TRAVEL Q&A

Taking Dad to the Taj Mahal

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Q. Is it safe to take my father to India to see the Taj Mahal? He is in reasonably good health but is 87. Should we go with a special-needs tour?

Liz Crouse, Sterling

A. "Not every 87-year-old is the same," says David Parenti, director of George Washington University's Travelers Clinic. "But the older you are, the more fragile you are." However, with a green light from your father's physician, plus some travel health precautions, your dad should be able to see the Taj in person.

A trip to India can be taxing (e.g., 19-hour flight, scorching heat), so it is important for your father to be fairly fit. If he is taking medications, remember to pack them (plus extras) in a carry-on bag and to adjust his pill schedule to the different time zones. If your father's doctor prescribes medication for the trip, such as antibiotics for diarrhea, be sure they can be mixed with his other pills. While touring, keep cool by limiting activity during the hottest times of the day and staying well hydrated. (Drink bottled water, never tap, and skip the ice.)

Because India is a developing country, health hazards could arise, such as food-borne illnesses and malaria. Most likely, if you are staying in the larger, more touristed cities, you won't need to take malaria pills; the disease-carrying mosquitoes are most worrisome in rural areas. To avoid gastrointestinal illnesses, refrain from eating raw foods and produce such as lettuce, which may have been washed in contaminated water.

For medical advice specifically for travelers, make an appointment with an infectious diseases doctor or a travel health specialist four to six weeks before your departure date. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site ( http://www.cdc.gov/) has a list of travel clinics as well as health information for South Asia.

You can also go with a tour group that caters to older and disabled travelers. The tour operators usually use accessible vehicles, follow a less hectic itinerary and employ leaders with medical experience. Accessible Journeys (800-846-4537, http://www.disabilitytravel.com/), for one, states on its Web site that its tours are for "mature travelers, slow walkers, wheelchair travelers, their families and their friends." Its 17-day India and Nepal tour, which includes the Taj Mahal, starts at $2,895 per person double, land only. Conversely, if your dad still has a spring in his step, you could hire a private guide with a car or sign up for day sightseeing tours and go to bed early.

Do you know of a company that sells a scale that I can simply roll my luggage onto?

Nancy Combee, Reston

Overpack these days and you'll pay for it. Most major carriers tack on at least $25 for bags that weigh more than 50 pounds but less than 70 pounds, and $50 for bags that weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.

To weigh your bag, you can obviously lug it onto a bathroom scale, or weigh yourself and your bag together, then subtract your body weight. Veterinary and industrial models are flat like a carpet, so you won't have to lift your luggage, but they can cost hundreds of dollars.

You can also buy a suitcase with a built-in scale. Ebags.com (800-820-6126, http://www.ebags.com/) sells a variety of styles with digital scales, such as the Ricardo 25-inch expandable suiter pullman for $180. Another option is the luggage scale from Travelon ( http://www.travelonbags.com/; sold at travel stores for $8 to $14): Attach the scale's handle to a wall hook (or hold it up yourself), then place your bag on the hanger. The scale locks in the number for easy reading and comes with a tape measure (ditto for Magellan's $9.85 version; 800-962-4943, http://www.magellans.com/). Amazon.com also stocks a $30 digital fishing scale that works the same way.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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