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Travel Tips for elderly holidaymakers with limited mobility or a disability

• Written by Julia Hammond

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Being elderly and having limited mobility or a disability doesn’t have to be an obstacle to travel. With the right preparation before you set off and thought given to managing conditions on the road, it’s possible to enjoy a worry-free holiday.

The World's your Oyster

While it is true that the world’s your oyster, some parts of the world and some types of holiday might present more of a challenge – or a risk – than others. At the planning stage, weigh up the pros and cons of a destination with regards to your own circumstances. Being realistic and adjusting your itinerary to suit will pay dividends.

For instance, if you’re keen to go on a primate safari, the tough trek into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search of mountain gorillas is unlikely to be a sensible choice – the clue’s in the name. Instead, head to Borneo for a visit to an orangutan sanctuary.

Don’t be afraid to ask excursion providers for more information about a tour itinerary to ensure it is going to be suitable. If there is walking involved, ask about gradients as well as the amount of time you’ll be on your feet. Day trips can be adapted to provide rest breaks or a slower paced programme. Make sure you incorporate chill out days to get over the tiring effects of travel and tours. It counts as sightseeing if you call it people-watching.

Manage your Travel and Transfers

Considering a package which includes door to door transfers will also make things easier if you’re an elderly traveller with limited mobility or a disability. It’s one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of coach travel for the elderly, as well as the sociable nature of such group holidays.

Travelling by air doesn’t necessarily rule this out. Some companies, such as Titan Travel (part of the Saga group), offer a VIP door-to-door travel service option – with this, there is no need to concern yourself with taxi fares or securing lifts from family members.

Don’t rush off; make sure the house is fully secure before you leave. Set lights or a radio on a timer, cancel any deliveries and inform a trusted neighbour of your plans so they can keep an eye on the place and give you peace of mind. Read our post on 10 ways you can keep your home safe whilst you're away.

Arrange airport assistance upfront, whoever you travel with. Such assistance can take many forms: From help with check-in and security procedures to the provision of a wheelchair or electric cart to overcome the long walk to the gate. Notify the airports (departure, transit and arrival) at least 48 hours in advance via your airline, tour operator or travel agent. The CAA’s website has some useful pointers as to which kind of assistance you might benefit from.

A Room Fit for Purpose

Accommodation varies widely, though many hotel providers offer accessible rooms with grab handles and wider doors as standard. Don’t book until you know the location of the nearest clinic or hospital, just in case. If you have a specific need, such as wheelchair access in a wet room, call or email ahead to confirm the room’s suitability. For travellers with a visual impairment, consider a repeat booking with the same chain. Room layouts and design will often be similar and such familiarity will help you orient more quickly.

Room size is also key for elderly holidaymakers with limited mobility or a disability. If you’re unsteady on your feet, having plenty of space to move around makes it easier for a travelling companion to assist you. Check out the position of lifts and stairs as well as whether the property is accessible by pavements as well as a road should you wish to go out for a stroll.

Factor in how large the hotel is; if it sprawls, send a request to the reservations team to be accommodated sufficiently close to the breakfast room or to other facilities that you expect to use often during your stay.

Plan Ahead When it Comes to Meds

One of the most important considerations for travellers of any age is health, and that’s certainly the case for elderly travellers with limited mobility or a disability. Identify which vaccinations you’re likely to need via a trustworthy website such as NHS Scotland’s Fit For Travel.

It’s also a good idea to discuss a forthcoming trip with a medical professional to ensure you have a plentiful supply of any prescription medicines to take with you. Ask for a doctor’s letter to carry with you if you need to carry prescription medicines, syringes (for example, for insulin injections) or if you have a pacemaker or ICD fitted. Carry a compartmentalised pillbox and think about the impact of time zones on your usual routine. Dose reminder apps such as Echo can help with this.

Check for any specific regulations governing the legality of medicines you take in the UK, both prescription and over the counter. The media have recently covered stories about travellers to Egypt and the UAE, but did you know products containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, might get you in trouble in Japan or that Solpadeine is banned in India?

Turkey is another popular tourism destination whose regulations might trip you up. It’s wise to check with the embassy before you travel. It’s also a good idea to know the you might need to avoid blank looks on an emergency visit to a pharmacy. If you want paracetamol in the US, for instance, it’s sold as acetaminophen.

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Take out a Comprehensive Insurance Policy

Skimping on insurance is playing with fire, not least if you’re an elderly holidaymaker with limited mobility or a disability. Don’t be tempted to take out the cheapest policy you can find – levels of cover vary enormously and reading the small print is essential. For instance, in a recent survey by Defaqto, only six out of 10 policies included a cruise as part of their standard cover.

Scheduled airline failure is another commonly excluded condition. Some household insurance policies will cover possessions on the road but check valuables limits before you set off. Several companies specialise in insurance for the over 80s, including the highly regarded Staysure, which won the coveted Moneywise Most Trusted Travel Insurance Provider award in both 2017 and 2018.

Other specialist providers with a five-star rating from Defaqto include Age Co, Good to Go Insurance and Saga. Frequent travellers may find that opting for an annual policy makes financial sense. Learn more about travel insurance in our in-depth article.

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