Dear Donna:

My mom and I have both had a pretty tough year. My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and battled it for six months before his death. The two of us are pretty worn out and in need of some fun and relaxation. I would like to take my mom on a real vacation, but she has some mobility challenges. She can walk only for short distances before she needs the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.

We are open to traveling by car, plane, or even a train. The key is to make our trip as easy as possible for my mom. Do you have any suggestions? We live in southeast Michigan but are open to going anywhere!


Anna in Midland, MI

Vacation Destinations for Older Adults with Limited Mobility

Dear Anna:

My condolences on the loss of your father. Caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness can be mentally and physically exhausting. It seems like you and your mom could definitely use a vacation!

Since it sounds like your mom’s mobility issues are understandably a worry for you, I’m sure it’s tough to figure out how to plan your getaway. With that in mind, here are a few tips that might help you narrow your choices:

  • Consider taking a cruise: While cruise ships can be large and require a considerable amount of walking, they also have accessible options for those who require it. Most have wheelchairs that can be rented for the duration of the trip, as well as accessible cabins and physical environment. Features often include wider doorways with no sills or lips, raised toilet seats, handrails along hallways, accessible balconies, lower rods in closets, and benches in the shower. On-board restaurants and theaters have designated seating for those who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. This article ranking the best cruise lines for people with limited mobility might be a helpful read.
  • Explore a national park: After the tough months that you and your mom experienced, connecting with nature might give your spirits a boost. Fortunately, America’s National Park Service has a variety of options for people who struggle with mobility. Many have accessible trails and scenic drives that are great for people of all ages who have limited mobility. Some of the parks also offer educational programs and tours led by park rangers so you can learn about the natural history and the diverse wildlife. A few senior-friendly parks include Acadia National Park in Maine, Yosemite National Park in California, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii.
  • Travel by train: If busy airports, long car rides, national parks, or large cruise ships don’t appeal to you, maybe taking a train trip will. Among the many benefits of rail travel is that you can sign up for a trip that includes your own sleeping space. You’ll avoid having to unpack and repack your suitcase at multiple locations. Train travelers over the age of 65 often receive special discounted pricing, too. The Accessible Travel Services page on Amtrak’s website has some great information you’ll want to review if you decide to hit the rails for your vacation.

Finally, if you decide you’d like to include younger family members in your travel party, we have some information that might help you plan. “Intergenerational Summer Vacations” contains more helpful destination ideas.

Sending you and your mom best wishes for a great vacation!

Kind regards,