Preparing and packing for a holiday when someone has dementia

Taking time to prepare and pack for a holiday can be especially helpful when travelling with a person with dementia. 

As with any holiday, planning well ahead of time can ensure that everyone has the best possible experience. This is especially true when planning a trip with or for someone who has dementia. Some things to consider are listed here.

Passport or other identification document (ID)

  • Anyone travelling outside the UK needs a valid passport or ID. Even for flights within the UK, most airlines require a passport or an identity document that includes a photograph.
  • If you’re travelling abroad, it’s worth noting that the UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 December 2020. There are different entry requirements for EU countries, so check these in advance.
  • Check the expiry date on your passport and on the passport of the person with dementia. For most countries you will need at least six months left on your passport from the date you travel.
  • Make a photocopy of the personal details page of your passport, and of the passport of the person you care for. Keep copies at home and in your suitcase.
  • When travelling, keep all the person’s documents in a safe place that is easy for you to access.

Luggage

  • Write a list of everything you are taking with you in your luggage, and everything the person with dementia is taking with them. If you need to find items, the list can be a helpful reminder of who has what.
  • Make sure all bags and suitcases are clearly labelled with your name and address. If you do not live with the person, label their luggage separately with their name and address.
  • Pack any objects that are familiar or reassuring to the person with dementia – for example, a copy of a well-loved photograph or a comforting blanket. These can help the person to feel more at home. They can also be calming if the person gets distressed.
  • Pack any items that can help you to keep to the person's usual routine. These can help the person to settle in when on holiday.
  • Pack any items that will help with daily caring tasks, if it’s possible. For example, if the person has incontinence, you could pack and use a mattress protector in case of accidents. This will depend on where you are staying and whether you have access to laundry facilities once you are there, so it’s worth asking about these in advance.

Identity bracelet or card

  • Someone with dementia may become confused, get lost or have difficulty communicating when they are travelling. Make sure the person has some form of identification on them.
  • An emergency identification device, such as those provided by MedicAlert, may be helpful.
  • Make sure that the person has a list of useful contact numbers that they can keep with them at all times. This should include your telephone number and those of anyone else who is on the trip. The list could also include emergency numbers.
  • If you’re travelling abroad, all UK telephone numbers should include the UK dialling code of +44 instead of the first 0.
Order a free helpcard

Alzheimer’s Society provides free helpcards that people with dementia can have on them in case they need assistance. 

Find out more

Medication

  • If you or the person with dementia is taking medication, you should keep this with you at all times. If you are likely to be separated from your luggage during your journey, keep medication in your hand luggage or carry-on bag, together with a list of the medicines and dosage routines.
  • If you or the person with dementia usually get motion sickness when travelling, ask a pharmacist to recommend helpful remedies. Make sure you tell the pharmacist if you are taking any other medication. It can also help to get some fresh air by taking breaks during the journey. The NHS website has more tips on dealing with motion sickness.
  • Try to get a letter from the doctor in case you or the person you care for need to get more medicine when you are away. This could be helpful if you lose or run out of medicine on holiday.
  • If any medication needs to be refrigerated during a journey, tell the travel company in advance. You should also make sure you will have access to a fridge where you are staying.

Liquids

  • If you are travelling by plane, you cannot take liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on bag in containers larger than 100ml. All containers must fit comfortably in one transparent, re-sealable bag no larger than 20cm x 20cm (for example, a freezer bag). This includes toiletries, cosmetics and toothpastes. The only exception to this rule is essential medicine.
  • If you need to take larger containers of liquids, pack these in your hold luggage.

Travel insurance

  • You should make sure that you and the person with dementia are insured against any problems that may arise, such as sickness, accidents or lost items.
  • Some policies do not cover people for a ‘pre-existing medical condition’. This could mean that any illness or accident linked to a person’s dementia may not be covered. Policies without this clause can be more expensive, so it is a good idea to look at a few different choices.
  • There are a number of specialist insurers that cater for people with additional needs, including dementia. You can find a directory of specialist insurers on the Money Helper website.
  • If you think that an insurance quote is unreasonable you may have the right to challenge it. It can be helpful to know your rights before doing this.
  • You or the person with dementia may have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Despite the UK leaving the European Union (EU), an EHIC will still be valid for travel within the EU until the expiry date printed on it. If your EHIC expires or if you don’t have one, you can apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Both cards provide some state-provided medical cover in the EU, but this will be different depending on the country you are visiting. Check what cover the cards provide as you may need to buy private cover as well. 
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