How to plan a holiday with elderly parents

Lorna Cowan / 07 January 2016

Planning a holiday with your elderly parents? Three generations of a family travelling together? Here are some top travel tips to help make it a holiday to remember.



Choosing a holiday for elderly parents

Make sure your holiday suits all the family and everyone gets a say, especially if you’re sharing costs. A beach holiday may be great for kids and teenagers, but if the daily trek to build sandcastles involves a walk down a steep cliff (and a hike back up to go to the toilet), then it’s hardly ideal. And while your parents may love exploring museums, teenagers could get bored. It’s a holiday, so make it fun for everyone.

Be realistic, too, about how long you want to be away together. You may feel you deserve a two-week break, but would that be too much for your parents, who perhaps don’t often leave their home?

Find out how to save money on your holiday.

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  • Get everyone to agree on where you are going, what you want to do when you get there, how long you want to be away for – and who’s paying for what.
  • Do your research and make sure your holiday destination is suitable for all the family. Look at tourist board sites and read guidebooks. A picturesque village could come with cobbled streets, and secluded beaches may have no parking nearby.
  • Don’t cram too much into your days. Older adults can tire easily, so make time for refreshment breaks and a rest.
  • If you’re a blue badge holder, find out where you can park in England and Wales on gov.uk.

Find out the common myths about disabled badges.

Booking accommodation

Ground-floor rooms, walk-in showers, hand rails – your hotel room requirements could be different when travelling with elderly parents. Make a list of what you need, then call and check the accommodation is suitable. Be specific, as a hotel’s definition of ‘accessible’ may not be the same as yours. Say if your dad can’t climb into a bath or manage stairs to the restaurant.

Self-catering is an option that allows people to spread themselves around various rooms, and maybe a garden. Also, if your loved ones are early risers but enjoy a mid-morning snooze, they won’t be interrupted by a hotel cleaner. But again, don’t just accept what a website says about the property – call and confirm details.

Self-catering also makes things easy if someone has dietary needs. Don’t fret about a supermarket trip – order online and get your shopping delivered.

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  • When booking a hotel room or self-catering property, make a list of your requirements, for example a walk-in shower or hand rail, and always call to check the accommodation is suitable. Don’t just rely on what you read on websites or in guidebooks.
  • Ask about your surroundings when you book. Find out if you need to climb stairs to the hotel restaurant, and whether there are ramps leading to the reception area. Try to find photos online so you know what the property looks like.
  • Check out openbritain.net – it’s a good starting point to find inspected UK accommodation, including hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and campsites. The site also has accessible tourism advice on visitor attractions, shops, pubs and restaurants.
  • Self-catering can be a good option if you want a bit of space, a garden and to cook for yourself (not everyone may want to eat out every day). The National Trust has properties throughout the UK, and provides access statements for many of them. A search facility allows you to filter your requirements, such as ground-floor facilities and wheelchair access.
  • Look at reviews online, on sites such as Tripadvisor. Some may offer top tips and reveal details about steep inclines or gravel paths that are not mentioned elsewhere.

Read our tips for booking holiday accommodation.

Consider the resort or hotel location

When booking accommodation, consider the location too. Staying in the outskirts of a resort because it’s better value may be false economy if you need to fork out on taxi fares or expensive parking. And while your elderly parents may not be as mobile as they once were, they might still enjoy a leisurely walk to facilities on the doorstep. However, make more checks – a guide that says the stroll to the sea front is on flat terrain may fail to say it’s a gravel path.

It’s sensible to find out the nearest doctor, pharmacy and hospital, should you need them in an emergency.

Tips for the airport

If you’re flying to your holiday destination, get to the airport in plenty of time. Plan your journey, making allowances for unexpected traffic hold-ups if you’re driving. Drop off your passengers, and luggage, at the terminal before heading to the airport car park. Or consider a meet and greet service.

If your parents will need assistance at the airport – departure gates can be some distance from check-in desks – notify the airline at least 48 hours in advance. And explain to elderly parents who haven’t flown for a while about new security checks and the restrictions on liquids, including medicines. Suggest they wear shoes that can easily be taken off and put back on – chairs are not always available.

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  • When booking short flights, daytime departures could best suit older travellers. Flying further? Remember that arriving at your destination in the dark can be disorientating.
  • Look at transfer times if buying a package holiday. After a flight, no one really wants to be stuck in a bus for several hours.
  • Give airlines at least 48 hours’ notice if you need assistance at the airport. Ideally you should tell them your requirements when you book. Go to abta.com and refer to their checklist for disabled and less mobile passengers.
  • Tell less-frequent flyers about new security checks. Essential medicines in your hand luggage need to be in a 100ml or less container. And warn parents that they may be asked to take off shoes, belts and coats.
  • Carry proof of any prescriptions – get your doctor to write a letter. Pack what you’ll need, plus extra to cover emergencies or delays.

Read our airport advice.

Visitor attractions

Off sightseeing? Plan ahead and make sure attractions are suitable, especially if your elderly parents have mobility issues. Go online to openbritain.net, a website focusing on accessible tourism. Here you’ll find information about popular UK visitor attractions – how far the car park is from the entrance, whether seats are available so tired visitors can rest, and details about signage and lighting for those with poor eyesight. The site also covers theatres, shops and restaurants.

Read our recommendations for the best accessible attractions in the UK.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.