For older adults who wish to travel with their loved ones, it’s all about the details and planning safe activities for seniors. And as a loved one, you need to take into consideration all the elements needed for your senior to travel in comfort, while receiving the care and assistance they need.

Preparing for the Vacation

With proper planning, your entire group can get away for the ultimate vacation you desire and deserve, even your senior loved ones.

Consider a specialized travel agency. There are many travel agencies that provide services for travelers with disabilities and/or special needs.

Knowledgeable travel agents can put together an itinerary, advise on hotel accommodations, arrange private transportation, and provide firsthand knowledge of accessible destinations.

If you are planning the trip for your senior, consider what the senior needs. This would include safety items like grab bars, shower benches, and sufficient width in door ways for a wheelchair. These conditions and requirements will also need to be present at travel destinations.

Luggage shipping. Luggage is a challenge to move about and keep track of. You can pay for luggage to be shipped directly to the vacation destination. A courier company picks up the luggage at the home and delivers it to your vacation address.

Consider safe activities for seniors. When planning your itinerary, take into consideration your senior loved one’s level of stamina. If he or she has more energy in the morning than evening, then plan sightseeing earlier in the day.

Confirm the state of facilities. When you book a bus, train or flight, review the company’s policy on accessible travel and available provisions. Is access wide enough for wheelchairs? Do they provide assistance with wheelchairs, are there other mobility restrictions, and can they accommodate people with hearing and vision disabilities?

Take advantage of discounts. For example, Amtrak offers a 10-percent rail fare discount to adult passengers with a disability. Amtrak also offers a 10-percent discount for persons traveling with a passenger with a disability, as long as the person is capable of assisting the passenger with the disability.

Pack more than enough medical supplies. Be over-prepared when it comes to medications, monitors and all supplies necessary for managing any chronic condition. Be sure to pack these items in a carry-on bag. If the senior uses a CPAP machine, the Department of Transportation designates it as a medical device and is not counted as a carry-on personal item. Do not check the CPAP as baggage to avoid the risk of damage.

Know airport procedures. Allow for extra time to go through security and customs at an airport. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides guidelines for special procedures concerning medications, liquids, supplies and more. You also need to be familiar with what is allowable through customs if you travel internationally.

Caregivers, don’t forget your needs. Vacations that are too crammed with activities and tight schedules can wear on an accompanying caregiver as well as a senior. Some travel agencies offer travel companions on both independent and group tours, which will help ensure that you as the caregiver will enjoy your vacation as well.

Destinations Within the United States

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York) 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the largest museum in the U.S., and has an entrance suitable for wheelchair users. Caregivers of visitors with disabilities are admitted free. The museum offers events for people with disabilities on a regular basis.

The Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.) 

The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums, as well as a National Zoo and cultural centers. .

The Smithsonian offers a free visitors guidebook to plan a trip to the nation’s capital, including information on free things to do, attractions, tours, restaurants and hotels

Hanauma Bay (Oahu, Hawaii) 

Hanauma Bay is located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Elderly visitors are encouraged to reach the shore using special beach wheelchairs free of charge. All of the facilities of the Bay are designed to be fully accessible. There are many package tours available, some equipped with lifts on vans or buses. Summer temperatures in Honolulu range from lows in the mid-70s to highs in the upper 80s.

International Destinations 

The Louvre (Paris, France) 

The Louvre is one of the world’s largest, oldest and most famous museums. It operates 18 elevators and 20 wheelchair lifts (ask for an accessibility map when you enter the museum). Great works of art and antiquities from ancient civilizations can be found there. The Louvre ensures that all visitors can access the museum safely and comfortably. Assistance is available throughout the museum.


Scotland offers many holiday opportunities for people with disabilities. Visit historic Edinburgh and the seaside town of St. Andrews. There are coach tours to the rugged and beautiful Scottish Highlands. Some accommodations include wheel-in showers, wheelchair access, available lifts, grab rails, and shower chairs. Summer temperatures in Edinburgh range from lows in the 50s to highs in the mid-60s.

Cruises with Activities for Seniors

Royal Caribbean International has some of the roomiest accommodations. The ship “Symphony of the Seas” has 46 accessible cabins, wide staterooms, and bathroom doors with low door sills, ramped thresholds, roll-in showers, grab bars and turning spaces.

Cruises of various lengths are available to hundreds of destinations, including cruises to Europe that travel to Denmark, Spain, the British Isles and France, among other destinations.

Age and disability shouldn’t be an obstacle to having an amazing vacation. You just have to plan a little bit to ensure you’ve got the best experience full of activities for seniors.

For more senior summer vacation ideas, follow Bethesda’s caregiver blog.