Worried about traveling with parents? Get practical advice from our writer who’s had great trips with her mom and dad (Photo: Brooke Obie)
Whether you’ve got a big trip planned or you’re spending a day with your family in a nearby town, you may think parents and adult children traveling together could be challenging. After several years of wonderful trips with my parents, I’ve learned traveling with family can be rewarding, fun, and easy. And, I’ve got some practical advice to help make your trips go smoothly too.
When my parents joined me in Paris for their 30th wedding anniversary back in 2012, we didn’t plan on starting an annual tradition of traveling together. But the next year, around the same time as their anniversary and my birthday, they followed me to New York City to celebrate. Then the next year we wound up on the Vegas strip and took a helicopter down to the Grand Canyon. Then two years in a row we met up for a road trip down to Myrtle Beach. But this year, for their 35th wedding anniversary, we went all out, traveling the farthest we’ve ever traveled together, to my absolute favorite place on earth: Hawaii.
Through our many treks together, I’ve picked up some tips about how parents and adult children can travel together. Here are 6 ways to ensure you enjoy your intergenerational vacation.
1) Make Sure There’s Something for Everyone
It was easy for my parents and I to decide to go to Hawaii–it’s paradise! But we each had our own ideas about what would make our trip fun. My dad was satisfied to stay in Waikiki–a place he visits for work once a month–but my mom really wanted to venture off of Oahu and onto Maui. So, we split our vacation between the two islands. Since my dad rarely asks to do anything, I knew when he asked for us to take the Atlantis Submarines adventure on Oahu down to the depths of the ocean (ka moana hohonu), we had to do that first. We ventured down to the piers in Waikiki, took a relaxing boat cruise to the submarine in the middle of the ocean, and explored coral reefs, sunken ships and airplanes, and schools of fish 111 feet beneath the sea. The only other thing he really wanted to do was to walk on the beach in the mornings, so we got up early and walked with him.
My mom really wanted to shop, so I took her to a local shop that sold made-in-Hawaii products, and I ventured off on my own one day to see ‘Iolani Palace, the monument of the former Hawaiian monarchy, and learned of the tragic betrayal of Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch before annexation into the U.S. Though everyone wasn’t up to go to the palace, they enjoyed hearing about what I’d learned later. It’s great to do activities together, but leave some space for people to go off on their own and explore their own interests for a little while. It’ll make the time you’re together even more special.
2) Choose Meaningful Activities
When you choose to share activities you love–and why you love them–with your family, it enhances all of your enjoyment of the experience, as you all learn a little more about each other. Maui is second only to Kaua’i on my list of favorite places in the world, so I was thrilled to put together a Maui itinerary of amazing experiences to share with my parents. When we landed on Maui, the first thing I did was rent a car and drive my parents up to Haleakala Crater, 10,000 feet above sea level. With it’s red-orange clay ridges, ocean blue sky and white puffy clouds, it’s one of the most stunning and serene places on earth, and a breathtaking view of God’s creativity.
That afternoon, we saw Ulalena, the play that shows the tragic and triumphant history of Hawaii through song, dance and jaw-dropping acrobatics. This was my second time seeing the play and its heartfelt performances still moved me to tears and taught my parents a great deal they didn’t know about Hawaiian history. I then took my parents a few doors down the boardwalk from the Maui Theater to the Lahaina Grill for dinner where I had my favorite meal–the pink snapper–and shared with them bread and Lahaina Grill’s signature rosemary and garlic butter. To our pleasant surprise, the owner of the restaurant, Jurg Munch, stopped over to say hello, and we were able to gush about all of our meals. He was so pleased with our enjoyment that he gave us copies of the recipes for our meals so we (meaning, my mom!) could make them back on the mainland.
Next, I checked us into the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua–my favorite hotel on the island–and not just because it’s a gorgeous hotel with a pristine beach. The Ritz is the first hotel on Maui that heeded the protests of native Hawaiians and redesigned their resort so as not to interfere with native sacred burial grounds. They also led the way in hiring Hawaiian icon Clifford Nae’ole as the cultural adviser for the property. Many other resorts in Hawaii followed their lead in creating cultural adviser positions to ensure that the properties are respectful and beneficial to native Hawaiians in some way. King Clifford, as I affectionately call him because of all he’s been able to do to advance Hawaiian people and culture throughout the island and the world, founded and spearheads at the Ritz the annual Celebration of the Arts–which brings together Polynesian ethnic groups from all over to celebrate and share history, culture and art with the masses and each other. I’ve written for Mysterious Ways about how the hiuwai (Hawaiian sunrise cleansing ceremony) I did with Clifford in 2014 impacted my life. So I was excited to share that 5:30 a.m. ritual with my parents.
Though Clifford couldn’t lead the ceremony for us this time, he sent his friends, kumus (teachers) Kalapana Kollars and Anuhea Yagi to lead us in the hiuwai ritual on the beach. To the sound of nothing but gentle waves, my parents and I laid down our burdens in the ocean, reconnected to God, and came out of the water jubillant, giving praise for a new day and the rising of the sun, perfectly situated before us, just over the mountains in the distance. It’s the kind of ritual in the perfect setting that can crack your heart open and giveway to fully loving everything around you, as God intended. Sharing the hiuwai with my parents and then hiking to nearby Makalua-puna Point made for an unforgettable bonding moment.
3) Google Activities and Accommodations in Advance.
Make sure everyone knows what the accommodations are supposed to look like so there’s no surprise or disappointment when you arrive at your destination. Also, research the activities you’re going to be doing together, to make sure that everyone will be able to participate. My mom had a hip replacement last year, so when I saw that our Atlantis submarine adventure required everyone to be able to climb and descend from a vertical ladder, I checked with her first, to make sure she wore closed toe shoes and felt comfortable on a ladder. When we drove up to Haleakala Crater, I’d packed ginger candy for us to chew on to avoid nausea that can come from driving around the narrow mountain roads’ twists and turns. I also packed bottled water, bread and Surfing Goat Dairy cheese (my favorite and a Maui staple!) to stave off altitude sickness. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t like the snacks and didn’t drink enough water, so she did get altitude sickness and my dad wasn’t properly dressed for the 50-degree weather we encountered so high up. We ended up leaving Haleakala sooner rather than later. Lesson learned: pack a light jacket and something everyone wants to snack on!
4) Get Social
More than 30 years separate me from my parents, but one thing my mom and I both love is posting photos on social media. If you decide as a family that posting vacation pictures is okay with everyone, share them on your social media platforms and tag your family members in them. Come up with a hashtag that everyone posting can use so you can all find your pictures quickly. Ohana means family in Hawaiian, so our hashtag for this trip was #OhanaTour2017. Just another fun way to revel in the memories as you’re making them.
5) Avoid Controversial Topics
Just because you’re family doesn’t guarantee you’ll agree on everything. In fact, at this stage in the parent-adult child relationship, you probably know exactly what might set someone off and jeopardize your fun trip. Avoid those topics like the plague! There’s a time and place for tough and necessary conversations, but your fantastic vacation is not one of them. Resign yourselves to enjoying your trip and enjoying each other. If you see the conversation spiraling into a bad place, steer the conversation back to something pleasant. Resolve to keep the peace and remember the purpose of your vacation: bonding.
6) Embrace Change
As children transition to adulthood, the parent-child relationship and the expectations and responsibilities of each are bound to change. Embrace it! Vacationing together when all parties are adults and can communicate their wants, needs and expectations with more emotional maturity provides a perfect opportunity to deepen your family bond. Whether childhood was idyllic or volatile, adulthood allows a chance for everyone involved to start again—if all parties agree to do so—and forge a relationship that can be healing and enjoyable. It was a blessing for me that my parents were able to let go of their roles and identities as my providers and to instead allow me to treat them to amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, to teach them something new and to give back in some small way what they’ve given to me my entire life. When you let go of the past and your former roles in each other’s lives, you can get excited about building something new together.