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In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the importance of seeking your parents’ input when considering vacation locations. This helps them feel that they’re part of the process, starts to build up their excitement for the trip, and enables you to find out if there is some place they would really like to visit.
How you phrase your inquiry can help decrease (or increase!) your parent’s stress level. I used to just ask Mom, “Where would you like to go?” One day it finally dawned on me that this question made her anxious, because she felt that the vacation (and my enjoyment of it) was on her shoulders. I noticed that she hesitated to give me answers and then would revisit them repeatedly, saying that she wasn’t sure about her choice and we could really go anywhere I wanted to go. The fact that she kept bringing up the subject and making excuses for her choices indicated to me that Mom felt anxious about how I’d respond to her suggestions.
So I’ve adopted a different approach. I now tell Mom, “I’m starting to make plans for vacation, and I’m mulling around potential locations. I’m going to do all the planning, so you don’t need to worry about anything. But if there’s someplace you really want to explore or any particular activities (relaxing, sightseeing, etc.) you want to do, let me know, and I’ll take that into consideration. Otherwise, I’m planning on vacation for this particular week. So mark your calendar, because I really want you to go!” I’m asking the same “Where would you like to go?” question, but giving her (and me) the “out” if I opt to go somewhere else.
If you have a particular location in mind and are not really open to destination suggestions, I recommend a different approach. In these cases, I merely mention to Mom that I’m planning a vacation for a certain timeframe to a particular location and would really like her to come with me. I also tell her that I’ll do all the planning (including making her flight arrangements). All she has to do is pack her bags, and we’ll be off on another adventure together!
Mom’s memory is slowly fading, so I also remind her that I’ll send her a packing checklist to help her get ready for the trip. I find that if Mom thinks she needs to do anything beyond packing, she goes on a downward spiral of feeling overwhelmed (not uncommon with aging parents), so I try to minimize her responsibilities and keep things as simple as possible for her. By telling her that I’ll take care of everything, I make it quite difficult for Mom to say no to a trip together!
One final option (albeit a risky one) to consider: just purchase the ticket and tell your parent when the two of you are traveling! Before you take this course of action, though, check with the airline to determine if travel insurance will allow you to modify your dates (or cancel your trip altogether) if your parent is unable to go. If you have enough frequent flyer miles, using them to purchase tickets may give you some flexibility: these tickets can typically be modified or canceled and the miles redeposited into your account easily (though the airline may have penalties for this—you know airlines and their fees!).
Sometimes people just need a little nudge to wake up their inner travel bug! Do you have additional suggestions for convincing reluctant parents to hit the road with you? Please share them in the comments!
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