Guest Column: Holiday Travel Tips

By Teepa Snow

Caring for someone with dementia is challenging, and can be especially so during the fall and winter vacation season. If you have a loved one with dementia who will be accompanying you on a trip in the next few months, give these tips a try.

  1. Plan a non-stop flight from place to place if possible; try to get tickets to travel when your loved one is typically at his/her best. Mornings are usually better than later in the day.

  2. If possible, get first class tickets. This will allow for more room, less crowding, and the option for late boarding, rather than getting on early or having to walk all the way down the aisle.

  3. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of using an anti-anxiety medication on the trip. Be sure to try it in advance to ensure it works effectively.

  4. Pre-cue airline personnel and let them know about possible issues prior to boarding. Make sure they offer your loved one acceptable drink items and snacks. Pack favorite snack items just in case.

  5. Bring favorite music, pictures, or manipulative items to keep her attention during the flight.

  6. If medication was necessary on the flight, plan for a wheelchair to meet you at the gate. If you’re considering riding the airline “cart,” be aware that the noise may cause distress and fear.

  7. If you have a phone or digital camera with you, take a snapshot of your loved one. It truly can take just a second to lose sight of someone in an airport and having a real-time photograph would be helpful.

  8. Use the “family”‘ toilet facilities so you can keep an eye/ear on the person at all times. Someone with dementia can quickly go from knowing where they are and what they are doing to being totally lost in time and place.

Remember to BREATHE and take care of your stress level. The person with you is taking cues from you at all times. The name of the game is be flexible and go with the flow.

Teepa Snow, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA is a nationally-renowned educator in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She is the architect of the Positive Approach method of dementia caregiving and the author of The Gems & Dementia: A Guidebook for Care Partners. For more information, visit

Teepa Snow Demonstrates How to Go with the Flow


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