Elder Travel: Tips for Flying with an Elderly Parent

Silhouette of travelers going through the airport, specifically a younger man pushing an older woman in a wheelchair.

As our parents age, traveling together—especially on an airplane—can feel like a daunting experience. Maybe you’re nervous about their mobility. Or you’re worried about the airport screening process. While these are valid concerns, don’t let them keep you from traveling together.

Whether you plan to get on the airplane with them or pick them up at the gate, allow our guide to help. Our tips for flying with elderly parents will help them arrive safe and sound. From picking the right flight to getting to the gate, our air travel tips cover all the bases.

Follow our guide, so you can focus more on spending time together and less on travel logistics.

Booking your trip

There are a few elder travel tips to keep in mind when booking a flight. First, search for direct flights to avoid any hiccups at the airport. If you must choose one with a layover, allow for plenty of time for your parents to make the next flight. Don’t forget, some airports require you to shuttle to another terminal. Second, pick an aisle seat closer to the front of the airplane for easier boarding and deplaning. You may also want to upgrade to a seat with more legroom to make for a more comfortable ride.

Flying with a wheelchair

Next, consider wheelchair options. Even if they don’t usually need one, having a wheelchair on hand is one of the best ways to travel with elderly parents. It can help make everyone feel more at ease, especially if layovers are involved. You can reserve a wheelchair through the airport 48 hours in advance of your flight. If your parents have their own wheelchairs, they can board with them. Ask the airline to check them at the gate. Also, practice dissembling it in advance, so you know all the parts and how they go together.

Don’t worry if you’re not actually traveling on the airplane with your parent. When you arrive at the check-in counter, request an Airport Escort Pass. With this pass, you can accompany your parent to the departure gate. Some airlines will let you do the same from the arrival gate, as long as it is a domestic flight. You will have to pass through airport security as if you were a traveler, though.

Not traveling through the gate with your parent? All U.S.-based airlines are required to offer wheelchair assistance to and from the gates. Call the airline in advance to reserve air travel assistance for elderly travelers.

Getting ready for travel

Before the trip, schedule a doctor’s appointment for your parent. Especially if you’re going on a big trip, a checkup is always a good idea. The doctor will ensure your parent is in good health to travel and may offer tips for making the trip more comfortable. While you’re there, double check that your parent has all the necessary medications. This is also a good opportunity to make note of their medication and any medical conditions. Keep this information handy during your travels in case anything arises. Also, if your parent has any implants or internal medical devices, ask the doctor for a medical card. Present this information to the TSA agents at the airport.

If your parents take medication, be sure to pack it in their carry-on bag rather than checked baggage. They may also want to purchase water before boarding in case they need to take meds during their flight.

Going through security

Do senior citizens automatically get TSA precheck? The answer is no, but there are some forms of expedited screening available for certain cases. Travelers who are 75 years and older can leave on their shoes and a light jacket. If they can’t stand for traditional screening, there are other screening processes available. Speak with the TSA agent about mobility or medical concerns to ensure a comfortable experience.

All of your parents’ medications and mobility devices must go through security screening, too. This includes walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. As long as you alert the TSA agent, your parent can travel with liquid medications that exceed the 3-1-1 liquid limitations. Also, advise the agent if they have any special medical devices like syringes or ice packs. Be sure all medications and accessories are properly labeled, too.

The best elderly travel tip is to give yourselves extra time to arrive at the airport and navigate your way to the gate. Traveling with elderly parents is always possible, it just requires some extra preparation.

Ready to plan a trip together? Check out the best family reunion destinations and get the whole crew involved! Also, don’t miss our last-minute travel deals.

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Header image via AnnaTamila

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