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US Travel Info for Elderly Indians - Generic Information >> Main Travel >> Tips for Elderly Parents



This page is dedicated to elderly parents and others traveling to US alone for the First time.

We at regularly receive queries on checklists that individuals can pass on to Elderly travelers coming to US and North Amerca. One of our readers has generously provided the following checklist that he drafted for his parents. Feel free to copy this, edit and use as appropriate. the details given are just indicative and you may have to add/update specific sections based on your circumstances.

Travel Checklist for Elderly parents

Following is a checklist of the important notes and planning lists that you may use:

For Additional information on Life in the US, links to places of worship, shopping etc, visit Sitemap

Important Info Checklist

The first thing to plan for while planning travel is to create a checklist that includes the following:

Prepaid Phone Card
My Telephone Numbers
Mobile Number: 1----
Home Phone: 1----
Contact Address


Suggestions and Comments for Travellers

1. Passports are best carried in your shirt pocket provided it is deep enough and they won’t fall out. If that’s not feasible, keep the ticket and passport in a zippable or sealable handbag, so that they can be quickly produced on demand and also checked by yourself from time to time in transit. Never keep the handbag containing passport and tickets away from you or in the overhead compartment.

2. Carry a copy of passport in the handbag, in a separate folder than the passport.

3. Carry a piece of paper containing following details from both the passports. These details are required to fill up forms while boarding and alighting the plane: Passport number, place of issue, date of issue, name exactly as written on passport, flight number and airline, your address in US.

4. Passport thefts are not uncommon, especially in these times. So do not give out the passport to any non-uniformed, unauthorized person; rather, not to anybody other than the person at the ticketing counter or at the immigration checking desk. Note: Try not to look like a stranger or feel overwhelmed by the novelty of airline travel experience. Since those would be their best targets.

5. All international travelers are expected to report at the airport at least three hours before the flight time. Considering the rush at the airports during this time of year (sometimes the queues are very long), you probably want to reach their at least four hours before the flight time.

6. It is a good idea to keep some dollar currency with you.

7. Do not forget to call me from Amsterdam [or stopover] using the calling card.

8. Security guards, attendants and information desks are always available on all airports. Feel free to approach them in case you have a question.

10. There are five [or X number of] pages in your ticket. Each of the first four pages is a ticket for one ‘leg’ of your journey. As you know there are four parts of your entire to-and-fro journey (Mumbai-to-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-to-Minneapolis and so on). The last page is your receipt.

11. Retain the stubs of all your tickets as well as the boarding passes with you for records. Do not throw them away.

12. In general, the tasks would need to be carried out in order they are listed here. But sometimes the authorities may ask you to do them out of order.

13. Carry the following documents, sent you for visa, approval with you:

  • H1B petition approval.
  • Copy of sponsorship letter.
  • My tax papers.
  • Proof of my residence (the utilities bill).
Note: Keep these documents in the handbag in a folder separate from the one containing passport and tickets. Sometimes the immigration checking officer may ask for the H1B petition while entering in the US.

14. Once inside the Aircraft:
The seats inside the plane are reclinable. It also has switches for a reading light and for calling the attendant in case you need something.
Always make sure you have been given a vegetarian meal. If you are served a non-vegetarian meal by mistake, insist that you asked for a ‘Asian vegetarian’ meal. If they don’t agree, show them the remarks on your boarding pass/tickets to that effect.

15. During Takeoff and Landing:
You are required to keep the seats in upright position during take-off and landing. There are only two places where you are allowed to keep your handbag during take-off and landing, either on your lap (preferrable) or under the seat next to you.
Ensuring that you are served a vegetarian meal could be a painful experience sometimes and you have to fight for it.

16. * Last but not the least, do not get overly friendly or get too close to any stranger or fellow passenger no matter how nice they sound and no matter whether they are Indian, Maharashtrian or not. Be with the crowd and follow others, but do not reveal information about yourself. This is important.

Checking-in in Mumbai [Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad or other Indian International airport]

You may be asked to produce airline tickets right when you enter the interior of airport for security purposes.

 ·        Security Screening: Approach the ticketing counter once you enter the airport’s interior. At this time, your lugguage may be scanned for security. In fact, while on the airport you may be stopped multiple times for security screening. But it will definitely take place at least two times; before you approach the ticketing counter and right before boarding the plane (near the ‘gate’). They will scan your lugguage with an X-ray machine and scan you with a metal detector. Occasionally, you may be asked to open the bags and reveal the contents.

·        Lugguage Check-in and Borading Pass: Once you complete the initial security screening, approach the ticketing counter for KLM Northwest. It will be sky-blue colored (KLM gates) or red colored (Northwest gates). Show them your tickets and passports. Upon review, they will ask you two formal security questions for records:
a. Have you packed your bags yourself and been in control of them?: Say, Yes.
b. Has anyone given you anything to carry on board with you?: Say, No.
(The verbage could differ but this is the intent.)

Your lugguage will be weighed and checked in. They will issue what is called as ‘baggage claim checks’ as a receipt for checked in pieces of lugguage. This is the only document we have in case something goes wrong with the lugguage while in transit. Claim checks are small in size and are attached to the boarding pass (or its folder). You receive one claim check per piece of baggage checked in.

They will tear off tickets for the entire inbound journey (Mumbai-to-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-to-Minneapolis), return the ticket/passport and issue two boarding passes to each of you, one for Mumbai-to-Amsterdam and one for Amsterdam-to-Minneapolis.

Ask them what gate number you will board the flight at and whether the flight is on time. The gate number is also written on your boarding pass. Also note your seat number on the boarding pass.

Your boarding pass will also contains remarks indicating your meal preference and seat preference. Make sure it indicates ‘Asian Vegetarian’ (which is different from other categories of ‘Vegetarian’) and window seat (on one ticket), and seat numbers are consecutive. If in doubt, have the person at the counter explain the remarks to you.

You want to make sure that you have following four things with you before you leave the counter: Passport, tickets (remaining portion), boarding passes with baggage claim checks attached to them.

·        Immigration Checking:  Proceed to the Immigration Checking desks. On the way, you will be given a form known as Embarkation Record to fill up. If not, ask any uniformed airport attendant for this form. It asks for your passport details and other personal/journey details. Submit the form and passport to the police officer at the immigration checking desk. Passport will be stamped and given back to you.

·        Customs Clearance:  Approach the Customs Clearance desk thereafter. Customs personnel will ask you some routine questions about what you are carrying with you. Tell them you are going for touring and there is nothing of value with you. They may stamp your passport once again and let you proceed.

Note: Sometimes, the customs person, or even some other uniformed or non-uniformed person on the airport, might try to extract some money by illegal means. Do not give him any.

·        Waiting in the Gate Area and Boarding the Plane: Then you head to the gate area with gate number assigned to your flight. The gate area opens a little late sometimes in which case you can wait in its vicinity in the lobby outside. The lobby also has what is called as “duty-free shops” and there are a couple of places to eat.

Before entering the gate, you are thoroughly screened for security once again, as explained above. You are not allowed to leave the gate area once you enter it. There are toilets and water tap in the gate area.

Announcement will be made when it is time to board. First class passengers are called first followed by your coach class. Passengers are called in groups of rows. Once your row group containing your row is called, you can approach the door of the walkway that connects the gate area with the plane. It is important to get inside sooner than later to claim in the overhead compartment for your second handbag, if any.

The attendant at the door will take your boarding pass, tear it in half and give you back the stub. Take the walkway, enter the plane, find your seats and keep the ‘second’ handbag in the overhead compartment. Again, do not ever put away the first handbag containing passport and tickets in the overhead compartment. You can put it under the seat next to you or in your lap.

Note: Additional inputs may be needed for travellers connecting to international flights from other cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Baroda, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode, Chennai, Madurai, Nagpur, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayawada, Vishakapatnam, Belgaum, Bhubaneshwar [list is not exhaustive..]

Once you are all settled, sit back and enjoy the journey!

Changeover in Amsterdam [or other stopover]

When you get down and enter the airport, the airline person at the gate will give you the gate number of the connecting flight. Gate number will also be displayed on the monitors hung throughout the airport, say, two hours before the flight timing.

If not, you can easily find information desk for KLM/Northwest on the airport. Show them your ticket or give them your flight number and they will tell you the gate number.

Note: The gate number can change while you are waiting for the next flight since generally the duration between the two connecting flights is sizeable. Check the gate number two hours before the flight again.

Restaurants, coffee shops and duty-free goods shops are located on the airport.

Once you alight the plane, have information on the next flight and you are settled down, call me using a payphone using calling instructions on the separate sheet. The gate area will open at least two hours before the flight time. It’s safer to wait inside. When you are asked to enter the plane, similar security screening will be performed. They will ask for your second boarding pass (one that was issued in Mumbai). If it wasn’t issued in Mumbai, they will ask for the ticket and issue a boarding pass and let you in.

Checking-out in Minneapolis

·        Immigration Checking:

You will be asked to fill up a form while in the plane towards the end of the journey. It is known as ‘disembarkation record’. Yours will be a white-colored card (disregard the green-colored card if given to you by the flight attendant in error). You will be required to furnish details like passport number, passport issue date and flight details. Other than that it will contain general questions about your personal credentials (whether you committed felony, whether you have a history of some highly contageous diseases and so on). Say ‘no’ to all those questions. You will probably be asked to fill up another card for customs. Say you have no customs-worthy goods to reveal (claim the total value to be $0).

As you leave the plane, signs will point you to the immigration checking area. Stop in one of the lines designated for aliens/visitors (other lines are assigned to US citizens). Upon request, produce your passport and the disembarkation card. The immigration officer will verify the documents and may ask you some questions.

Depending on his mood say, “I have a request” and tell him you are here to visit your son and travel in the US, have a plan of staying in for a minimum of “two months”, and you also have a return ticket. If asked what travel plans in particular, tell them you are going to visit Niagara, New York, Chicago and California.

(With new INS (US govt. agency that deals with visas and immigration) guidelines, they might approve of only one-month’s stay unless convinced to do otherwise; so it is important to clarify your intention to stay in US for at least two months.)

Approval for your entry is entirely in the hands of this officer so, whatever happens do not argue with him or irritate him.  In case of any problems, make them a request and call me. If you can’t call, give them my details and have them contact me.

·        Baggage Claim:

Then you will approach the baggage claim area where conveyor belts are located (they are called ‘carousels’). Look around or ask around to find the right carousel for your airline and your flight number. Take a trolly (called ‘cart’) to carry your lugguage if required. Collect the lugguage and when in doubt match the numbers on your baggage claim checks with those on the paper strip attached to the bags.

There will be a counter located nearby to administer the baggage claims and issues. If you can’t find your bags, approach the counter to get things resolved.

·        Customs Checking:

Customs might ask you some questions regarding contents of your baggage. Tell them you do not have any “unprocessed” food items such as fruits and vegetables, and you do not have anything of value (anything that is dutiable).

This is the last stop. After this, proceed to the exit. I will be waiting for you near the exit. If you can’t find me, find a payphone and call me on my mobile number using the phone card.

Things to Keep in Mind while in US

Keep some cash in the house and some cash with you when we are on the road.
Emergency telephone number for police, fire and ambulance:     911
(If the police makes a trip and finds that it is not a real emergency, we need to pay a fine. So we need to make sure that it is a genuine emergency before we call.)

Pre-paid Phone Card:
(Dial this number for free from any phone available)
Dial this phone company’s number first:
Enter this code:                                                
Then enter the phone number you wish to dial. As usual dial 1 before any long distance number.
Phone Dialing:
Local numbers are 7 digit-wide and long distance numbers are 10 digit-wide.
Dial 1 before any long distance number.
Many times you are prompted to enter a digit on phone’s key pad to connect to required extension etc.. Phones in US are called ‘touch-tone’ phones.
Home phone number   +1----
Mobile phone number: +1----
Home address: ----
Alternative Numbers:
Friend 1: +1----, +1----
Friend 2: +1----, +1----

Smoke Alarm:

Excessive smoke in the kitchen will lead to triggering the ‘smoke alarm’. If it continues for long, it will trigger the fire alarm in the apartment building and police will be called automatically. To stop the smoke alarm:
a. Wave piece of cloth or cardboard around the device.
b. Start the kitchen exhaust located right over the cooking range.


Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind before international travel. Hundreds of thousands of students and businessmen and individuals from all corners of the globe -- USA, UK, Europe, America, Canada, Asia, India, Australia, travel abroad to foreign countries for short visits: to attend business meetings, seminars, conventions. Many also travel for tourism or to visit relatives or friends. The average cost of even a simple hospital stay in the US can run into thousands of dollars. Short-term visitors, those on businesses or visiting friends or family, are especially vulnerable since they can be lulled into a false sense of security by presuming that their regular medical policies provided by employers in India (or other native lands), will cover them. That is not true since most insurers of regular policies explicitly exclude foreign travel. Even students coming to the US to study may find it intriguing that although universities may provide plans that cover them after they register as full-time students, they may not be covered when school is not in session. Check out our Travel Insurance section. In this page, you will find a number of insurance providers, many of who also service clients online. Please feel free to contact them directly.

General Note:

1. Make sure you use 1 for every phone number for domestic dialing events/numbers.

2. Basically, do not assume familiarity with the system in US.

3. ....







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