Traveling with my Grandma
My grand parents took me all over the world as a young child, but since they were very active, it never seemed like we were taking their age into consideration. Now that my grand father has passed away, my Gran doesn't really travel that much anymore. One could mistake the lack of travel for a lack of desire to travel, which in my grand-mother's case couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, when I suggested she tagged along, she was thrilled. Soon, we were planning a short trip to Paris, less than two weeks before our scheduled travel date. So how on earth did my 82 year old grand mother plan a trip to Paris with me on such short notice? Here are a couple tips...
1. Make use of Gran's frequent flier points and credit card reward programs. Gran accumulates tons of rewards that she never uses. Together, we created a frequent flier account and then called Amex to transfer some of her reward points to Flying Blue. I then logged on to her computer and booked an Air France ticket using her newly transferred miles.
2. Make the arrangements together, aka don't let her get overwhelmed. Gran gave me her ultimate wish-list: no connections, a flight that left at a reasonable time, a wheelchair in the airport, and a hotel in a familiar neighborhood. While sitting next to her, I was able to do exactly what she wanted. The hotel she wanted to stay in went out of business, but we were able to find another one, and a quick look at Google Maps reassured her that it was close enough for her to walk comfortably to the places she wanted to be able to walk to. By doing it together, little issues didn't become big ones, and everyone got what they wanted.
3. Comfort over price. We paid a bit more for a direct flight, and that was totally worth it. We also booked a wheelchair in advance. My gran is sprightly, but she isn’t a fan of walking miles to a gate on the other side of an airport. Wheelchair service is often free, and comes to get you from the check in counter, whisks you through security and drops you off at the gate. Not only did we skip the lines and board before everyone else, she wasn't exhausted by the time she got on board. The other unexpected plus to the wheelchair is that it helps people realize she's old -- because Gran is SUPER young looking, people assume that she is being absent minded and just shove her out of the way when she isn’t moving fast enough.
4. Pack light. Gran had a small rolling carry-suitcase. It was light, practical and on wheels. When I saw other seniors lugging heavy duffel carry on bags, I felt bad for them. It was also a pleasure to carry such a light bag and put it in the overhead bin.
5. Sit together, and bring snacks. Because we booked last minute, we were unable to choose seats together online. However, once we arrived at the airport, a sympathetic check-in agent took one look at us and decided to seat us together. And although she was not pleased at being at the back of the plane, she was pretty psyched to be close to the bathroom. You may also want to plan and bring snacks. Once we got past all of the excitement of getting to the airport, we both wished we'd brought a piece of fruit along!