Although I didn’t do much international travel as a child, I was exposed to the benefits of generational travel on our annual domestic family trips. My mom made sure to always invite my grandparents along and stressed the importance of spending time together before it was too late. These experiences in childhood birthed my goal to expose my parents to more global travel, with and without me. Health scares and surgeries definitely made this dream even more urgent this year, and my husband and I decided to bring our parents along for our 3rd wedding anniversary in South Africa. We are truly blessed to be at a place financially where we can assist our parents with travel expenses, and we both agree this has been one of our most memorable trips due to their presence. Before the trip, I was a little apprehensive about planning a group trip (I’m used to only planning for the two of us), and even more so nervous about navigating another country with parents with limited mobility. It ended up not being as difficult as I imagined, and I picked up a few tips along the way that can help make your dream family trip smooth and stress free!
Tip 1: Navigating the Airport with Limited Mobility
My mom walks with a cane, and my husband’s grandma is unable to walk long distances comfortably. We all know the process from check in to boarding the plane can consist of numerous steps and even taking a train, which we had to do on our layover in Atlanta. If your parents have mobility issues, I highly recommend calling the airline to request wheelchair assistance at the airport. Some airlines require 24 hour notice, so it’s best to book before instead of taking your chances at the airport. Not only does the service come with wheelchair rental, but a guide to push the wheelchair while you worry about the bags. The best part is that there is a separate line (read no line) for those being escorted by wheelchair through security and often priority boarding for the whole family. At this point, I prefer traveling with my mom! The service is absolutely free and you can ensure that you make it to the right gate on time since you have a private escort.
Tip 2: Navigating a City with Limited Mobility
So, it’s not only the airport that can consist of lots of walking, but touring a city as well. I made the mistake of taking my parents on a free walking tour once, and I learned that it was way too much for my mom. She suffered through it, even though she shouldn’t have, because she didn’t want to feel responsible for ruining the tour. Please do not put your parent’s in this uncomfortable situation. You may be able to walk around for 2 hours or so, but they would prefer riding around and walking shorter distances with rests in between. Now, I book driving tours or even Uber between main tourist attractions. You can also check and see if each site has wheelchair rental available. When my parents were in Paris, they rented an electric wheelchair to use throughout the day and utilized the hop on and hop off bus tours to drop them off to the major attractions in the city.
Tip 3: Schedule Time for Rest
Vacation days are so precious, so sometimes we want to jam pack everything we can in the limited time we are visiting a country. However, your parents will probably need plenty of time to rest as well. Remember, it’s a vacation so it’s important to have fun AND relax. Our trip to South Africa started with a safari, which was filled with back to back activities. My husband joked that I wore our parents out those first two days lol. Once we made it to Cape Town, I scheduled in either the whole morning or the whole afternoon off each day so that we could all recuperate. Also, if you’re traveling with your spouse or siblings, you guys can always do an activity together without your parents so that they can rest and you can explore a side of the city that they wouldn’t be interested in. For example, my husband and I went out clubbing our first night in Cape Town. This honestly would not have been appropriate for our parents, but we had a blast and they were able to lie down in the hotel.
Tip 4: Book Hotel Rooms, Not a House
We all love our parents, but sometimes we need a break, especially if we are traveling with bae. At first, my husband and I thought it would be cool to rent a house where we could all be together every moment of the day, but we quickly changed our minds and decided to go the hotel route. By booking separate rooms, you can all meet up downstairs before heading on a tour and still maintain privacy. As I mentioned, it was our 3rd wedding anniversary, so of course we wanted space for intimate moments as well. The hotel was also beneficial when it came to meals. We mostly did family dinners out, but when we wanted some time apart, everyone could easily order room service and be taken care of.
Traveling with parents makes for memorable moments that will last a lifetime. Although the planning process can seem overwhelming, it is actually not as difficult as one would think. Hopefully, these tips can aid you in creating the dream family trip you’ve wanted to take. Your parents may not always be healthy enough to travel or even around to travel, so if you’ve been thinking about it, make it happen and book the trip!
xoxo, Global Midwife