8 Tips for Safe and Comfortable Airplane Travel

Air travel doesn't have to be uncomfortable -- or even dangerous -- for your parent. Our expert tips can make the trip easier for both of you.

  1. Check with your parent's doctor before air travel.

    It's always a good idea for your parent to have a checkup before traveling. At the very least, let your parents' doctor know airplane travel is in the works and ask if a checkup is advised.

  2. Call ahead to request a wheelchair.

    Even if your parent normally doesn't use a wheelchair, a chair can be extremely helpful when navigating airports, especially if your parent is elderly and you're rushed or carrying luggage. Request a wheelchair when making the reservation. If you forget, no worries; ask at the check-in counter.

  3. Consider a collapsible cane or folding walker.

    Packing a portable walking aide can make travel easier in and outside of the airport. Such devices are sold at drugstores, medical supply stores, and online (using search terms folding cane and folding walker). Note, though, that before buying a walker your parent should be assessed by a physical therapist to ensure a good fit.


  4. Pack medications in a carry-on bag.

    Flying is uncertain, with delays, cancellations, and lost luggage. All of your parents' medications (prescription and over-the-counter) should be easily accessible, packed in a carry-on bag. Other helpful items for a carry-on include body lotion (check the airline's website for permitted sizes), a toothbrush, tissues, a small container of wipes, and favorite reading material or games, of course.

  5. Wear loose clothing.

    Not only does this make air travel more comfortable, but it also allows blood to circulate more easily during periods of inactivity. (Sitting for long periods is associated with blood clots, especially for people with poor circulation.) Also check with your parent's doctor about compression stockings, which can stimulate lower leg circulation and may be helpful for some seniors. Avoid tight socks or stockings.

  6. Wiggle feet and legs often.

    The inactivity of air travel can be tough on muscles and joints as well as circulation. One of the best remedies is to take mini exercise breaks by standing, walking the aisles, and stretching or shaking your arms and legs. A wiggle break is recommended every 30 minutes (unless you're asleep).

  7. Drink plenty of fluids.

    Airplanes are notoriously dehydrating due to their low humidity, and the best defense against this is to drink plenty of fluids before, after, and during a flight. Water is ideal. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and should be avoided. People with diabetes are prone to dehydration and should take extra care.

  8. Chew gum or candy during takeoff and landing.

    Uncomfortable ear and sinus pressure is common during takeoff and landing, especially for people with allergies, sinus problems, or a cold. Yawning, swallowing, chewing gum, or eating candy help. Taking a decongestant before flying is suggested for someone with known sinus problems or a bad cold.

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