As an avid lover of international birthdays, in 2019 I decided to travel with my mom and my aunt to bring in my personal new year. After finding a deal from Travelzoo, I decided to rally my own Golden Girls for a beautiful week in Portugal. I also tried to reset things a bit from the regular since It was my birthday, and it the early stage of my pregnancy. Overall I thought traveling with my mom and auntie would give us opportunities to connect and make memories before becoming a full-fledged mama myself.
Now, if good intentions were enough this trip would have been a 10/10. But PHHHEWWWW let me tell y’all how all those intentions did NOT prepare me to travel with both these queens (and divas) over the course of the week! What I will say is that a fun time was had, but it definitely was an outlook I had to maintain to continue seeing the positives of being with the elders. Perhaps it was being pregnant and having extra hormones, or maybe because I actually got the travel bug in large part due to my aunt, I actually thought things would’ve gone a little smoother given how much was taken care of on our behalf.
While I think each of us had our expectations shooketh in one way or another, as someone who typically travels by myself or in groups that are within my age group I’ll start with where I had to do a bit of recalibration. First, I personally was NOT prepared to be on a tour with the geriatrics, complete with audio handset, coach bus, and flag en tow! I actually cringed at the thought of how I usually run away and run for cover when I’ve found myself in the throes of a large, loudly moving pack…When I booked this deal on Travelzoo I was thinking about everything else BUT the optics for me as a solo, glam, backpacker , turned world-traveler. While I certainly think the transportation and logistics was necessary given my aunt and mother’s mobility, I would have preferred different lodging options, especially as they weren’t really my taste or travel style. That was on me, and I did a pretty decent job of going with it—because we were there and it could still be fun!
Now as for these elders, my mom and my aunt are only 2 years apart, very close, and feed off each other’s energy. While my aunt has been to 5 out of 7 continents and is an experienced traveler, my mom is a bit on the novice side. I treated my mom to Paris for my 33rd birthday and so she had been introduced to my style as best as she could manage. I was excited that she rode the Metro, walked all throughout the L’ouvre, and ate to her heart’s desire. Although my mom is typically down for whatever, being with and around her sister had its cons in Portugal. My optimism was also outnumbered at times, and so much to my chagrin, as my rider, mom’s starting to show out a bit which I didn’t like >/. But back to this energy. . .
Elders are just set in their ways, and their moods are often pre-determined before the sun has finished rising! This was just ONE of the things I realized traveling with my aunt especially. While I think there was more to it for my aunt personally, she just didn’t seem to be in a good mood for MOST of the trip. While I noticed my aunt struggling to walk and catch her breath (which was definitely something I shared she should go to the doctor for), there were times when my aunt chose to stay on the bus whilst my mom and I went for walks. She also almost didn’t come to my birthday dinner until my mom firmly let her know she didn’t really have a choice (thanks for riding for me ma!). And so it was that my aunt literally woke up most days and just decided (and said out loud!) that she couldn’t wait to go home. As for my mom, having been to Paris, she did a lot of comparison (which is totally normal), however, my aunt being a curmudgeon definitely had her retreating a bit, when she would normally be a little more outgoing, and ultimately being more critical of Portugal than I think she would have been had it been just she and I. We certainly still had a great time, however another major thing I realized in the energy and mood scales was that because I was with them, these elders cast a lot of their sense out the window and cast me in the role of care-taker. Now I shared my aunt’s experience with travel, because you would think that someone who’s been to Europe over 10 times would remember certain things. However, when I went down with our luggage to put it in the Uber and left the Golden Girls to meet me downstairs, we ALMOST missed our train from Lisbon to Porto. While I love the matriarchs of my family, I absolutely could NOT believe that they were literally on joyriding in the elevator for 10 MINUTES because they did not press “0” instead of 1 to go to the lobby. . .
Myself and my cousin can laugh now, well past when it happened. But I can tell you, I needed a moment to collect myself and not go into “what were you #$%& (not) thinking Mama mode.” I swear on everything that is holy, I’m not sure why they just didn’t ASK someone since they BOTH speak English, but there we were, 10 minutes late and I just prayed we did NOT miss our train because I was NOT trying to handle any hiccups that would have cost me more money and more negative energy. We made our train (thank the good Lord, moving very quickly with all of our luggage, and again the Lord), and continued on our trip. So you may be asking me, would I travel with the elders again? I WOULD, but ONLY if I wasn’t the only one subjected to their retired, senior citizen energy!
Do I think people should travel with their elders: ABSOLUTELY! I’m a big fan of experiences over things, and while we had some bumps along the way, at least we can say we experienced a place together and as a family. The beauty of sharing my experiences are that they lend themselves to travel education.
So, post-pandemic, on these Facebook streets, and from a few client leads I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of talk of traveling with parents and going on multi-generational trips. But before I get YOU ready if you are thinking of undertaking your own multigenerational trip, let me first share what it is and why it’s the latest travel trend that is on the rise.
Multigenerational travel is traveling with a group of people who span different ages and/or span 2-3 generations. According to Fodors.com, the pandemic definitely shifted many of our own notions about time and the desire to reconnect with loved ones after being separated because of COVID. With many people believing that 2021 would allow for family and other reunion type trips, the Omicron variant hasn’t changed many people’s outlooks about planning. If anything, according to the Travel Market Report families are setting their dates for 2022 and 2023, and being intentional about planning legacy-building traditions because they want to do what they can without knowing what else the future holds. Lastly, with higher airfare costs, and risks associated with travel abroad, we see more families opting for longer stays in local destinations with villa rentals, and/or road trips that allow everyone to experience a bit of the safest (read: outdoor space!) and least restrictive options for their families. While understanding the trend is important (and part of my job as your #travelteacher)—I also think it’s equally important to share why a multi-generational trip is worth it, having done one, and helping to plan them for my clients.
As we get older ourselves and our parents, uncles, aunts, and family age, traveling with them is something that I believe creates positive memories that create special bonding time. Travel with the elders is a great way to celebrate birthdays, a milestone in the family, maximize the time you have left with your elders, and to create a family travel routine. By experiencing a different place with your family you have great ways to learn more about one another, spark joy and having a built in group to experience different things based on the ages on your trip.
When it comes to celebrating people who have lived an entire life (and those who are growing up in the case of the littles) I think experiences have longer mileage than physical objects. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is to think about gifts for the elders who HAVE EVERYTHING they could possibly need. Instead, some sun, laughs, a pool, and a change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered!
Also, as our parents age and also begin to become ill, lose some of their faculties, and get to a point where WE have to seriously become or on the verge of care-taking—even if we do not want to admit it—we owe them something beautiful. We can and should be investing more in the moments that will prayerfully stay with them as they age on and as we begin to bear the brunt of greater responsibility.
With multi-generational trips on the rise, my own lived experience, and a somewhat cautionary tale of travel with the elders: I’ll leave you with some practical tools. If you are thinking of putting together a multigenerational trip here’s what YOU will need in the process (and throughout the experience) before you even LEAVE for the destination, WHILE you’re there, and even after you’ve returned: 1. A LOT of patience: elders get a whiff of new air and all of a sudden have no recollection of their common sense. If you ask people who have traveled with their elders, patience is needed. The elders will need extra support in some way shape or form (whether it’s at the airport, at the hotel, on a tour, they will need you) so just be prepared to get asked (or to have to step up without being asked) a LOT. 2. Your own support system: I traveled with both my aunt and my mom alone, and I would NOT recommend it. I think it is really essential to tackle a multigenerational trip with as much family as possible. This way the work of handling the travel is spread out amongst a few people versus just one. 3. Humility: In traveling with my elders, I knew that I had to do a few things to make THEIR lives easier. The hotels and tour options might not have been my personal preferences, but I also realized it was more about them being comfortable and me seeing a little more of Portugal than I did the first time.
4. Understanding: The elders go through their own inner turmoil, their own reflections, and their own experience even if YOU have planned an experience. I’ve curated many experiences for people to ensure their enjoyment BUT people are and WILL decide what experience they’re going to have AND how they feel
when they feel it. So it’s best to be in a space of understanding versus taking it " personally.
Of course, if you want to take the ease (and headache) out of planning a multigenerational trip yourself—you can always reach out to me and I’ll be happy to create the experience of a lifetime for you and yours of all ages ;-)