I recently returned from an incredible 10 day trip, with my parents, to Israel, Palestine, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and France. Prior to leaving, I was super excited but also a bit apprehensive. I didn’t know how everything was going to turn out because I’m used to traveling by myself or with a close friend. Fortunately, the trip went off without a hitch but I had to make some adjustments. If you have the opportunity to travel with your parents or loved ones, I would encourage you take the opportunity to do so. The inconveniences are worth seeing the happiness and joy on the faces of those who you love the most.
Here are my 10 tips for a headache-free trip:
1.Bring a healthy dose of patience and humor– It’s important to always be patient and have a sense of humor especially when traveling with your parents because it will make things go a lot smoother. After a particularly stressful day, while traveling to Bethlehem, as our taxi driver was loading the luggage in the car, the sole of his shoe came off. It was hilarious because he said the shoes were brand-new. You had to be there but it definitely eased the frustration we felt at the time.
2. Be prepared to walk at a slower pace-My parents are in decent shape but compared to me, they walk at the speed of grass growing. Sorry mom and dad. 😦
2. No late night partying– I’m not someone who club hops but when I’m abroad, I like to experience what the nightlife is like. My parents weren’t interested in the nightlife so I didn’t do any late night exploring on this trip. I’m not complaining but had I been with friends or solo, I would have checked out the nightlife scene at least once.
3. Nicer accommodations are essential-I have some great travel stories from my stays in hostels but my father was adamant he would NOT be staying in a hostel. I think it would have been an educational experience for them but they weren’t interested. As a result, I booked hotels which were at least 4 stars, with great reviews, on TripAdvisor. I made sure the hotels met my dad’s standards. It’s also important to keep in mind hotel rooms in Europe are smaller in comparison to standard U.S hotel rooms. Hence, my dad referred to the hotels in Switzerland and France as big closets, lol.
4. Prepare to take charge-My role as a daughter changed quickly to that of a parent ( BTW I don’t have kids for a reason). There are some people who love being in charge and those who prefer others to take charge, I belong in the latter group. As result, at times I was annoyed when my parents relied upon me to handle flight arrangements, hotel transportation, and familiarity with the local customs. I was their guide and currency conversion calculator. Prior to our trip, I told my father the importance of downloading a currency conversion app. He downloaded the app but continued to ask me how much everything was in U.S dollars, lol.
5. On our trip I wore many hats, I often functioned as a translator even when English was widely spoken, lol. On our tour to Liechtenstein, our tour was led in Spanish and English. I didn’t mind translating the Spanish portion when the tour guide was having a side conversation with the other participants on the tour. However, I did find it odd when my dad would ask me to ask the waiter something when clearly the waiter spoke English and last time I checked, my father does too.
6. Fewer opportunities to meet the locals-One of the best ways to get a feel for a particular country or city is to talk with the locals. On this trip, because I didn’t do much exploring by myself, I didn’t have many chances to interact with the locals. For example, sometimes when you stay at a hostel you can ask the local staff for recommendations about places to go which aren’t as “touristy”. Also, when you’re a solo traveler, people are much more likely to approach you. As result, you tend to have more opportunities to meet locals who are usually more than willing to share with you what their day to day life is really like opposed to just having the tourist experience.
7. Don’t overbook-Our itinerary in Israel was jam packed which was why I didn’t want to have every day planned when we were in Europe. Having too many things planned in one day can really tire your parents out which can lead to grumpiness. Dad-I’m talking to you. So it’s important to schedule free time so everyone can rest in between excursions.
8. You may have to remind your parents they can’t pay with $US dollars. This can sometimes be confusing because in Israel, dollars in many places were readily accepted. In Switzerland and France, they prefer their own currency which makes sense because currently the Euro is stronger than the U.S dollar. The exchange rate for Swiss Francs is nearly 1 to 1.
9. Explain the importance of packing light. I was not very good at this because my advice fell on deaf ears. I headed out for our 10 day vacation with a backpack but of course my parents had one LARGE suitcase, a small carry-on, and a backpack. I encouraged my parents to take one small carry-on each but the idea of taking such a small bag for 10 days was unfathomable for them. The reason why I encouraged them to carry a small bag is because it’s always easier to navigate when you don’t have heavy luggage holding you down and you can avoid luggage fees. For our flights between Zurich and Paris, to check a bag was an additional $30. Case in point- When we arrived in Zurich we opted to take the tram which was about $6 per person versus a taxi for $70. Obviously a no-brainer. When we arrived to our stop, we still were unsure of where exactly our hotel was. Well after asking a few people, we figured out the hotel was in walking distance. We even asked a taxi driver to take us because at this point my parents were tired of lugging their bags around, his response was oh it’s only 5 minutes away so he declined to take us. I’ve never heard of a taxi driver declining money but that’s neither here nor there. What we didn’t know was the 10 minute walk included a nice STEEP incline. I managed ok because I had my book-bag and a small tote. My parents on the other hand struggled so I ended up pushing my mother’s GARGANTUAN suitcase most of the way to the hotel and my dad managed the smaller bag.
10. Prepare to be embarrassed at least once. As we settled on the plane, my parents were noticeably having some problems with the in-flight entertainment system. So as I was selecting a movie to watch, my mother LOUDLY turns to me and says, ‘HOW DO YOU TURN DOWN THE VOLUME?”, I’m thinking well I’m sure anybody on the plane could answer that since they all just heard you practically yell my ear off, lol. Of course I politely adjusted the volume for her as well as my father.
Don’t overthink everything. Just go and have a great time! I’m sure the memories you create will be worth every penny spent and more! Several times during our trip, my parents told me they never thought they would see places like the Louvre or the Swiss Alps, aside from watching them on television, and for that alone it was worth it and more!