Thursday, June 29, 2017

How to travel with your.. grandparent!

My 85-year old grandfather is a cool guy. At the age of 80-something he conquered central Europe, smiling in his RayBan Aviator's. Having never been outside Eastern Europe, or former Soviet Union, besides Finland, he has added five new European countries to his list since 2012. Now, when ever he's watching television and sees Paris, Amalfi Coast or Amsterdam, he always proudly announces that he's been there!

Laveno-Mombello, Italy

It's actually pretty cool to travel with your grandparents, so don't hesitate to show them the world!

Most of the time we travel together, yet sometimes he has to fly alone. We've managed to make it hassle free with a few steps we always take before, during and after this travels. Note that this cool dude doesn't speak a word of English, which makes it even more interesting.

Always book direct flights

Direct flights save time and also cause less stress as you don't have to worry about possible flight delays, cancellations or other funny things. It's also way more comfortable for the elderly to have a shorter flight time. It's totally worth paying a little extra.

Paris, France

Cabin size luggage (avoid hold luggage!)

After a couple of incidents when he had to leave either his drill bits or a bottle of schnaps at the airport, he's finally accepted the regulations for prohibited items on planes. Make sure they have a cabin size trolley (preferably with wheels, of course) and it's light enough to be lifted to the overhead bin in the airplane as there's rarely anyone to help (sad but true). 

Ask for assistance!

Most airlines offer assistance at the airport. When he's flying alone from a large airport, I always call the airline for assistance service to help him. They usually arrive with a wheelchair (to which my grandfather rolls his eyes at, he's funny like that, and then proudly walks next to it). Even though he doesn't need it, I do think it's good as sometimes the walk to the gate can get pretty long. The assistance service is usually free but should be booked beforehand. And it's not a problem if the passenger doesn't speak English. Keep in mind that some airlines are friendlier than others and there was an airline that once refused to assist him as he refused to sit in the wheelchair. 
Yes, Estonian Air, I'm talking about you.

Dusseldorf, Germany

Add a note

Print out the flight details and add a note asking to contact you if needed (with a telephone number) and ask your grandparent to keep it in their pocket at all times! Something like Hi! I'm lost and don't speak English! If needed, please call my family on the following number. 

You can even add several lines, first in the language your grandparent speaks and then below the same thing in English, for different situations such as trying to find the gate, where's the nearest toilet, how do I get out of this airport etc. 

Book a two bedroom hotel room or adjoining rooms

A trip with a grandparent is not the same as traveling with your friends so be flexible. In the past we have booked single rooms for him but those tend to be pretty awful so try and get a room large enough to accommodate several travelers or book adjoining rooms so the grandparent can hang out with you at the hotel. 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

They've already managed to live longer than you, they will manage in tough situations! 

Whenever I wonder if my grandfather is going to be ok I always need to remind myself that he's lived longer than I and no matter what happens, he's probably been in that situation before. Older folks tend to be creative and will take matters into their own hands, if needed. 

A few more for the road:

- make a list of their medication and make sure you know what they're taking and for which purpose. Take the prescriptions along on your trip as sometimes the customs might want to take a look. 

- Free the passenger seat of your car for your grandparent. There's usually more space and it's more comfortable. Also, they have a better view than on the back seat of the car.

- Ask them about their seat preference on the plane. 
- Make sure you have enough stops on long car journeys as older people get sore joints more easily.

- Add something familiar to your trip. Either make sure they get the food they always eat in the morning or a visit to a city they always hear talking about on the media. They'll love it!

- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is your friend! When you're in your 80's you don't walk all day long. So make sure you have transportation available. Even better if it comes with a guided audio tour!

Colmar, France

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