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Traveling with older parents

Tips to make vacationing with parents a success

We’ve had the great pleasure to travel with my parents twice in the past year on adventures they probably would not have comfortably undertaken themselves. Being older and of a generation where international travel wasn’t as commonplace as the ease of business and travel adventures of more recent years, I am happy that we offer that degree of comfort and planning experience to allow them to stretch and experience parts of the world they may want to explore but don’t have the confidence to do alone. And as travel partners, they offer fun dinner conversation and a new perspective on a destination that we enjoy learning from.

enjoy traveling with older parentsNot without some unique travel obstacles we are unaccustomed to, with a few pieces of knowledge and a willing mindset, traveling with parents as seniors does not have to be a burden. The payback in relationship strengthening and seeing the joy of exploring from their perspective is worth it’s weight in gold!

Here are some tips and FAQ’s for traveling with seniors to make the most of a multi-generational family adventure.

7 Frequently Asked Questions for traveling with parents

1. What’s the best way to travel with older parents?

We recommend a cruise vacation or an all-inclusive destination to give the most to their experience. A cruise offers multiple ports of destination to explore with excursions while having consistent accommodations and great meals available. An all-inclusive resort keeps your activities all in one place, but with every cost included to make for luxurious relaxation.

2. What activities are available for seniors?

planning is half the funWhether on a cruise or at a resort, there are many excursion options available from global tour operators like Viator and Expedia that appeal to all age groups and interests. From sight-seeing to exploring a piece of history, a simple excursion adventure can add a whole new dimension to visiting a new destination.

3. How can I make sure my parents get to do what they want?

Our best recommendation is to make sure your parents are included from the start in the conversations, planning and vacation-dreaming. They may want different goals on their travel adventure and may want some freedom and independence to explore on their own. On a recent cruise, they reviewed the excursions for each island we were visiting, and they were able to choose what they wanted to see and do themselves. For the days they wanted to explore on their own, we had great success with the agreement that the day’s activities were theirs to experience how they wanted and that every day we would meet at a specified time for drinks, dinner and spend the evening recapping the day’s experiences.

4. My parents have mobility issues, how can I help them get around?

its not as hard as you thinkTravel days are always the hardest. Navigating through an airport’s huge terminals and the experience of long flights can make for a trying experience for anyone with mobility issues. Almost every airline has wheelchair assistance from the check-in desk to getting on the plane – it only takes a simply request that you require assistance when you book your tickets … and consider if extra legroom is required. Passengers with special assistance needs board the plane first to allow them some extra time without a crowded rushed environment. Another mostly unknown service is that most airlines will transport your wheelchair for free from departing airport to arriving airport – that allows the comfort of their own mobility aid to assist while at the destination.

Side note: Most cruise ships accommodate rentals of motorized wheelchairs and accessible cabins if you book them early enough.

5. My parents take lots of medications, is this a problem while traveling?

traveling with prescriptionsBest tip is to make sure medications stay in their original containers while in transit from home to the international destination. Upon arrival at the resort or destination, have them portion the meds to the days or dayparts in segmented containers for use while there. Have them bring an extra few days supply in case of unexpected delays or a few are dropped or lost. Medications with special care requirements like refrigerated medications or needles should be identified to the airlines so they can assist with any in transit needs.

6. How can I make sure my parents are excited to travel and know more about the destination?

Trust me, they are very excited already and want to share in the whole experience! In the 6 months while I was planning for a large family cruise adventure for 11 of us last year (3 generations with partners and parents), I created a monthly email with highlights, tips, quirky facts, excursions, favorite drink of each island, info on the ship, flying over the Bermuda Triangle and a bevy of other interesting facts to keep the excitement rolling. I created a Facebook Messenger group with everyone on it and posted gifs and questions to build the group momentum. I had fun with it and have now been designated the groups travel planner for future trips together.

7. How can I make our travel adventure together stress-free?

Have fun with the experience and involve your parents in the planning conversations. It will allow them to be a part of the adventure and voice any concerns they have. This gives you great information on stress points and helping to design stress-free solutions. Look at the obstacles together and pre-design a solution together that minimizes that stress point. For example,

  • up, up and away!For early morning flight departures, we book a hotel the night before to be close to the airport and arrange their shuttle to get us over to the airport terminal well on schedule. Bonus tip: often parking is included in the hotel booking to save you some money on the crazy cost of airport parking.
  • For all the travel expenses required not covered in the booking fees, we make sure the communication of these extra fees is planned in advance. Checked baggage fees, currency exchange fees, seat upgrade fees, departure taxes, taxi’s or shuttle fees and tipping are confusing extra expenses the inexperienced traveller may not be expecting.
  • For conversations on how much discretionary money to have, we walk through a day at the destination and what they may want to do or spend money on. Help them understand the costs and create a budget for what they expect to be spending (meals, souvenirs, excursions) after the heavy expenses of flight and travel costs.
  • Help them understand the travel restrictions and rules, considering your parents may have last traveled pre-9/11, they may be unfamiliar with the carry-on baggage rules, allowable liquids sizes and other current prohibited practices like dad unknowingly taking his jackknife he always carries on his hip through airport security.

To open the travel opportunities and explore new destinations with older parents doesn’t have to be viewed as an insurmountable obstacle. Like the care and planning that goes into the gear and effort to travel with your children, our parents are easier in that regard to travel with. And understanding their travel obstacles and frustrations can give us great fore-planning insight for our future selves. Sharing new sights, experiences and destinations can have its reward in being part of a shared travel journey with our parents.

Have you traveled with older parents and had additional tips to share? We’d love to hear. Drop a comment below and connect with the GoGirlfriend community on Facebook and Twitter.

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