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I’m still on vacation so enjoy this fantastic post by Melissa Hogan about how to travel with your parents. It’s got me thinking that I ought to do something similar with my own parents one of these days…
We were sitting shoulder to shoulder in a tiny car, bobbing and weaving around narrow Irish roads. After 6 days of travel, a comfortable silence had settled around us. My dad looked over at me and out of the nowhere said, “You did a good job planning this.” I almost drove into a shrub. Even though I know he’s proud of my successes, he’s never been one to lavish on praise so this was huge. That sentence alone made the trip worth it.
Traveling with a parent is probably one of the last things a twenty-something puts on a bucket list. You’re finally old enough to travel the world on your own and exert your independence, surely the last thing you want is mom or dad tagging along, cramping your style. But trust me, traveling with a parent can be a rewarding experience that you’ll treasure. You get to share with them something you love and help them understand why your wanderlust is incurable. It also gives you a chance to show them that you’re grown up now and can handle yourself on the road.
As a young adult, traveling with a parent may also give you experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have. I learned that my dad is a bit of a cultural traveller – his favourite moments were from interacting with the local people. When we stumbled upon a horse fair in Kilrush, Ireland I snapped a few quick photos of the stock while Dad went right in and started chatting up one of the sellers. Or the time in Kilkenny we ended up hanging out with a band because they heard Dad’s Newfoundland accent above the din and were intrigued. Those are experiences I wouldn’t have had on my own since I’m a bit more reserved when I travel solo.
You also get a chance to get to know your parent as a regular person and vice versa. You can show off the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired through your own travels. Depending on your childhood, you could also extract payback for past family vacations. But I know you’d rather give your parent a fabulous trip to say thanks for everything they’ve done for you growing up. Right?
I think one key to successful multi generational travel in your 20s is taking one parent at a time. If I had taken both I would’ve been outnumbered and just been the ‘kid’ again on a family trip rather than the savvy traveller I’ve become. Instead, my parents each had their own input into their trips but generally relied on me to handle logistics and deferred to me as the travel expert when it came to finding and booking flights, deciding on driving routes, etc.
In 2009 I won two plane tickets to anywhere in Canada and the first thing I did was call my mom and ask if she wanted to visit Vancouver. We’d never been and I wanted to get the most bang for my free ticket. I took care of all the details so Mom just had to show up. We saw the Rockies, touched the Pacific and had a lot of fun together. After the trip, my mother admitted that I knew what I was doing and could handle myself. Taking that trip put her a bit more at ease with my global wandering.
After my mom passed away in 2010 I told my dad that he and I should go on a trip. I was really feeling the need to connect with him in a new way and spend some time together. Ireland was one of his bucket list items. Mom always wanted to go to Las Vegas but never got the chance so I wanted to make sure that Dad got to see Ireland. We had a fantastic trip that he still talks about with a big smile on his face, two years later.
So don’t outright dismiss the idea of hitting the road with your folks just because you’re not a kid anymore. You never know what you could be missing.
9 Parent Travel Tips
- Don’t overwhelm them.
If your parent isn’t already the globetrotting type they may get overwhelmed if you throw too much at them. The things we find easy like getting a passport or even making connections in an airport can be anxiety-ridden experiences for some.
- Plan some downtime and solo time.
Consider their energy levels when planning a trip. Make sure you schedule some time with no activities so that you can both recharge your batteries.
- Consider the physical requirements of a destination.
You may be able to bound up the many steps of Old Town Dubrovnik to get to the guesthouse but how are the folks’ knees?
- Include them in planning.
If they show any interest, include them in the planning stages. Rather than throwing a guide book at them with a million options, make a shortlist and get them to help pick.
- Check in with their bucket list.
Maybe there’s something they’ve always wanted to see and now would be the perfect time.
- Consider their travel style and be willing to compromise.
You may be a budget backpacker but will your dad want to share a dorm room with a bunch of co-eds? Maybe you love adventure but your mom likes shopping and museums. Do your best to find a happy medium.
- Work out finances beforehand.
Are you treating them? Otherway around or will be each person fend for themselves? Have a chat before you hit the road to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
- Preempt assumptions
For sons travelling with moms and daughters travelling with dads… people may assume the relationship is something else and that can be pretty uncomfortable so find a way to work the son/mom, daughter/dad bit into introductions.
- Don’t wait!
Melissa Hogan is a web designer by trade, a one-time amateur bellydancer, a shoe lover and a travel junkie. The travel bug has only hit her hard in recent years but she’s attempting to make the most of it while still working 9-5 and making St. John’s, NL Canada her homebase. Melissa blogs at Suitcase and Heels, tweets as@avalonmel and does all things Facebook at SuitcaseAndHeels.