The Holidays Are Coming: Travel Smarts for Grandparents & Seniors

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 23 November 2009

Family eating turkey in a dinnerThe holidays are coming….

For some, this phrase inspires fear and dread in anticipation of extensive travel, exhausting preparations for out-of-town visitors, and the execution of endless shopping lists in crowded shopping malls. Many find it a busy but blissful time of year as families and friends gather together and celebrate their own special traditions – enter the relentlessly cheery people who start playing holiday music in their home or workplace well before December or the enthusiastic neighbor who already hung his Christmas lights. Sadly, depression visits countless homes during the holiday season as individuals and families reflect on loved ones lost. No matter how you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, it’s an intense couple of weeks in American culture.

Holiday travel is an especially challenging aspect of the season. John Candy and Steve Martin showed us just how stressful (and humorous) holiday travel can be in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and every parent’s holiday travel nightmare came true in Home Alone. If you are traveling over the holidays, there are a number of things you can do to prevent meltdown, missing children, or migraines. No wonder they say, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”

But for some, home for the holidays involves getting from Point A to Point B, and if you’re thinking of flying a senior family member to your neck of the woods, check out farecompare.com’s practical piece: “Essential Travel Tips: Flying with Grandparents and Seniors”. It’s a handy step-by-step guide to ensure your senior traveler has the best trip possible. Is Grandma a bit nervous about flying solo? Try to find a travel companion – maybe a close neighbor who will be alone for the holidays – to accompany her on the journey. If she just gets intimidated by the large airport she’s flying out of, schedule an escort to guide her through the check-in and boarding process and be sure that someone is there to greet her on the other side.

For boomers traveling with aging parents, children, grandchildren, or all of the above – hello, sandwich generation – delegate, delegate, delegate. Assign everyone a travel buddy and assign a few responsible members a specific travel task (i.e. printing the e-tickets, labeling suitcases, or picking up a wheelchair for Grandpa). Plan ahead: do you need a rental car or a hotel room for the night before your trip? Be sure to pack some Dramamine for the weaker-stomached travelers in your group, books and games for those especially long flights, and packs of gum for the prevention of ear congestion during lift-off and landing. Get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to your departure (and return). Have a back-up plan in case of flight delays/cancellations. Arrive early for your flights; avoid rushing through the airport at all costs, especially when you have younger (and older) travelers in tow that might not be able to keep pace. And finally, schedule a massage for soon after you return home even the most prepared individuals will likely be tied up in knots after successfully accomplishing such a formidable feat.

Safety is another huge concern for families traveling during the holidays, whether via planes, trains, or automobiles. Be mindful of those who are watching and waiting for that wallet to drop or for someone to be left behind as a group of harried travelers bustles to make it to Gate B before the plane takes off without them. Don’t be paranoid (who needs that added stress?), but certainly be on your guard at all times throughout your holiday travel itinerary. Focus on the joyous reunion with loved ones you haven’t seen for some time, waiting to greet you with a warm hug (and perhaps an adult beverage?) when you finally arrive – and keep that goal in mind as you cross the miles.

-Michelle Seitzer

There are 2 Comments about this post

  1. Kaye Swain says,

    Great advice :) I especially like the suggestion of dramamine. My dad and mom once visited and ended up having to drive a longer distance than originally planned. He got so car sick, he wound up in bed for two days! If he had taken dramamine, he would most likely have been fine!

    Have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! :)


    on 24 November 2009 / 8:53 PM

  2. Thanks, Kaye! The only downside to Dramamine is it can make you quite drowsy (even the non-drowsy stuff), but it’s so much better than feeling sick!

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too!


    on 25 November 2009 / 1:17 PM


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