Over the past 20 years, I’ve traveled in excess of 300,000 miles with mom and I won’t kid you, sometimes it can be challenging. After all, we both know how to push each other’s hot buttons (both intentionally and unintentionally). In addition though, being in close proximity with anyone for an extended period of time can get on your nerves.
Read on for 5 tips on how to NOT LOSE IT while traveling with your parents:
1) Get Sleep
Nothing makes me crabbier and quick to anger than being tired. In fact, there are times I can hardly stand to be around myself when I’ve fallen behind on sleep. Unfortunately, the same goes for my mom so when we’re both jet-lagged from flying to the other side of the globe, it’s best to avoid us, particularly in that first 24 hours! Although many seasoned road warriors and travel sites tell you to force yourself to stay up when you arrive to help adjust to a time-change, I listen to my body and if it’s begging for sleep (particularly to the point where I’m feeling sick), I lay down for a quick snooze. I won’t let myself go to bed. However, a little power nap for 30 – 60 minutes does wonders for my attitude (and mom’s). And I find by taking a quick nap, my nerves are not as frayed and it’s easier to keep my hot buttons in check. So do what you can while in route to catch some sleep and take care of yourself once you arrive as it will go a long way in keeping your emotional baggage in check.
2) Don’t Overbook
I am a planner from way back so when going to a new city, I have a tendency to book every moment of the day (and I do mean every moment). Then if we fall behind (which inevitably we do), I start to look for who’s to blame which goes nowhere good. Let go of “seeing everything there is to see” in a city and instead, focus on enjoying the small moments which make up your new surroundings. Take the time to have a glass of wine at an outdoor café, enjoy a leisurely meal (including dessert!) at a restaurant you read about on the flight over – just be in this moment and let the world revolve around you. Don’t let time be your master when vacationing with your parent. Instead, take control and plan downtime into the schedule to give you and your parent an opportunity to catch your breath and notice the rhythm of the city around you.
3) Plan Activities on Your Own
To help keep a positive mindset while on vacation, do some research before you go on your trip and identify activities that you and your parent can do together as well as activities you can each do separately. Being in contact 24/7 while on vacation can tax even the best of relationships (mom and I can attest to this). So give each other a bit of space and some time alone. I typically take a walk by myself every day really early (before Mom is up and moving around). Or in lieu of a walk, I visit a local coffee joint for an early morning espresso before enjoying a leisurely breakfast later with Mom (meal times have only slowed down with her as she’s gotten in her 80s). Going to the gym is also something I’ll do solo (Mom would never have an interest in joining me), and it’s a healthy activity that lets me burn off calories (or stress) that may be building up. On our trip to Australia, I dove the Great Barrier Reef while Mom hung out by the hotel pool and read, ate, and drank. We both had a marvelous day, and the time apart made our time together that much more special!
4) Pause Before You Speak
Being the extrovert that I am, this is tough one for me as I have a tendency to speak first and think later. However, consciously engaging my mind first before opening my mouth has stopped me many times from being a jerk. Keep the scream or nasty comment in your head and instead, count to ten, then force yourself to slow down your speech as you engage your parent. It’s amazing how this quick technique does wonders for keeping some crazy comment from escaping.
5) Just Let It Go
Understand you only get to blame your parents for so long and then the onus falls on you to grow up and just let it go. Let go of the anger, of the blame, of the emotional baggage that is holding you back from having a good relationship with your parent. Now, is this always possible? Of course not, but it’s a good idea to check-in with yourself and see if perhaps it’s you who’s blowing comments or your parent’s actions out of proportion. As an example, when visiting mom in Indy, it drives me crazy when mom waits up for me when I’m out at night with friends. I feel like I’m 17 again as she can’t go to bed until I’m home. The horrors! How dare she care?!?! Perhaps it’s just me and I need to learn to let it go….
For additional tips, check out my earlier blog Letting Go of Emotional Baggage when Traveling with Your Parents. And let me know if you have suggestions that worked for you! Always looking to beef up my toolbox!