Travel with a mixed bag

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February flowers in St. James’s Park, London – photo by E. Jurus

 I often get asked about travelling with other people, particularly with a parent. I was lucky to be able to travel with my mom twice to Europe, and my hubby Mike and I were able to take his mom with us on a combined London & Paris trip. Both women were in their 70s at the time. We also had good friends join us on a trip to England after my mom passed away. Each experience was unique, with its own dynamics. Travel with a senior is very possible – it just requires some planning to take into account their slower pace, need for more rest breaks and perhaps taking more public transport than you might yourself. Older travellers, particularly if they haven’t travelled abroad before or since they were young, are generally more apprehensive about the entire experience, but their worries can be allayed by: a) making sure their room is on the same floor as yours, even if you can’t get them next to each other in a smaller European B&B/hotel, b) outlining all the arrangements for them so that they have a good idea of where you’re going and when, c) keeping calm yourself and reassuring them when something unexpected occurs, and d) being patient with all the questions they may ask.

Both my mother and mother-in-law were terrific travellers, but sometimes things that Mike and I considered relatively minor could throw them off. For instance, my mother-in-law really wanted to see Paris but hadn’t really thought about the language barrier, so she was taken aback after we got off the Chunnel train at Gare du Nord and no one around her spoke any English. She holed up in her room at our lovely little hotel in the Latin Quarter and had a nap while Mike and I went for a walk up to Notre Dame. On our way back we picked up some quiche and a delicious apricot tart at a nearby bakery, along with some tea at a little shop across the street; after having some comforting food and stories about how fascinating the city was around our hotel, and then a good night’s sleep, her enthusiasm was restored and we set out next morning in unanimous high spirits.

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The Clarence, a great pub with bar lights in the shape of black bowler hats, or ‘derbys’, Whitehall, London – photo by E. Jurus
  • if staying in one spot, like a resort, and driving around, consider renting 2 cars — that way you’re not glued at the hip to go places and if one couple wants to see a particular sight but the other doesn’t, you can easily split up for a half-day or day
  • plan to spend some time apart: you’ll feel better after a bit of a breather — with our friends in England, we decided to split up to walk around the small city of York, then met up at a pre-designated pub for dinner, and spent the evening together on a ghost walk
  • plan a variety of activities that incorporate everyone’s tastes — everyone on the trip should be able to enjoy something they particularly like, and if you have to split up for a few hours to do it, that’s fine
  • make sure everyone has a guide book with a map, and a transportation map as well, so that everyone can find their way around
  • with other travellers in your group, you have a wonderful opportunity to take photos of each other, and these can form some of your best memories

To sum up, travelling as a group can be a great experience or a terrible one — it’s all in how you approach it. Keep a sense of humour, schedule rest and food breaks, check your fellow travellers for comfort regularly, and include something for everyone, and you’ll have a terrific time!

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