When you tell your friends that a trip looms sparkly on the horizon, the next question is often, “Who are you going with?” As they mentally click on the dropdown friend list, scrolling for your best, brightest, most-likely-to-get-someplace-on-time friends…and you’ll really enjoy lobbing this showstopper.
Your parents? Are you nuts? The same people that enforced an 11pm curfew when all the cool kids got to say out until midnight? The people who are routinely and unconsciously able to push your buttons without even trying (because they put them there)?
Before you discount out of the hand the chance of traveling the globe or even a small corner of it with the people that begat and/or raised you, from a wrinkled little whimperer ‘til now, consider the following seven reasons why traveling with your parents is in fact, a great idea. In the end, it might be your folks that have to be convinced why it’s a good idea to travel with you.
1 – A break within a break
You can invite your parents to pop in on a longer trip and give you a break from ham sandwiches and late hostel nights. Hosteling has its high points, lovers in the next bed notwithstanding, but eventually we could all use a few creature comforts. Your parents are unlikely to want to stay in a hostel (particularly after reading the previous line). They are also very likely to raise your standard of living significantly while on the road, no matter where you stay.
In her book Not Just about the Tapas, Author Polly Evans reports that her parents brought her some much needed changes of clothes on her somewhat ill-planned bicycle trip around Spain. She points out that while her mother did choose the clothes she liked the best, they were blissfully clean. As we all know, machine washed and dried, new (to you) clothes on the road are well worth their weight in failed laundromat experiences and I-sat-in-something mystery goo.
2 – Parents have a tendency to pay for things
I’m not promoting taking your parents for a ride while away from home, but they can certainly ease your budget on the occasional train trip or wine-tasting tour.
They probably won’t keep you in tequila, but they might take you out for a nice dinner or two, and maybe even replace that flopping-soled shoe you’ve been humping around on for the last several seeks.
They’re probably also traveling with a higher-budget guidebook than you would, which raises the daily budget out of hand. In addition to sleeping in a (gasp) room! with (another gasp) a door! and maybe even a (what?) private shower, you can expect that your parents will shun your $4 dinner in the big city option (at least on a couple of occasions) and decide to eat “a nice meal.” They might even surprise you with their desire to go out and try the local brews.
3 – Experiences and memories last longer than possessions
Give acquisitiveness the cold shoulder and do things together rather than buying things for each other. Let’s face it. We all pretty much have enough possessions. Another t-shirt, more computer gadgetry, it’s just more stuff. And in six months it will probably have fallen from favor or into obsolescence. Traveling with your parents, while potentially a bit more expensive for them than traveling alone, is a chance for them to spend more than money on you, and actually spend time with you.
Offer to have one or more of the parts of the trip as a birthday or holiday gift and your parents will swear they’re resourceful and brag to their friends how mature and unmaterialistic you’ve become. Five years from now when you’re remembering that birthday, that holiday gift, you’ll say, oh, that’s the year we did X. And if you plan it right, X could be the surfing lessons/elephant ride/skydiving trip of your dreams.
4 – Parents are nothing if not sensible about racing around too fast
As opposed to the frenetic do-as-much-as-you-can approach to traveling that comes with too much cheap coffee and not enough money, parents will plan out days that involve more sitting and enjoying and less acre-covering. They’ve also been known to insist on eating (shocker) three squares daily. While the pace may seem a little ploddy at the beginning, a book, some patience and great people watching options help the time to pass quickly.
It’s also a good time to check in on your parents as people, not authority figures, and get a view of them how other people see them. And they may have some quirky ideas about what would be fun. Indulge them in the musical instrument museum or the candle-making tour and you might just end up liking something you’d never have given the chance if traveling on your own. You can also take advantage of their early bedtime and take a spin around the town on your own.
>> Read about the benefits of slow travel
5 – Show them you’re a grownup
Traveling with your parents takes you out of those loaded zones, where they visit you or you visit them. The home court advantage dissipates, because you’re on neutral territory, and therefore, even ground. One of the most surprising things about traveling with your parents is that it gives them an opportunity to see how their parenting has panned out.
They get to see you (possibly for the first time) as an actual, decision-making adult who deals with adversity, laughs at bizarre translations, and maybe even has a conversation in a language they never taught you. I have it on good authorities that it does parents proud to see that their baby is a real, live, adult person. It can go a long way to changing the dynamic even when you’re back in your hometown.
6 – Photo opportunities abound
Don’t take yet another picture on the family sofa, adults behind, kids in front. Move away from traditional backdrops and even favorite family poses. Did you ever notice that you always make the same face in photos? Try something new with your family and you’ll have digital proof that you actually went somewhere and had fun.
Away from home and the regular places you go, faces relax and postures change. Take advantage of this, or do what I did and push your parents into posing for ridiculous photos, like this one where I’ve cajoled my mother to pretend that she’s hitchhiking along the highway in the Atacama Desert. No parents were harmed in the posing or snapping of this photo. You can later use these photos (but not this one, she’s my mother, after all) as holiday cards or even postcards while on the road, which will greatly contribute to the efficacy of number seven.
>> Get tips for taking better travel photos
7 – Turn the rest of the family green with envy
Even in a tiny family, when most of you go somewhere, it means that somebody didn’t. If you do a pilot run with your parents (and successfully avoid or deal with illness and injury), it won’t be long before the whole family will be clamoring to take a trip together. You just have to make sure you really are a good travel companion, or else on the next trip, it’s you that could get left behind.
Bon voyage, parents and all.
Read more about family travel:
- 7 Steps to Planning and Surviving Multi-Generational Travel
- Services that Make Family Travel Easier and More Fun
- 5 New Ideas for Places to Take the Kids
- 21 Reasons to Travel Around the World with Kids
Read about author Eileen Smith and check out her other BootsnAll articles.
1 by jm3 on Flickr, 2 by Bossco on Flickr, 3 by Mexican 2000 on Flickr, 4 by Dental Ben on Flickr, 5 by Shiraz Chakera on Flickr, 6 by bearshapedsphere on Flickr, 7 by star5112 on Flickr