Traveling with Seniors: Before You Go

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Disney Parks (c) Disney
Disney Parks (c) Disney

Disney Parks are for the young and the young at heart. Any vacation planning can feel harrowing, whether you’re traveling with a young family of infants or toddlers, to traveling with the grandparents. There are tons of things to consider ensuring that everyone is safe and having fun, some travel tips are universal, but let’s explore some of the challenges and considerations when traveling with seniors.

This is Part One of a two-part series, focusing on planning and preparation before your trip. Part Two will go into detail on how to navigate the parks with your favorite Baby Boomers.

It’s important to have an open conversation with your older traveling party. Not every senior has the same energy level, dietary needs, or healthy concerns, so it’s important to assess the individual needs for your loved one. And depending on the age and mobility of Grandma or Grandpa, not all of these topics may concern you, but at least it’s a good place to start.

Medicine/Prescriptions

Make sure you have a complete inventory of what your loved one will need for the duration of your trip. This can include daily prescriptions, occasional “emergency” medicine, and your typical over-the-counter pharmaceuticals (Advil/Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, decongestants, band aids, etc). This may also include any supplemental vitamins they take. Plan ahead and make a list of the medications they may need to take every day and ration and organize them before you leave. This could include the handy “pill of the day” containers, or as simply as snack sized ziplock bags with a label for the day of the week and the person’s name. Labeling may seem like overkill, but you don’t want Grandma accidentally taking Grandpa’s heart pills! Just make sure that if you’re traveling with young ones too, that you keep all medication out of reach of children and, if possible, in child proof containers.

A handy, portable way to keep medications organized while on vacation.
A handy, portable way to keep medications organized while on vacation.

You’ll also need to be sure to carry copies of any necessary insurance cards and extra copies of their written prescriptions in case luggage gets lost/delayed or you need an emergency refill. Also be sure to keep phone numbers of any specialist physicians in case you need to contact them during your trip with concerns.

If your loved ones are on medication, it’s also a good idea to converse with their doctor or pharmacist to inform yourself of side-effects and potential drug interactions. If a loved one is on heart medication, maybe they shouldn’t take aspirin for their headache. It’s also handy to know about if there are any foods they should stay away from. It’s amazing the effects of caffeine or even a grapefruit can have when mixed with medication, so better safe than sorry and educate yourself before you go!

If your senior has other medical needs, like oxygen tanks, look into CARE Medical Equipment. Most of specialized equipment would require a current prescription, but they can help meet your needs for many medical requirements and deliver equipment to your resort.

Clothing

No matter what your age, a key part of your happiness during your Disney vacation is comfort. Whether you’re two or ninety-two, comfy clothes and supportive shoes are key elements to your vacation bliss.

Check the forecast for your vacation time for insight as to how to pack. Florida is usually warm and humid, and you can usually count on a rain shower or two during your vacation. You can expect temperatures anywhere from 70-90 degrees no matter when you go, another thing you can anticipate is the chill of refrigerated air. Disney resorts and restaurants always keep things as cool as they can indoors, so be sure your loved one packs a light jacket or cardigan to help offset that indoor chill.

Shoes are also important. Most senior citizens have embraced comfortable footwear. But they may not necessarily be aware that though their little tennies are fine for piddling around the house, they probably won’t hold up for the intensity of Disney walking. This is all the more important for seniors who may suffer from back pain or arthritis. Have them wear cushioned sole shoes to absorb shock and friction and help ease the pain when walking. Purchasing additional insoles may also help for those long touring days. Mole skin and band aids are always a good idea to have on hand. Moisture wicking socks can help add extra cushion as well as help minimize the risk of blisters.

If your loved one has specific arthritis issues in the knees or ankles, be sure to bring some ace bandages or braces they can wear under their clothes. That additional support can really make the difference! Compression socks may also be a good item to have on hand, especially if you have a long drive or flight, or even to wear in the parks for all of that standing. Be sure to check with your loved one’s physician beforehand, just to make sure it’s safe for them. Feel free to use the handy Touring Plan Packing List!

Fashionable? Not a chance. But they may help Grandma make it all day in the Parks!
Fashionable? Not a chance. But they may help Grandma make it all day in the Parks!

Food

Disney is amazing at accommodating special dietary needs, but they usually need to know beforehand so they can prepare that special meal. Make any notes of special dietary needs when you book your Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR). It’s also recommended that you review the menus of the Disney restaurants so you have a good understanding of what is offered at each location and can help you with your planning.

Put their service to the test! If you have special dietary needs, note it on your reservations and reminder your server.
Put their service to the test! If you have special dietary needs, note it on your reservations and reminder your server.

Though Disney has really increased their healthy food options, it could help to pack some healthy drinks to keep in the hotel room. Drinks like Ensure or Coconut Water before breakfast can help your loved one start the day off right. But be sure to check with their physician in case of dietary concerns.

Electric Conveyance Vehicle (EVC)/Wheelchair Rentals

Since there is a lot of ground to cover in the parks, you may want to consider renting a wheelchair or an electric scooter (ECV) for at least part of your stay. Your loved one may need a break from standing or walking, particularly if you plan to spend the whole day in the parks.

If you rent a wheelchairs or ECV from the Disney Parks, they are available for daily rentals on a first-come, first-served basis at the park entrances. The EVC rental price is $50 a day (with a $20 refundable deposit).

Renting a scooter can help your senior keep up.
Renting a scooter can help your senior keep up.

Wheelchairs are available for $12 a day. If you purchase a “Length of Stay” rental ticket for $10 per day when rented for multiple days. Then, upon visiting a theme park, simply show your receipt at the rental location to receive your wheelchair for the day. But keep in mind that “Length of Stay” rental tickets may not be offered during peak periods.

If you rent a wheelchair or EVC at one of the Disney Parks, you must leave at the park when you exit. This could be problematic for seniors with severely limited mobility who need this type of assistance beyond the parks. There are several private companies in the Walt Disney World area that also offer ECV rentals, as well as wheelchairs, strollers and other mobility product length-of-stay rentals. Disney specifically endorses:

Buena Vista Scooter Rentals: (866) 484-4797

Best Price Mobility: (866) 866-3434

Apple Scooter: (800) 701-1971

ScooterBug: (800) 726-8284

CARE Medical Equipment: (800) 741-2282

All of these vendors offer onsite delivery and pickup, but shop around to find the best price and vendor service for your needs.

Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

 

Pharmacies/Urgent Care

In the parks, Disney offers very basic First Aid Centers. If your senior needs urgent care or a prescription refill, it’s best to know what will be available in the area.

Florida Hospital Centra Care Walk-In Urgent Care Centers are open 8:00 AM to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday. Complimentary transportation is available and many insurance plans are accepted. The closest location is Centra Care Lake Buena Vista at 12500 South Apopka Vineland Road.

There is also a 24-hour Walgreens right next to Centra Care Lake Buena Vista, at 12100 South Apopka Vineland Road.

Hopefully, these tips will help you properly prepare for everyone to have a safe and fun trip! Stay tuned for Part Two when I help you navigate the parks with a senior!

 

Lisa Gilmore

My passion for Disney runs deep; I've got pixie dust in my veins. Everyone loves the famous Mickey Mouse, but Disney vacations host a wealth of sophisticated experiences, too. On my bucket list is to seek out and enjoy every last one of them!

8 thoughts on “Traveling with Seniors: Before You Go

  • October 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm
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    “…and extra copies of their written prescriptions in case luggage gets lost/delayed or you need an emergency refill.”

    while not a bad idea, this is generally not required (as I found out once when I was halfway to my destination and realized I had forgotten my meds). Simply call your pharmacy, tell them where you are going, and have them call a pharmacy at your destination to have prescription refills ready for you. This not only works for the large chain pharmacies, but also for small independent pharmacies (which is what I use).

    These days many doctors simply fax or email prescriptions to the dispensing pharmacy in any case, so if calling your pharmacy doesn’t work, call your doctor with the info for the pharmacy at your destination. I haven’t seen an actual written prescription in years, and I live in a small town in the mountains of NC…

    Cheers,
    –Lee

    Reply
    • October 17, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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      Excellent point, Lee! I always like to have things physically in hand (in case I can’t something online, or can’t get a hold of the right person), but what you suggested is also a great tip! And less paperwork and mean less stress and headaches, sometimes, too!

      Reply
  • October 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm
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    If you would like your senior to use an ECV, make sure they can operate one. We tried with my mom on her 90th birthday trip and she really wasn’t able to figure it out well enough to be comfortable operating it. We ended up getting her a wheelchair and she used it both to sit and to be pushed, and as portable, on demand seating, and as “walker” to give her some support since she was up to walking much of the time.

    Reply
    • October 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm
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      Hi Janet, you bring up a good point. I think everyone has witnessed someone getting hit or run down by an ECV – and usually both the victim and the driver are in the state of shock! If your senior doesn’t typically use a ECV, make sure to take the time to have them learn how to use it and get comfortable before charging commando into the parks. It’s also just a good educational thing to discuss with all families not to dart out in front of ECV users. They might slow down foot traffic, but they don’t stop on a dime, so to avoid some scabbed up ankles or other potential injuries, everyone should be courteous and share the walk ways.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm
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    Actually, many ECVs *do* stop on a dime, at least all the ones my dad had over the years did. A much, much bigger problem is drivers who intentionally use them as battering rams to pish their way through crowds. At least one woman warned us she would “run us down” if we didn’t get the (expletive deleted) out of her (expletive deleted) way!

    And don’t get me started on mothers who use strollers with their sweet baby in it for the same purpose. My wife was run over several times, intentionally, on our honeymoon last year.

    It really ticks me off.

    –Lee

    Reply
  • October 18, 2014 at 8:17 am
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    Pill boxes and labeled baggies are fine as long as you are not staying with small children who could get into them. In that case child proof bottles are needed.

    Reply
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