Yes, I agree. There are zillions of articles and blogposts out there on how to travel with kids. But not so much imparting wisdom on how to travel with parents. Last year, we went on a road trip in Europe with my kids AND my parents. We visited 2 countries, many cities and countless villages. We spent a total of 1897 kms on the road in a large Mercedes Viano. The amount of planning and research that went into the execution of the trip was insane. But the fruits that the efforts bore – oh so sweet. I’m going to list down few tips and facts that I gathered in the course of the planning. Perhaps, it might come in as helpful reminders as you pull your hair out over your next vacation planning!
Tips on how to travel with PARENTS:
Keep their age in mind as you select your destination. My dad is 60+ and my mom is 50+. I did not kid myself into thinking we will do just fine with a camping trip to Africa. If you know their limitations, respect it. If you know their interests, nurture it. My parents are nature freaks. They love the mountains, walking trails, countryside and vineyards. They also dig a bit of cobblestone cities and window shopping! Accordingly, we chose a 3 day stay in Strasbourg, France and 4 days stay in Munich, Germany. Ample nature, ample city. Please do not take them where their interests will surely not lie.
Help them understand the weather in the destination. Check the internet – are rains predicted? Carry umbrellas and rain coats. If it’s going to be cold for them, make sure they pack mufflers, gloves, thermals and the like. If the weather is warm, well, I’ll still make them pack a sweater – just in case the hotel aircon is crazy. You never know.
Leg space will be much appreciated. So, if you can book ahead, get them the front row seats that will give them more space to stretch their legs. Pack essential meds in hand if possible and yes, make sure they are comfortable with the flight timings and layover schedules.
My folks love to cook breakfast while on a trip. They also prefer the whole family to be under one roof, so that we can make most of the together-time. For this reason, we always opt for Airbnb homes. Our home in Strasbourg was owned by a lovely couple who guided us through the home facilities, informed us of the nearest bakery & supermarkets, and even welcomed us with a traditional breakfast cake in the kitchen. We cooked breakfast every day and the pantry area was our zone to chitchat into the wee hours. Word of caution – make sure the home you are selecting has undergone maximum scrutiny possible. Check reviews, pictures and everything else to be sure it’s the best option for you, in the given budget. Use satellite maps to check the location well. We booked the home only after looking this way and scanned the town, walked (virtually) along the street and calculated distance to the nearest supermarket (proximity to at least a grocery store is very important for my family).
Three years ago when we travelled to Spain, I did the mistake of taking my folks for a walking tour. Bad idea. My dad finds it difficult to climb stairs, and the walking tour…well, required us to climb steps and slopes. So, keep in mind the physical factors while deciding on where you are going sight-seeing and how. They absolutely love the countryside, so a vineyard tour in a rented minivan to the outskirts of Budapest bowled them over. A museum trip to study the history of train engines, will not. Lesson: understand their interests & prepare sight-seeing itinerary accordingly.
Road trips & Public Transport
Again, keep in mind leg space. Do not make it uncomfortable for them by taking a crammed car space. Take frequent pit stops to let them stretch their legs and have a break. While using public transport systems like the subway, keep in mind that some countries do not have escalators/ lifts, but stairways instead. Bear this in mind if folks and stairs don’t go well together.
My mom is super strict about staying away from pork dishes (religiously). And yours truly once carelessly ordered a dish not looking into the details, making her have a bite of ham before realizing the horrendous mistake. Oh, it was a bad, bad day people. Lesson learnt: go that extra mile, ask that extra question, do that extra Google search – figure out the food when you are in a foreign country if your folks have dietary specifications. Make sure your ingredient translations are on point.
Have you travelled with your parents and had some realizations on how to make the trip easier and more comfortable for them? Share them in the comments and I’d love to add it to the list. If it helps another child avoid discomfort for their folks while traveling, that would be great, wouldn’t it?