Skip to main content

Travelling with dementia

We didn’t think making our Hawaiian holiday dream a reality was possible, but guidance from our doctor and the counsellor at Dementia Australia helped us prepare. It wasn’t always easy, but it is now one of my fondest memories.

Travel is a great joy, and everyone loves a holiday. If you have dementia, or you’re planning to travel with someone who has dementia, travel becomes more complicated. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. The key is planning and preparation.

It starts with deciding whether travel is the right choice for you.

Deciding whether or not to travel

Dementia can change a person’s thinking, mood and memory. Those are all important things when you’re travelling. Take some time to think about whether going on a journey will be good for you, or more stress than it’s worth.

Travel will be more stressful for someone who:

  • becomes upset when their routine or environment changes
  • needs a lot of help with everyday activities
  • gets disoriented, confused or agitated, even in familiar settings
  • often wants to go home when they’re out
  • has incontinence problems
  • is unable to walk safely or for long distances
  • gets angry or anxious when their needs are not met
  • has falls, or is at a high risk of falling
  • has other medical conditions.

Dementia doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t travel, but if a lot of those points apply to you, you might want to consider a simpler travel plan or another way to find enjoyment.

If you’re unsure if travelling is a good idea, talk to your doctor.


Our travel agent was great. She offered us the professional advice and flexibility that we needed and provided us with easy to read maps and instructions for public transport.

Planning is essential for travellers with dementia. A good plan, which the person with dementia is part of and understands, can reduce a lot of the anxiety and confusion that comes with a change to routine and environment.

Here are some things to consider when planning your holiday. These tips are based on input and discussions with people impacted by dementia.

General tips for travelling with dementia

  • Always ask for assistance. People can’t help you if they don’t know there is a problem.
  • Use luggage with wheels or a lightweight suitcase.
  • Leave the bathroom light on at night.
  • Keep the person with dementia informed of where you are going and what you will be doing.
  • Keep mealtimes, bedtimes, and medication schedules as regular as possible to help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Have your plans and routine written down so you can refer to them whenever you need to.
  • Check the availability of public toilets along your route. In Australia, use
  • Check toilet blocks for multiple exits. Consider using accessible or family cubicles, where there is more room and you can stay together.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Make memories and have fun. Take lots of photos and souvenirs and reminisce over them when you return home.
  • Keep your sense of humour when things don’t go to plan. Holidays always have highs and lows.

Medical clearance

  • Ask your doctor if your travel plans are suitable for your situation.
  • Some airlines, cruise ship operators and insurance providers may ask for written medical clearance from your doctor.
  • Check whether you can take prescription medications on your trip. You may need to purchase extra medication if you plan to be away for a longer time.


  • Pack a first aid kit. Include all medications you may need while you are away. Also include medication that may help with stomach upsets, diarrhoea, urinary tract infections or other temporary problems caused by changes in environment and food.
  • Medication packs and dispensers can help you organise and keep track of medication.
  • Keep your medication in your carry‑on luggage in case your checked luggage is lost or delayed.
  • Bring prescriptions and additional medication. This can be helpful if your medication gets lost, runs out, or if you decide to extend your trip.
  • Take a list of all your medications and dosages in case you become unwell.
  • A letter from your GP or specialist detailing diagnosis and medications used is a good idea when travelling to countries with stringent drug laws.


  • Try a short domestic holiday before doing a longer or international trip.
  • Avoid travelling at busy travel seasons like Christmas.
  • Allow plenty of time for everything.
  • Plan to travel at the time of day when you are usually at your best.


  • Book ahead as much as possible.
  • Check that accessible accommodation, special assistance and transport options are available.


  • If you’re travelling overseas, explore options for a mobile phone plan with international roaming, and save important contact numbers to your mobile phone.
  • Download and practise using messaging apps, so you have quick and easy access to your support networks while you are away.
  • Consider using Bluetooth tracking tags in all bags.


  • Ensure you have copies of passports, tickets and itineraries so you have a backup if one gets lost.
  • Carry details with you, such as your home address, destination and emergency contacts.
  • Mark all the person’s clothing with their name.
  • To help reconnect if you become separated, the person with dementia should carry:
    • their personal identification
    • a medical identification bracelet or other indicator that they have dementia
    • the contact details of their caregiver
    • the contact details of your holiday accommodation
    • a trackable phone or other device.

Travel insurance

  • Travel insurance is very important. It can cover losses, damage and some unexpected costs that may occur during your travels.
  • Some insurance company guidelines may require you to disclose a dementia diagnosis.
  • Be sure to read the policy carefully to ensure it covers exactly what you need.
  • Having dementia may mean that you will be declined insurance coverage, possibly face higher premiums, or not be covered for certain risks.

Travelling by air or sea 

  • Allow time to investigate the best travel insurance for your situation.
  • To enable the person with dementia to adjust gradually to time differences, build in flexibility and stopovers.
  • When booking flights or cruises, ask for special assistance for the person living with dementia. Special assistance can provide easy passage through all stages of boarding and travel across borders.
  • Request seating close to the toilet to avoid long walks. Requesting an aisle seat may also be helpful.
  • If possible, check luggage through to your final destination.
  • Take a change of clothes on the plane.
  • To tune out noise, set up music on a portable player or a mobile phone. Listen using noise-cancelling earphones or headphones.
  • Packed snacks may be useful as a diversion.

Travelling by car

  • Don’t get in the car if you or anyone else is too stressed for you to drive safely.
  • Where possible, engage the safety lock to prevent accidental opening of the door. Take special care when getting out of the car, especially when parking, or near traffic.
  • Use your phone or the car for GPS navigation.

Travelling by public transport

  • Check train and bus timetables before you leave.
  • Buy tickets in advance to avoid dealing with busy train stations and unfamiliar bus routes.
  • If travelling by bus, let the driver know where you need to go, so you don’t miss your stop.

Coming home

  • Allow a few days to settle back into the routine of things. Make sure you eat well and drink plenty of water.
  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor to debrief about the trip, your health and wellbeing.

Useful information and contacts

Smart Traveller: The Australian government’s travel advice service. 1300 555 135 in Australia, +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas

TripAdvisor: a website providing customer reviews and travel related information.

Carers Australia: information and resources for carers. Free call: 1800 242 636, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm.

National Dementia Helpline: Dementia Australia’s free, 24/7 information, support and advice service. Free call 1800 100 500.

My mother has dementia, but her life continues to be enriched with fulfilment. We went on a cruise last year that provided us with uninterrupted time, gave me some time to relax and just be there for my mum while our needs were taken care of. It was difficult at times, but so rewarding to have shared this time together.

Share or print
Last updated
27 November 2023