After 10 months of travelling just the two of us, Derek’s parents decided that they missed us enough to come join us on our trip. Of course, this meant big changes for both couples in terms of how we travel and live from day to day. When you spend so much time together, just 2 people, you know how the other thinks and what they want before they utter a single word. It’s a whole new ball game when you include another couple, who are much older, in our case in their sixties and seventies, and who has a different style of traveling altogether. So we have put together this list of tips for traveling with parents.
That’s why it’s so important to take certain things into consideration before you set out on an adventure with the parental units. This will ensure expectations are managed and everyone has a great time.
1. Agree on a budget
Just like you would when picking a restaurant, agree on the budget you want to spend. This will help dictate a lot of the other things that you’ll need to decide on like the destination and the type of traveling you’ll do. It will also help you see how long they’ll be joining you for.
On our end, we’re on a strict budget so we can’t be spending money like it ain’t no thang. We let our parents know so if they wanted, they could have picked different types of accommodations or done certain activities we skipped.
2. Agree on the type of travel
Not everyone travels the same way. Some people like the all-inclusives where you don’t need to move, others prefer going off the beaten path and exploring long-lost corners of the earth.
Before you set out, agree on what type of travel each of you would like to do. This can range from the overall leisure to adventure type or even day-to-day activities.
We found it helpful to give our parents options as to what to do each day, from sight-seeing to beach chilling. This way, they can feel involved in the decision-making process and everyone is happy. What also worked best for us was to do half days: explore in the morning and chill by the beach in the afternoon. You can guess who wanted to do what!
3. Know their limits
Not everyone walks at the same speed, or can climb up hundreds of steps. You should keep that in mind when planning your activities. We are huge walkers, and that’s how we prefer to discover a city. Our parents however, prefer taking cabs around.
We found it helpful to start with a little test to see what their capabilities actually were. We walk a lot when we travel so we’re not afraid of long distances or walking all day. We picked a location that was a 20-minute walk away and saw how long it actually took. This helped us decide whether we would walk, cab or take the public transport moving forward. It also helped us plan our sightseeing days out.
4. Be ready to compromise
Because of budgets, because of physical capabilities, because of interests and preferences, know that you’ll probably both be making compromises. People are often set in their ways and aren’t likely to change how they are.
As long term travellers, you probably have thicker skin and can roll with the punches better so just go with the flow, and let them enjoy this unique trip they’re on with their child.
5. Take time for yourselves
Just like you do when it’s just the two of you, make sure you take time for yourself as well, either as a couple or individually. Spending 24/7 with your lover is one thing, doing it with your parents or in-laws is another. So let everyone know when you need time for yourself, either to disconnect, pamper yourself or to do your own exploration.
Because we wanted to explore more on foot than our parents did, we would often drop them off at a nearby café and go explore, or we would head out earlier than them to get things done. Either way, it was great to have some alone time to better appreciate the time spent together.
6. Agree on a location
Once the budget and type of vacation are agreed on, you can agree on a location. Our parents wanted to visit a place they wouldn’t have gone to on their own, and we wanted to make sure they were not completely out of their comfort zone. So we chose to split our time between two countries: Spain and Morocco.
Spain was well within their comfort zone and offered a mix of city exploration and beach time, while Morocco was somewhere they would never go alone. In Morocco, we opted for a private guided tour with Eco Desert Morocco which made it all easier for everyone.
7. Agree on how you will split your spending there
Just like you agreed on a budget, talk about how you want to split the spending. Is it a 50/50 split for all common expenses? Will they foot the bill when they want to eat at a more expensive restaurant?
Talking about it before you spend will help you avoid awkward conversations later and make sure everyone is staying on track with their budgets.
8. Keep it short and sweet
Although your parents will want to spend as much time with you as possible, they are probably not used to taking super long vacations. To make sure the whole trip stays enjoyable for everyone, we would recommend a 14 to 18 day trip together.
After that, it seems like parents start to miss the comforts of home and are less eager to explore. Of course, this depends on the type of trip that you’ve opted for.
9. Avoid moving around too much
For so many reasons! To keep your budget low, to reduce the stress of packing and unpacking, to make sure you’re not spending more time in a car/bus/train than enjoying the trip, to make sure the parents don’t get too tired. Try to spend at least 2-3 nights in the same spot if you can.
10. Enjoy it. These are precious moments for everyone
Things might get tense or stressful, people will get tired and cranky, but the best thing to do is take a breathe and remember that these are precious moments. When is the last time you took a trip with your parents as an adult? When is the next time you’ll do it?
Just enjoy the ride and put things into perspective and all should be smooth sailing after that.
Are there other things you think would help make the trip smoother? Let us know!
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