Dear Savvy Senior: I am interested in finding some type of travel escort service to help my elderly parents fly across the country. My son is getting married in the fall and would love for my parents to attend, but they’re both in their 80s with health issues, so they’ll need help getting there. Can you direct me to any travel services that can help us? — Looking for Assistance
Dear Looking: Traveling can be challenging under the best circumstances, but for seniors with medical problems, physical limitations or dementia, it can be unmanageable. Fortunately, there are a bevy of companies today that provide traveling companions/escort services to help older adults with the rigors of travel.
A good travel escort can provide your parents with transportation to and from the airport, manage their luggage, navigate and assist them through the airport, sit next to them on the flight, help them to their hotel and much more.
Some companion services even provide personal care such as medication management, dressing, bathing and feeding. And for those with specific medical needs, traveling nurse services are available, too.
But be aware that these services aren’t cheap. You will pay for the travel companion’s tickets, hotel room, meals and incidentals, plus fees for the service. The price to accompany a client on a plane trip within the United States — including the companion fees and travel costs for all parties — can range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 or more, depending on the flight transfers and length of the trip.
To locate a travel companion service in your area, search online for “senior travel companion” or “senior travel escort,” followed by your parent’s city or state. Or use an experienced national service such as Flying Companions (Flying Companions.com), Travel Helpers (GoTravelHelpers.com) or FirstLight Home Care (FirstLightHomeCare.com), which has a national network of franchises that provides in-home care for seniors and offers travel companion programs in about 80% of their 190 operating territories.
Or, for medical travel companions, do a search for “traveling nurse escort” or “medical travel companion,” or check out Travel Care and Logistics (Your FlightNurse.com), which provides registered nurses as escorts.
If, however, your parents don’t require a lot of assistance, or if you can’t afford a travel escort, consider asking a trusted family member or friend who has some air travel experience.
Vet the service
If you’re interested in hiring a travel companion service, there are a number of things to check into to ensure you get the right escort.
First, if your parents require personal or medical care while traveling, find out whether the escort is trained to manage their health care needs. What sort of medical certifications do they have? (Nursing credentials, CPR training, etc.)
Also, find out how many trips the companion has taken with clients. Have they completed trips with travelers like your parents? How long has the travel service company been in business? What is the company’s safety record? What sort of insurance does it carry, and what exactly is covered?
Also, get a quote breaking down exactly what you’ll be required to pay, in addition to the companion’s fees. And get a list of two or three clients who have used their service, and call them.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.