While it would be fun for grandma and grandpa to join in the family holiday, extra care and precautions are called for.

Family holidays are a good time for retirees to explore exotic locations and strengthen family bonds. But before any tickets are booked, it is important to ensure​ that they are healthy and well-prepared for the trip.

Elderly travellers should inform their regular family doctor about their travel plans so that they can sort out any health issues which may potentially pose a problem during the trip. The doctor can provide medical advice, for example, on diet and activities, and recommend the necessary vaccinations before they travel.

Travel advice and pre-travel preparations should be customised for the individual, but here are some general measures from Dr Ng Chung Wai, Family Physician, and Chairperson, Infection Control and Infectious Diseases, SingHealth Poly​clinics​ (SHP), a member of the SingHealth​ group.


Patients who are on long-term medication should ensure that they carry enough supplies with them, along with:

  1. A list of their medical condition(s)
  2. An alert card or pendant that clearly states their allergies, if any
  3. A complete list of their regular medications, with the name, dosage and daily frequency of each medicine
  4. A memo bearing their regular doctor’s name and contact details

​Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in the deep veins of the lower limbs

Occupying an aisle seat gives elderly travellers the freedom to get up, stretch their legs and do simple exercises. This should be done every hour or two to maintain good blood circulation. They should also avoid sedative drugs, which may result in reduced movement, and dehydrating drinks such as alcohol and coffee.

Travellers who have had major surgery within the past six weeks, a previous case of DVT, or are suffering from cancer are at a high risk of developing DVT. They may need to check with their doctor for preventive measures such as the use of special compression stockings during each flight.


It would be good for diabetics to:

  • Inform the airline in advance about their condition, so that an appropriate diet can be ordered for flights and they are prioritised at meal times.
  • Carry some snacks or sweets on board to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), in case meals are delayed.
  • Ensure that their travelling companions are aware of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Keep some medication, including insulin if required, with them on board the plane, instead of packing everything in their checked-in luggage.


People travelling with an elderly family member with dementia can:

  1. Inform the airline in advance about the elderly traveller’s condition, to get priority boarding.
  2. Ensure that he or she carries a memo or wears a wrist tag with relevant details such as the names and contact details of family members, and the hotel at which they are staying, at all times.
  3. Get additional help. An extra person for vigilance against potential wandering is paramount when one relative is momentarily preoccupied, for example at custom clearance or with baggage collection.
  4. Ensure there is a sufficient supply of necessities, such as diapers, to deal with faecal incontinence.


Those with asthma should take precautions when travelling to areas with higher levels of pollen or dust, or where the air is colder and drier. Essential items to bring include their asthma medication inhalers and antihistamines such as Clarityne and Zyrtec. Those with a history of severe allergic reactions should carry doctor-prescribed oral steroid medication, antihistamines and, if applicable, an EpiPen auto-injector.

Food, water, sleep

It is good practice to avoid eating undercooked meats, drinking tap water and using ice cubes. Wash hands with soap and water or use a sanitising rub before eating and after using the restroom. Try to get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet when travelling.


Getting the appropriate travel vaccinations before travelling is important.As vaccination requirements vary with place and change with time, travellers should check in with their doctors before they set off. The following websites may be helpful:

The family travel medicine kit

Ms Lee Yu Jie, Clinic Pharmacy Manager, SingHealth Polyclinics – Sengkang, advises families to ensure that their travel medicine kit includes medicines for common minor ailments. These include diarrhoea, allergies, fever, motion sickness, coughs, rashes, cuts, constipation and the like.

Medicines to take include charcoal tablets and oral rehydration salts for diarrhoea, paracetamol for fever and pain, anti-allergy pills, and pills for motion sickness and gastritis.

She advises that medicines and prescription advice should be clearly labelled and hand-carried. Amounts of liquids and gels must not ​​​exceed travel limits, although exceptions can be made for certain medical reasons (check with individual airlines). Carry a duplicate supply in checked-in luggage, in case the carry-on luggage gets lost or stolen.

Ref. O17