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Traveling with Senior citizens
Vikram Pandit distilled some useful tips from his parents experiences while traveling to and from the US where his younger brother lives.

These tips would be useful to those who invite their elders to spend some time with them, wherever they are located across the world.

You may be in the pink of health, but it is always advisable to have a thorough medical check-up a few days prior to your departure. Take the doctors advice about traveling, particularly on long flights. It is useful to carry along with you a file, which lists your recent and recurrent ailments, medication and dosage, allergies and the like. Wearing spectacles? Don not forget to list the specifications of your lenses!

A well-planned travel programme is a must. And do give copies to relatives and friends at home as well as in the countries you will be visiting. The programme should include the flight details and addresses you will be staying at along with telephone numbers.

Medication: Pills, dosages, prescriptions, emergency medicines. Carry the correct quantities required for the duration of the trip - add another few days worth. Remember, most medications in India are far cheaper than elsewhere, and what is available over the counter here may require a prescription elsewhere.

If you are staying with your children or grandchildren, have them find out well in advance whether your prescribed medications - the drugs and their branded formulations - are legally and easily available in the place of your intended visit. If you are on a vacation trip of your own, please check this out with the consulate or embassy where you have applied for the visa.

A certificate or detailed prescription from your doctor will be handy in clearing customs at the airport of your arrival and it will help you obtain the same or equivalent drugs during your stay.

Airlines normally do not have on-board facilities for the refrigeration of medications. Check with the doctor and the pharmacist on how best to carry your medications that require storage.

Insurance: Remember, medical treatment abroad is extremely expensive. Moreover, many countries now are wary of granting visas to senior citizens unless they are covered by medical and accident insurance.

Airline requirements: Under certain medical conditions, some airlines require you to be cleared by their doctors. Concealment, unwittingly or otherwise, affects you - you will be treated as a regular passenger at a time, perhaps, when you require special attention. And legally withholding facts may violate the conditions of contract of carriage between the airline and you as the passenger.

Border requirements: If you are being sponsored, please mention this clearly in your visa application. Immigration authorities need to know where you propose to stay and how your stay will be financed. It makes the grant of visa that much easier. Please ensure that the passport is valid for at least six months before your tour dates.

At airports: You are required to carry your own hand luggage. So keep it light. Carry your travel documents, air tickets, medications and the prescriptions in the handbag. Bags with retractable trolleys are advisable. In the airplane, cabin crew will help you place the baggage in the overhead bins, but the walk through the airport terminals - with heavy, unnecessary baggage - can be quite a discomfort! If you require a wheel-chair at the airport, inform the airline well in advance. The airline staff will normally ensure that you board or alight from the airplane before the other passengers and, if necessary, the staff will even help you with immigration and customs formalities. Many airlines affix "special attention" baggage tags so you do not have difficulties as you walk through the airport.

On board the airplane: International air safety regulations mandate that certain seats be not allotted to passengers with restricted mobility - e.g. seats adjacent to emergency exits and on upper decks. Window seats do give you some privacy - until you need to climb over your sprawling neighbour on your way to the toilet, or stretch across to accept service from the attendant.

During the flight, bend and stretch your legs frequently to relieve the discomfort from sitting down for long hours. Short walks down the aisle - or a walk around the airports waiting or shopping areas - will do you a world of good!

Most international airlines are concerned about their passengers well-being and several in-flight audio/video programmes offer soothing music and gentle exercises to help you unwind and relax. In-flight magazines too explain many of these relaxation techniques.

The air pressure and temperature in the cabin are akin to what you would expect at 7,500 ft - when you are actually flying at 30,000 ft above sea level! Dehydration, therefore, is possible, particularly on long flights, and so you need to fortify yourself with juices, soft drinks, or plain cool water. Avoid alcohol - at best, a glass of wine with your meal perhaps. Do not forget to use a moisturising cream to soothe your skin.

Do avail of the blankets and pillows to make yourself comfortable in the cabin. Take your shoes off to relieve the slight swelling on the feet - wear the socks provided by the airlines to walk around.

Cabin pressure changes during take-off and landing, which may cause discomfort in your ears because the pressure in your middle ear is adapting to the cabin air pressure - which is why you feel the "crackling" sensation in your inner ear. This physical discomfort can be relieved by yawning or sucking on a sweet.

If you are travelling with a severe cold, nasal drops will help relieve the swelling of the mucous membranes which in turn will help the inner ear to adjust to the ambient air pressure. Do not hesitate to consult the doctor in case you have a persistent cold.

It is advisable to carry some local currency notes in case you have to use the telephones or hire a taxi or spend an unexpected night at a hotel, on arrival. It is safer, of course, to carry the bulk of the currency in the form of travelers cheques or international credit cards.

Bon voyage!
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