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A Guide to Hiring Travel Companions for Seniors

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When you truly love to travel, that passion is lifelong. The pleasure of sipping wine on a sunny terrace in Tuscany, or seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden, never loses its luster. The process of traveling gets more difficult as you get older, however, especially when your mobility is limited. Solo travel may become impossible — but what can you do if you want to continue exploring the world? Hire a travel companion.

What do travel companions do?

That depends on a traveler’s needs and abilities. One type of companion is just that — a companion to share the journey with you, if you prefer not to travel alone or if you suffer from travel anxiety. That person can help make travel arrangements, join in the sightseeing and send updates to family members back home.

Another kind of travel companion assists you while you’re in transit. They can pick you up at home, drive you to the airport, carry suitcases, guide you through the check-in and security processes, sit next to you on the flight, and finally help retrieve your bags. They may accompany you on your vacation, too, or simply show up again for the return journey.

The next level is a medical travel companion who can manage medication and help with personal care such as bathing and dressing. If you have a serious condition that requires the care of a medical professional, you can hire a flight nurse, usually an RN.  

Travel companions aren’t just for seniors. They can make life easier for parents traveling with multiple young children, travelers who have disabilities or special needs, or people who are recovering from illness or surgery.

What to consider when hiring a travel companion 

  • Cost: Hiring a travel companion for seniors and others isn’t cheap, but the price depends on the services you require. The cost of flying coach with a travel companion on a domestic trip might be $2,800 to $4,500 (for both seats), Doug Iannelli, owner of Flying Companions, tells The New York Times. Hiring a traveling nurse for a flight might cost $3,000 to $5,000 (not including the actual cost of airfare).i Make sure you understand what’s included in the quoted price.
  • Qualifications: Has a companion passed a background check? What medical credentials does the companion have — CPR and first aid training, or a nursing degree? Ask about years of experience, including any time spent as a travel or airline professional. Does the companion have experience working with people who have your specific medical condition or disability? Can they speak the language of your destination country?
  • Physical abilities: Is your travel companion physically able to help transfer you to and from a wheelchair, if needed? How about pushing a wheelchair up a hill, or lugging heavy suitcases?ii
  • Insurance: Travel companions should have liability insurance, as well as travel insurance or international medical insurance.

Does travel insurance cover travel companions for seniors?

Traveling with a companion can give you peace of mind, but it’s not a substitute for the protection travel insurance offers. Look for a plan with robust emergency medical benefits and emergency medical transportation benefits, like OneTripSM Prime. Existing medical conditions can be covered by certain travel insurance products from Allianz Global Assistance, but specific requirements apply. (Read more about how travel insurance covers existing medical conditions.)

What about your companion? For travel insurance purposes, a travel companion can be paid or unpaid. A companion is defined as “a person traveling with you whose name appears with yours on the same trip arrangement and who will accompany you on your trip.” (A group or tour leader doesn’t count, unless you’re sharing a room.)

The benefits that travel insurance provides generally only cover the insured traveler, but some do affect companions. For instance, depending on the plan you choose, these all can be covered reasons for trip interruption/cancellation coverage (specific requirements apply to each):

  • The serious covered illness, injury or death of a traveling companion
  • A traveling companion is quarantined (if he or she contracts norovirus on a cruise ship, for example)
  • A traveling companion is in a traffic accident on the way to the airport or other point of departure, and either needs medical attention or needs to repair the car because it’s unsafe to drive
  • A traveling companion legally separates from or divorces their spouse after the plan’s effective date and before your departure date
  • A travel companion is terminated or laid off
  • A travel companion is called for military duty

Trip interruption/cancellation coverage can reimburse you for lost prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses when you have to cancel or cut short your trip for a covered reason. Travel insurance can also reimburse a traveler for additional accommodation and transportation expenses incurred because a traveling companion is hospitalized. Not all of these benefits are included in every plan, however, so read your policy documents carefully.

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