Holiday travel can be hectic for just about everyone who does it, but even short trips to visit family and friends during the holidays can be stressful for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Careful and thoughtful planning can help ensure safety, comfort and holiday enjoyment for everyone involved.

“The holidays should be a fun and relaxing time for friends and family, but we know it can also be a stressful time for caregivers and people living with dementia,” said Amanda Nobrega, vice president of programs for Upstate New York Chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Keeping your loved one’s needs top of mind for all travel decisions can allow for less stress and confusion and provide a joyous time for all.”

When planning your holiday destination, consider these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to provide for a more calming travel experience for someone living with Alzheimer’s:

  • Evaluate best mode of travel: Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety. If the destination requires air travel, the Alzheimer’s Association provides tips on alz.org.
  • Pick a practical destination: Elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours may cause anxiety and confusion. Plus, it’s important to consider destinations that have easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies.
  • Simplify your travel itinerary: Try not to overload the person with many directions or too much information.
  1. Make an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to loved ones you will be visiting or to emergency contacts at home.
  2. Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia. For example, if he or she becomes tired or more agitated in the late afternoon, avoid traveling at this time.
  3. Allow plenty of time for rest and don’t over-schedule.
  • Keep travel necessities close: If traveling by air, keep necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important documents in your carry-on baggage. For longer car trips, make sure water and snacks are available.
  • Brief your host: If you are staying with family or friends, make sure everyone knows what to expect. If you will be staying in a hotel, consider informing the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
  • Be prepared: Environmental changes or new locations can cause anxiety and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. These events can also trigger wandering. Monitor your loved one closely for signs of stress or confusion. Keep them close to you in crowded, unfamiliar places.

For more helpful tips, visit the Traveling page at alz.org.