allow seniors such as my mother-in-law to have a more intimate experience.
Choose Destinations Where Transportation Is Plentiful
Make sure walking long distances is a non-issue. London is a city loaded with cabs, so we took full advantage. We also as stayed at the centrally located St. James’s Hotel and Club so that we didn’t have to travel too far to see the sights. In Ireland, we chose Ashford Castle because we did not have to leave the premises.
Before the Trip, Review a Checklist of Items to Pack
Every season requires special travel items. Be it gloves and scarves in the winter or sunscreen and hats in the summer, an itemized list will keep things organized. Be sure to include medications and other toiletries not readily available at the destination that the senior may need.
Ask for Airport Assistance
Don’t hesitate to get wheelchair support, especially at airports. Standing in long lines and getting from check-in to the gate can be tiring for some seniors, and the wheelchair assistance advances your party to the front of the security line. Martha was beyond grateful for having the additional help.
Splurge on Business or First Class
If possible, upgrade to business or first class — it’s worth the extra comfort. Regardless, come equipped with earplugs, eye masks, sleeping pillows, warm socks and any sleeping aids. No-Jet-Lag is a homeopathic remedy we like that seems to keep that dizzy feeling away even if one is tired. We felt fortunate that even with a few hours’ sleep, none of us suffered from the journey.
Organize Transfers Ahead of Time
Make sure all ground transportation is arranged ahead of time. Not having to scramble or stress to figure out transfers makes the ease of getting to and from airports and hotels a breeze. Having a driver with a sign at every point made Martha feel comfortable and well taken care of.
Don’t Plan Too Many Activities
Plan one or two events for the day, and keep the remainder of the time devoted to meals and resting. Try and arrange for entertaining things to do ahead of time. We saw Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap” in the West End at St. Martin’s Theatre. The 4 p.m. matinee was ideal, as it allowed us to enjoy an early dinner immediately following the show. At Ashford Castle in Ireland, the falconry experience with Ireland’s School of Falconry was a treat — Martha was able to sit down and enjoy the birds’ flight.
Enjoy Personal Car Tours
To check things off the must-see list and avoid standing in lines with large crowds, we arranged a car tour with a driver who showed us London’s iconic sites (and stopped for photo ops) before we hit up the classic Oxford Street shops.
Share the Travel Occasion
Tell hotels and restaurants about the birthday, anniversary or special occasion you may be celebrating. You’ll often find that people are delighted to help you celebrate with extra drinks and desserts — and the senior will be surprised each and every time.
Depending on a senior’s age and temperament, he or she might make you feel as if you’re traveling with a child. Accept it and be patient — it will help everyone better enjoy the experience.