Travel Tips

Guiding Your Parent’s Solo Flight: 10 Tips for Ensuring Their Safety

My 74-year-old mom was in the Philippines and she wanted to visit me in San Francisco. I considered going to the Philippines to pick her up but that was too expensive and she seemed confident enough to travel on her own but I was so nervous for her.  You see, she had never experienced traveling alone and at 74 years old, she’s forgetful, gets distracted, confused, and English is her second language.  But we came up with a plan so it wouldn’t be a confusing and stressful experience for both of us. Here’s what worked for: 

1. Talk. Talk. Talk

The first step is to have an honest conversation with them about the flight. See what concerns they have and if they have any questions. This can help to put their mind at ease for a less anxious experience.

2. Request Wheelchair Service.

The moment I purchased her tickets, I requested a wheelchair service. I let them know my mom was an elderly woman who needed help getting from the ticket counter to the plane. Organize any services your parent may need before you get to the airport. This includes the likes of wheelchair assistance, priority boarding, and onboard services. Make sure you don’t leave this to the last minute as the services may be unavailable for increased fees.

3. Pack with Them 

Since I was not with her, I made sure to Facetime her. You should pack with them to not only ensure they are taking everything they need but also comply with TSA/airline guidelines. If they are checking in luggage, look at allowed weight limits and fees. Create a checklist, and then you’ll be able to tick it off as you go along.

4. Check Them In

I was on the phone with her when she checked in. Yes, I’m a helicopter kid! Many airlines now allow you to check in online. Doing this for them not only removes a step in the process but allows them to move through the airport more quickly. This means less time on their feet and more time resting. Talk them through this process so they don’t end up queuing unnecessarily at the airport.

5. Prepare Documents with Backups

If your parent needs paperwork like a boarding pass, hotel booking, or airport transfer, prepare this for them and print off copies. When traveling, it’s always best to have two copies. Give them one to keep on their person and put another set in their luggage.

6. Create a Cheat Sheet

A cheat sheet is a concise set of notes that someone can refer back to. On this you can put any bits of information they may need. Flight details, emergency contacts, transportation info, security tips, and flight etiquette are all good examples. You should also add your name, number, and address in case you need to be contacted or something happens to their phone.

7. Create a Travel Plan

Create a travel plan from the moment they leave their door to the moment they arrive at the end destination. This includes any car journeys, layovers, or public transport. Get them to memorize it and read it back to you so they are comfortable with the plan.

8. Provide Emotional Support

Traveling can be difficult, and their pride may be hurt by needing assistance. Remind them you’re there to make life easier and you’re available for any support or questions. If nervous, you can also give them some relaxation tips for coping with the anxiety of a flight.

9. Track and Follow Up

You can get all the information for a flight online or via an app, and track its progress. You can call your parent as they are getting on the plane, then again after it lands. This also provides emotional support but also allows you to guide them on their next steps, such as baggage claim and transportation.

10. Be Early At The Gate

When your parent’s plane lands make sure to be early or at least on time.I arrived at my mom’s gate 30 minutes before her plane landed because I didn’t want to miss any gate changes. I also would hate for my mom to come out of the airplane and find nobody waiting for her.