Traveling with parents isn’t always a walk in the park. No matter how structured a trip’s itinerary is, families are filled with complex dynamics, including ingrained reactions often triggered by too much togetherness.
No matter where you’re going together, the key to making the most of family trips (or any trip, for that matter) is making an active effort not to sweat the small stuff. Sure, keeping your parents, their parents, or in-laws happy can help keep the peace, but not if your own happiness (or sanity) is at stake.
With this in mind, let’s talk about how to make vacationing with parents a trip you will remember, in the best of ways.
Be Considerate and Flexible
Unless you travel alone, trips will always come with varying energy levels, athletic abilities, budgets, travel styles, and ideas of what a good time looks like. Keep the trip going smoothly for all involved by considering the company you keep. If you can get on the same page about what the trip should look like, you’ll be more likely to amicably stay on it.
Get a feel for what they’ll find fun. Ask what they’re looking most looking forward to. By doing so, you’ll potentially be able to lay some snafus to rest before you go and before things get more complicated than they have to.
Think about it. Let’s say you’ve planned a once-in-a-lifetime activity that someone is unwilling or unable to do. Then what? The last place you want it to fall apart is after you’ve paid for it or once you’re already in Tibet.
Embrace New Bonds
Let’s face it, traveling with our parents can sometimes be draining. Interactions can become increasingly tense, especially if you both get under each other’s skin. For peace of mind, step outside yourself and try to see the trip from where they stand. Compassion can go a long way.
Also, friends can serve as a buffer. With their positive presence alone, they’ll be able to lighten the mood when you’re getting worked up and diffuse tension everyone’s better off without. Encourage your parents to mingle with others as well. Making friends on vacation can be incredibly enriching, no matter how briefly you hang out.
Let your parents enjoy themselves, even if that means doing the top three things that annoy you most to watch. You’ll feel more energized if you invest less energy into the behaviors that historically bug you.
Hold Onto the Humor in Everything
When it comes to my mother, I often remind myself: you’ll laugh about this later. This reminder also helps me see the humor right in front of me.
No matter how unbearable spending time with your relatives or partner’s parents may feel, humor is ever-present. You just have to look for it. A good laugh can take the edge off.
Of course, if you find yourself in a truly harrowing situation, find a way to be there for each other, first and foremost. Reminder: this too shall pass. And laughing things off together always feels better.
Go With The Group’s Flow
Traveling styles don’t always align. Some people can’t function without a tight itinerary or a full night’s sleep. Others prefer to see where the day takes them or see the sunrise. The bigger the group, the more difficult it can be to get on the same page if everyone is trying to figure it out. That said, don’t put one person in charge of everyone’s schedule either.
Decide on group activities everyone wants to do, and allow each other to do their own thing when you want (or need to). Joining a travel group can have some major perks. Here’s a biggie: it can alleviate the pressure to constantly converse with the same person, day in and day out.
Do your research. Look into tour groups and local festivals. See what’s out there and what sounds good to the group. Hiring a professional guide will allow everyone to take a back seat and take in their surroundings. Besides, you have enough to worry about. Leave it up to someone else to guide your fam through ancient ruins. It’ll make it easier for you to go with the flow, and likely everyone else.
Prioritize Rest (and Space to Decompress)
Nothing leads to an unnecessary spat quite like jet lag-induced sleep deprivation. On any trip, but especially this one, you should prioritize rest, relaxation, and being as comfortable as possible. Traveling alone or with your spouse, you might be okay with a cramped Airbnb with no air conditioning. However, investing a little more in your accommodations will likely go a long way if you’re traveling with your parents.
Do what your budget allows with everyone’s well-being in mind. And if you need space, take it. Decompress and encourage them to do the same. Crankiness is all but inevitable without a bit of solitude. So treat peace of mind like the necessity it is.
Stay Open to Change
No matter the length of your bucket list, the only way to truly have a good time is if you’re willing and able to adapt on the fly. Pin down whatever trip logistics you feel you should, but expect the unexpected too. Nailing down specific travel details can keep bickering at bay. For instance, know where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Know how many hours before your flight you must be at the airport, and so on.
However, stay open to possibilities when it comes to how you’ll spend your time. Avoid being rigid for both your sakes. The point of the family trip is not to check boxes and go through the motions. You’re there to spend quality time together, no matter what you do.
Often, the most memorable moments of a trip with parents happen where and when we least expect them. Open yourself up to potentially hitting a growth spurt in your relationship. This trip may go better than you hoped, planned, or dreaded, and if you start with that outlook, it’s way more likely to.