Tips For Traveling With Older Family Members

Multigenerational travel can be both life changing and life affirming — and sometimes, a bit challenging as well. When traveling with older family members, it’s important to take their needs into consideration and equally important to remember just because a person is older doesn’t mean they’re disabled or their spark for adventure is burning any less brightly than your own.

At 79, my mom, Jean, could probably chase down a freight train without much trouble, but she’ll be the first to admit she needs a break afterwards. We’ve traveled together many times, and when I asked her what she thinks are important points to consider for planning adventures with senior family members, here’s what she had to say:

“We probably want to see things you don’t want to see.”

You may be related, but your mother, father or other family member has his or her own interests. They may long to see a museum exhibition or event in your destination city they know would bore you to tears, so they never say anything. Ask before you go, and make sure everyone’s interests are addressed.

“If you’re booking my long-distance flight, build in a stop along the way.”

Depending on trip length, this might mean a few days’ stopover en route. Flying to a destination in Asia from the East Coast of the United States? Make a multiple-night stopover in Honolulu (HNL) part of the fun.

“My energy levels may peak and wane at different times of the day than yours.”

Just like with any other member of your family, some people are early birds who like to rise with the sun and call it a day before it gets too late, while others don’t get fully revved up until later in the day. And travel can be exhausting, no matter what your age or fitness level, so build in breaks throughout the day. My mom has a psychic gift for sussing out the most fascinating tearoom or café in any town for afternoon downtime, and I always follow her lead.

Other things to keep in mind are food choices may be trickier, and stairways and long walks can be challenging for those with mobility issues. Cruises are ideal when traveling as a family group, as the stateroom is always within range for naps or relaxation and accessing entertainment doesn’t involve taxis or parking. Carry copies of prescriptions and vital medical information with you, and make airport arrangements in advance for travelers who may need a little extra time or help en route.

Most of all, listen — with your ears and with your heart. Your loved one may not want to spoil the fun by admitting they’re tired or hungry. Be sensitive to cues that let you know it’s time to take a breather. And then listen even harder. Your older family members likely have some amazing travel stories they’d love to share that may shed new light on your destination or enrich your own experience in completely unexpected ways.