Planning a Holiday for Elderly Parents

Age Space supports anyone anxious about or caring for an elderly parent; a friendly online forum and resource hub set up by Annabel James and Ruth Darrah in 2015. Age Space provides access to relevant, independent and timely advice, information and peer support to make better decisions regarding all aspects of care.

With an ageing population in the UK more of us are getting involved in organising holidays for our elderly parents. It seems straightforward until one or both parents are less fit or mobile, or is on their own. Here are some tips to help with the process:


You know it’s time to get involved when you realise your parents no longer go on holiday, or when they do it is more of an ordeal than a pleasure. 

Maze Involving yourself can create opportunities your parents have discounted in recent years.  Much loved destinations and holidays might appear to be no longer achievable, but by careful planning you may find similar alternatives, or something entirely new.  

There is help available at any budget, with big tour operators and many specialist companies providing expertise and services. As with your own holiday, read the small print, don’t rely on a website, find expert guidance and recent reviews, call direct and discuss individual requirements.  

Mobility dictates decisions

Is flying still possible, or can they only cope with a short car journey? If you are arranging flights, booking in advance through the airline (which co-ordinates with the airports) you can organise different levels of assistance, from your parents’ front door, or the terminal drop-off, through check in to the plane (including on board narrow aisle chairs) and at their destination.

For additional help you might want to consider having suitcases sent ahead through one of the providers such as

Baloons at sunset If the preferred holiday means driving in the UK, establish any particular concerns such as snooze or loo stops or using non-motorway routes; perhaps you need to consider driving your parents to and from their destination.   

Contact large well known car hire providers as well as small local operators to see if adapted car hire is available at their destination. You may also be able to hire a wheelchair, scooter or wheelchair accessible vehicle. Public transport in the UK has improved for disabled travellers and those with restricted mobility, and both National Rail and National Express buses suggest forward planning directly with them to ensure a smooth journey. Coach holidays can be arranged in the UK or abroad, with pick up locations around the UK; similarly for cruises, for which there are myriad options including ‘No fly’ cruises  leaving from a number of UK ports.

The right holiday

Whatever you are arranging, the difference between a great holiday and a bad one lies in the detail of things like single supplements, grab rails in the shower, wheelchair or scooter access as well as facilities for particular dietary requirements or medical needs. At the end of this page, you can find links to a range of specialist providers who can help you arrange all manner of different kinds of holidays from self-catering houses to hotels, coach trips and cruises.

While many holidays claim to be mobility/disabled friendly there may be limited accommodation of this nature, so planning well in advance is advised.   

Additional care and support

Finding a holiday companion amongst friends or relatives if you are unable to go with your parents yourself can add significant support and more fun for them.  

Sunset water However, you might need to arrange a holiday which includes more than moral and practical support such as personal care assistance; or maybe one of your parents is not well enough to go on holiday, even with care provided, but the other parent needs a break. There are care homes which provide short term respite care, and it is worth calling round and visiting local homes to see if they would be suitable.

Flexible, tailored care packages at hotels in the UK are available through organisations such as Richmond Villages. There are also holiday companies which specialise in giving people living with dementia and their carers a break; providing bespoke or small group holidays and offering all the support needed to make it a real holiday. Take a look at Dementia Adventure for more information.

Just in case – don’t forget to make a note of:

  • Emergency numbers for the holiday destination, address of the local hospital, taxi numbers and pharmacies.
  • Your parents’ bank account details, NI and passport numbers, travel insurance details and a list of any medication.

Pills and pets

Puppy You don’t need to be elderly to worry about going on holiday. But you can help by checking they’re taking as much medication as they need and maybe a little extra; also any spares and equipment; and that the milk, papers and newspapers are cancelled; the neighbours know they’re away, the kennels/cattery have been booked, and the house is secure and the iron is turned off when they leave.

The perfect holiday

Coming on holiday with you might be the perfect holiday for everyone – or you going on holiday with them. Whether the end result of all your planning is a holiday entirely new and different or similar in most respects to previous ones, everyone needs a break from their usual routine.

Once you have sorted a holiday for your parents where you are confident they will cope and relax, you may even get the chance to escape on a carefree break of your own.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends, Enable Holidays and Dementia Adventure.

You may also find interesting:

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Annabel James

Director of Age Space

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