Today’s question comes from a reader named Lee Ann Hadley. On several occasions her mother has mentioned an interest in going to Hawaii together, but whenever Lee Ann pushes her to go, she comes up with one excuse after another to explain why now is not the right time. Lee Ann asks, “Do you have any thoughts on overcoming a parent’s reluctance to go on vacation?”

Thanks for the question, Lee Ann! I know where you’re coming from: even after all the traveling Mom and I have done together, she still gets anxious and hesitant when I start discussing taking a vacation. Through the years (and thousands of miles), I’ve figured out some good tactics to use when getting her to commit to a vacation. I hope a few of these suggestions will work for you.

My guess is that your mom may be reluctant to commit to vacation because she’s feeling overwhelmed by figuring how she’s going to get there and other details of vacation planning. (This is definitely true for my mom: she doesn’t have Internet access, so she has no idea how to even book a flight these days!) And planning a trip to Hawaii can be a pretty big undertaking, as I certainly discovered when Mom and I went there in early 2008. (In fact, a lot of people find travel to Hawaii daunting: I’ve even answered a reader question on this very subject.)

Through experience, I’ve found that the only way to overcome a parent’s reluctance to travel is to tell him or her that you’ll handle the planning (including some of the big expenses, if your budget allows)—and then actually follow through with that promise.

First, to help settle your mom’s anxiety, send her information on the island(s) you’re targeting. Make sure it highlights the stunning scenery and available activities so she can see the fun she’ll have by actually going on vacation. Send her a few planning details, too, such as a rough itinerary. You don’t have to purchase anything at this stage—just include details such as specific flight information (if you won’t be traveling together, select flights that arrive close to one another so she sees she won’t be in the airport by herself) and car transportation (either rentals you use for the duration of your stay or ground transportation just to the hotel). Also send her information on hotel options—and if your mom likes to chill out and relax poolside as much as mine does, include pictures of the hotel pools to inspire her!

All of this information will show your mom that the “big-ticket items” (as my mom calls them) are easily handled. Knowing that she just needs to show up at the airport can go a long way toward putting her mind at ease.

You may also want to consider some ways to make the actual travel part of the vacation less stressful for your mom. For example, my mom has this crazy fear that she’s going to miss her flight or not be able to find the gate. (How that would even be possible in an airport as small as the one in Indianapolis is beyond me. But it’s not about what I think—it’s about what Mom thinks. Her real fear is therefore something I need to handle.) So to alleviate her anxiety about dealing with airports, whenever possible I first go to Indianapolis to meet her. Then we can be on the exact same flights (even if our connections take us back to NYC, where I live).

I also arrange for Mom to have a wheelchair in each airport. Not only does this help keep her calm in those noisy environments, it also helps her manage what can sometimes be big distances between gates. Without the wheelchair, she gets exhausted from trying to walk through the airport and ends up tired even before the plane leaves the ground (which is not a good way to start a vacation!).

 

I hope these ideas can help you get your mom to commit to a vacation, Lee Ann! Let me know how it goes!