Holidays and travelling

Going on holiday should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. This is no different for people with dementia and their friends and family. There are lots of benefits to a holiday, such as having new experiences and giving the person with dementia and those close to them a break from routine. However, dementia can make it more difficult to travel.

This page gives tips and advice about planning a holiday for people affected by dementia, including choosing the right type of holiday and arranging travel insurance and medical care. It also explains the best ways to get around and any financial help that is available for taking a holiday.

Planning your holiday

It is important to plan your holiday carefully in order to avoid any problems. People with dementia might find a new environment confusing, or may become worried if something doesn't go as planned. They may also have difficulties readjusting once they return home. On the other hand, their travelling companion may be so concerned that the person with dementia has a good holiday that they forget to relax themselves. For these reasons, it is important to think about what kind of holiday is right for everyone, and plan it well so that everything goes as smoothly as it can.

What type of holiday to take

Everyone will enjoy different types of holiday, depending on their interests, personal preferences and budget. You should also consider how the person's dementia affects their daily life when deciding on the right type of holiday.

  • Staying with friends and relatives - If you are considering visiting friends or relatives, or if a number of people are going away together, you should talk openly about the situation and how each person might be able to help. For example, some members of the group might be able to spend some regular time with the person with dementia during the mornings or afternoons. This can give the person and their usual carer a break from each other. Alternatively, some people might be able to help with tasks such as cooking dinner. People are usually more willing to offer help and support if they are clear about how they can help.
  • Independent travel - Travelling independently gives you more choice and flexibility than other types of holiday, which can be a good thing, but you have to do a bit more work yourself. You will need to arrange all your own travel and accommodation. Speak to the hotel or B&B before you book to check that it is the right place for you. Try to look for places that offer a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and where staff will be understanding and supportive if you have any difficulties.
  • A package holiday - You may want to go on a package holiday where everything is arranged for you. If you choose this option, talk to the travel agency and holiday company before you book. Make sure that they are aware of your needs, and that these needs can be met.
  • Specialist holiday - there are a range of holiday and travel services available for people who need extra support. A person with dementia may be accompanied by a friend, relative or carer on one of these trips. Alternatively, you may choose to use respite services that allow the person with dementia and their carer to take a break from each other. If a carer feels they need to take a break on their own, the person with dementia could go on holiday separately. This could be arranged through a company offering specialist support. For more on this see our pages on Replacement care (respite care) in EnglandRespite care in Wales, or Respite care in Northern Ireland.

    The charity Revitalise provides specialist holidays for people with disabilities and their carers at their purpose-built holiday centres across the UK. See 'Other useful organisations' for details.

Planning your holiday: tips for carers

  • A person with dementia who is independent in familiar surroundings may need extra support when coping with a new environment or changes to their routine. Even if they are travelling with a
    companion, the holiday may be more enjoyable for everyone if another friend or relative goes too.
  • Try to find out as much as you can beforehand about the place you plan on going to. Are there interesting places to see, activities you can enjoy and pleasant places to relax? If anyone travelling has a physical disability, will it be easy for you to get around? Local tourist offices can provide useful information.
  • A smaller hotel without too many corridors may be less confusing for the person with dementia. It may be a good idea to book 'out of season', as places are likely to be less busy and staff will able to give you more time and attention. The charity Tourism for All provides a range of information about accessible places to stay (see 'Other useful organisations' below).
  • Try to be open about the person's needs - for example, with hotel or airline staff. Explain the difficulties or limitations the person may have so everyone knows what to expect. Trying to hide problems can make life more stressful for everyone.