Travelling with parents can be tricky. Sure, we love spending time with Mum and Dad over regular dinners or occasional day trips, but the prospect of holidaying a week or more with them can be daunting.
But travelling with your folks need not always be as nightmarish as you imagined. With a little planning and forethought, your trip can become a worthwhile and memorable journey, complete with fun (and embarrassing) holiday stories to share with friends and family.
1. Pay attention to meals
As a generation brought up by simpler food and hawker fare, our parents have a tailored local palate that will not be easily receptive to ‘new’ types of food overseas. You’ll be hard-pressed persuading them to give that Beef Bourguignon a try.
Bring along some of your parents’ favourite snacks or instant coffee / tea that’ll relief them from cravings for things back home. For travels to non-Asian countries, jot down a list of Asian restaurants and eateries close to your hotel and in areas where you’ll be visiting. This way you have a list of ‘safety food’ to turn to anytime hunger strikes, and if you prefer, even plan your itinerary based on the locations of your desired Asian fare. After a long day of sightseeing, you’ll want to prevent hangry parents in the group.
Use google maps and save these restaurants for easy reference later. You can do the same for shops and just about any main tourist attraction.
2. Keep them warm and comfortable
If you’re travelling to colder countries, don’t underestimate the unpredictability of the weather overseas. Be sure to bring extra warm clothing even if you think it’s unnecessary. Be sure to include thick woolly sweaters and outer jackets ideally stuffed with down and resistant to wind and water. Down jackets are among the best for keeping warm and aren’t bulky to wear – an important consideration as heavier jackets can tire the shoulders over time. Pay attention to seemingly insignificant areas such as the neck, hands and head as they cool out fast.
Comfortable and durable shoes are musts to keep feet fit and running for days of travelling. Athletic shoes, though not the most fashionable, are the best options for the elderly on the move. For something more stylish, consider shoes from Clarks or TOMS.
3. Choose your hotel wisely
Popular holiday destinations are almost always packed with tourists (think London’s Oxford Circus or Taipei’s Shilin Night Market). For elderly with existing health conditions, this can overwhelm them quickly, or worse, stress them out.
Stay at a hotel close to the city centre, but in a relatively calmer area to get a breather from the crowds. It’ll also be easier for parents to quickly retreat to the hotel for a rest if necessary. Make use of the “Map view” tool on trivago.sg for a location overview when searching for hotels to best select your ideal accommodation.
Spending time with someone 24/7 can test even some of the best relationships. Staying close to the centre allows both parties some personal time by doing separate activities, and then coming back together later.
Alternatively, make use of the hotel gym or swimming pool to get some exercise in the morning on your own. This way you can work up a good sweat and burn off any pent-up stress. Check the “Extra Filters” on trivago to search hotels with sports facilities.
4. Plan a rough itinerary
Before the trip, identify attractions important for you and work out how best to organise them to reduce excessive back and forth travelling. Forget about having a strict schedule, as travelling with parents comes with unpredictability. They may get tired, feel ill or walk too slow, all of which will put your meticulously organised agenda into chaos. A rough plan gives you ample time and space for spontaneous activities while ensuring your must-see sights are covered.
When you arrive at the hotel, inform the hotel concierge of your plans and ask for local recommendations and tips. At higher-end hotels, the concierge are highly trained professionals who can provide excellent, well-thought out advice of value for your trip.
5. Rent a car
Unless you’ve booked yourself a fully organised group tour, you’ll have to do a fair bit of walking in your travels. To maximise sightseeing with minimal effort, renting a car is a comfortable, flexible and cost-effective option to explore the city and the outskirts.
Consider the state of the public transport in places you’re visiting. For example, train stations in Europe are often not equipped with the newest trains or escalators, while wheelchair-friendly lifts are tiny and tucked at the far corner of the platform. Many major cities, being far larger than Singapore, require much longer travelling times. Having your own car takes away the walking, climbing and jostling that inevitably comes with travelling on public transportation.
When renting a car be sure to check for additional costs such as GPS charges per day, accident coverage and extra costs to have a second driver. Ideally, book the car before your trip to get the best availability and prices.
Another interesting and comfortable way to sightsee for a day is to take a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus. Popular with families and the older crowd, these open-top buses go round the main sights in the city, stopping at each attraction for tourists to get off or on. The pass comes with unlimited access over a 24 or 48 hour period, including additional perks such as discounts for restaurants, museums and shops.
6. Have some patience
Last but not least, travelling with your parents means travelling with different mindsets and expectations. They may complain a little, tend to walk (excruciatingly) slow or be completely uninterested in the world’s most famous attractions. But ultimately, there’s really no one else they’d rather be spending the holiday with. Make the most of the trip and take advantage of your new surroundings to create fun family snapshots and memories.
Do you travel with your parents? Share with us your tips and experience!