Nine Tips for Accessible Travel by Your Elderly Parents

by Candy B. Harrington

Are your elderly parents reluctant to travel because they just don’t get around like they used to? Well they’re not alone. According to the 2002 US Census, nearly 23 million people had difficulty standing for an hour, while 21 million people had difficulty walking up a flight of 10 stairs.

But that doesn’t mean globetrotting is out of the question for senior citizens; in fact, with a little advance planning your parents can still enjoy travel. Here are a few tips to share with them, before they make their next trip.

• Even if you can walk, reserve an airport wheelchair if you tire easily. Some airports are huge and you could easily put on several miles while in transit, and arrive at your destination exhausted.

• You are not required to remove your shoes at the airport security checkpoint if you are physically unable to do so. Just tell the TSA agent that you can’t do it, and they will hand wand you and swab your shoes for explosive residue.

• Tell the gate agent that you would like to pre-board the aircraft. This means that you will board before the rest of the passengers. Pre-boarding allows you to take things at your own pace, and gives you a little extra time to get settled in your seat.

• If you need wheelchair-accessible transportation from the airport to your hotel, choose a hotel that has a free airport shuttle. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if the hotel provides free transfers, they must also provide free accessible transfers, even if they have to contract out the service.

• Cruises are a great accessible travel choice, but new cruise ships are huge and it can be very tiring to walk from one end to the other. If fatigue is a factor, rent an electric scooter and have it delivered directly to your stateroom. Check with the cruise line for their approved vendors.

• If you drive to the cruise departure port, remember that parking is free at all Florida cruise ship piers for cruise passengers who have permanent accessibility modifications installed on their vehicles.

• If you tire easily, be sure and request a hotel room near the elevator. For safety’s sake, it’s also advisable to ask for a ground floor room whenever possible.

• Remember, in Europe the first floor is not at street level, so if you want a room at street level, ask for a room on the ground floor. Many small European hotels only have stairway access to the first floor, and if they have an elevator it’s usually very small.

• Don’t forget to pack your accessible parking placard with you whenever you travel. It’s good everywhere in the US (except for New York City), Canada and Europe.

Finally, encourage your parents to do extensive pre-trip research, and expand their horizons. There really are a lot of accessible travel offerings out there and the internet is a great place to find updated access information.

Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of Barrier-Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolt Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She blogs regularly about accessible travel issues

See Related Accessible Travel Articles
For tips and information about finding and booking an accessible hotel room, read Finding an Accessible Room Beyond ADA Compliance.

If you’d prefer to rent a house instead, read In Search of an Accessible Vacation Home.


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