Air travel can be a wonderful experience for aging parents, spouses, and others; it can also be a trial. The ultimate outcome of a person’s flight experience has a lot to do with his or her specific needs and situation. However, there are a number of things that you can do to make the experience pleasant.
- Think ahead when planning the flight. You know better than anyone what your needs are, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that accommodations can take time. Before you even buy your tickets, sit down with someone else – preferably someone with recent flying experience – and go over anything that could be an issue. Some of this is just common sense: if you don’t like sitting between people, request an aisle seat. Getting a seat close to the bathrooms may be a good idea. Other things to think about include whether you need extra time for boarding or whether you want to try to get seats with extra leg room. Check to see if you can arrange for these accommodations when you make your reservation. Also, check to see if you need any proof (such as a doctor’s note) to obtain bulkhead or other seats.
- Consider your travel within the airport, as well. Getting from the parking lot or drop-off point to the ticket counter and then to the gate can take a long time and may require covering a considerable distance. If you think you may need a wheelchair for this, try to see if you can arrange this ahead of time. This is especially important during busy holiday travel times, when an airport might not have enough wheelchairs to meet the demand. Also, if you are switching flights, you may need to make arrangements for assisted transportation from one gate to the next.
- You can get assistance to the gate. Even with tightened security, seniors who need assistance are allowed to bring caregivers with them through security and to the gate. Make sure, however, that your caregiver brings his or her government-issued ID. Also, it pays to let the airline know a day or so in advance that you will need your caregiver accompany you to the gate.
- Dress sensibly. You want to wear clothing that is comfortable. No one wants to be stuck in a dress that’s a little too tight if a flight gets delayed for several hours.
- Keep medicines with you. Don’t pack medications in your suitcase; instead, keep them in your carry-on bag. A checked piece of luggage can get lost or temporarily misplaced.
Aging parents, spouses, and others should be able to enjoy their trips; paying attention to these pre-flight planning tips can help.