12 Important Things I Learnt From Travelling With My Parents


Faruq Senin •  Mar 08, 2019

Updated 9 Jan. 2020

There are so many articles out there which give you tips on how to travel with family or kids, but not many will tell you what to do when you're travelling with your parents. If you're wondering, "do I really need this guide?" Then, all the more you should read on!

I've been on several trips with my parents and I can definitely tell you, it's not as easy as you'd think it is! If you're wondering, I'm not going to be talking about the trips I took with my parents as a kid, but rather those trips that I travelled alone with them and those that I planned for them. Through it all, I've definitely learnt some valuable lessons and grown to be a better traveller. So, here are some tips that I would like to share with you ?

Credit: Giphy

Planning phase:

1. Deciding where and when to go

Planning where to go can be tricky. Of course, you'd want somewhere that excites both you and your parents. Sometimes, your parents make it easier for you by telling you where they've been longing to go ? I've been lucky that my parents have done that for me most of the time. But if you do have to choose, make sure you consider these factors:

  • Types of activities - The destination you choose has to have something for your parents to do. It's important to ensure that your parents don't feel left out. Even if a place is known for say, water or extreme sports which your parents are most likely not able to do, do make sure that there are alternatives for them.
  • Accessibility - This is very important especially if you're planning your own vacay and moving a lot from place to place. If you're visiting cities, choosing one with efficient public transport is essential. Or if you're heading to places where public transport is not so readily available, then perhaps getting a private driver is a better option.
  • Weather - If you're visiting a country with 4 seasons, then it's best to choose a time that's not too cold (or too hot!). But if you're hoping to experience winter or snow, then just remember to pack more warm clothing for your parents as older travellers tend to be more sensitive to cold weather. If you're visiting a tropical country where it's mostly hot or wet, then just be sure to keep your outdoor activities to a minimum, and don't forget plan for a rainy day too ☺️
  • Unpleasant situations - When we're off travelling on our own or with friends, we sure don't mind bustling markets or crossing busy roads but the crowd, noise and heavy traffic might be too overwhelming for our parents sometimes. So, this is something to bear in mind when choosing a destination too.

For those of you travelling with both parents and kids, it might be even harder to pick a destination that's a perfect balance for your whole family. But lucky for you, we've rounded up these 10 amazing destinations that you should treat your parents to and also suitable for huge family vacations.

2. Finding the right accommodation

The next step is to find the right accommodation that's comfortable and will suit all your needs. You might want to stay in that chic or hipster boutique hotel but you have to ask yourself if it ticks all the boxes.

Whether it's a hotel, Airbnb or apartment, the first thing to consider is whether there's an elevator in the building. You wouldn't want your parents to climb up and down the stairs every day, right? And it's even more tiring when you've just reached the accommodation and need to move your luggage up a flight of stairs ? It might be easier to find accommodation with elevators in modern cities like Seoul, Tokyo or Hong Kong. But for more traditional cities like Kyoto, you might have to spend more to stay in a hotel instead.

We also tend to overlook the simple things like checking for dim lighting, a standing shower instead of a bathtub or if there's even a proper bed (especially for traditional Japanese inns). But just remember that the slightest discomfort can ruin your parents' mood for the whole vacation, and you wouldn't want that!

It's also important to check with your parents if they are alright with the amenities in the hotel room. Personally, my mom would always ask if the hotel we're staying at has an iron and ironing board (your parents want to look good for the 'gram too?). My mom also prefers if there are ample wardrobe space and enough hangers. And from conversations with my friends, some of their parents might also want to cook while on vacation - then booking an apartment with a kitchen and cooking utensils would be better.

For those of you whose parents are mobility challenged, you might want to check with the hotel if it has the right facilities to accommodate your needs. Or you can even take it a step further and see if they can arrange day tours, so your parents and you can do some sightseeing comfortably.

3. Do plenty of research

A lot of research is required when planning your vacation with parents. Doing your research helps you to eliminate all unnecessary stress that'll affect your holiday. Ask yourself these questions - Is halal food easily available from your hotel or the attraction that you're planning to visit? Is your hotel or attraction near public transport options? Do you need to walk far from the nearest train station?

My parents outside the Islamic Centre Canteen building

On my trip to Hong Kong with my parents in 2016, we purposely picked a hotel that's directly in front of the Islamic Centre Canteen, so that it's easier for us to get halal food. Plus, Causeway Bay, the area where the hotel's located, is conveniently served by both trains and buses. There were also plenty of shopping and halal food options around, which made the trip comfortable.

It's also important to know what you signed up for and mentally prepare yourself (and your parents!) For instance, a city like Seoul is really hilly. In Tokyo, train lines are complicated and you need to plan properly to avoid making unnecessary transfers. Some older towns in Europe are full of cobblestoned streets which can make walking a little uncomfortable. For places like Bangkok or Jakarta, where not all roads have proper pavements, perhaps hailing a cab or taking Grab is a more viable option.

4. Plan your itinerary well

No, I'm not asking you to cram your itinerary with as many activities in a day as possible but planning well, in this case, means taking it really slow. As the saying goes, "slow and steady, wins the race". Well, I say, "slow and steady makes everyone happy!" Do schedule breaks in between activities so that your parents can rest and recharge. Perhaps you can head back to the hotel for prayers and a little snooze, chill out at a cafe or slot in a massage session in between.

Another advice is to make your schedule as loose and flexible as possible so that you can easily tweak it when needed. Taking it slow means your parents will be able to catch up with you and look at it this way, you can also enjoy a leisurely pace for a change, which might not be a bad thing after all ?

5. Give them options

Just like us, our parents want to know what's in store for them too. An important thing to note is to keep them in the loop when you're making plans and discuss the different options with them. They might not want to do the planning but it's always good to get them involved. Who knows, they might have their own opinions about a certain activity or attraction, and that helps you in your planning too!

6. It might cost more but it's worth it

I know, sometimes, you want to scrimp on that comfy accommodation or flight because it's easy on the pocket. Some of us wouldn't mind squeezing in a cramped seat on a flight with no meals or checked-in baggage. Others might not mind sharing a toilet with strangers in hostels just so they can save a few extra bucks! But this all changes when we're travelling with parents. You might have to fork out a little more for a full-service flight or a 4-5 star hotel that's conveniently located near a subway station.

My parents took the subway with me in Hong Kong

While your parents most likely won't mind taking public transport with you, a vacation can be really tiring sometimes and you might have to spend extra on cab rides. So, make sure you get ready some extra cash! For places where public transport isn't that convenient or if you're going on a day trip from the city, you might have to hire a private driver instead of taking the local transport and this might cost more too.

During the trip:

7. Keep calm and be patient

If you'd asked me 10 years ago how it's like to travel with my parents, I would've said that it wasn't the best experience. I remember snapping at my mom a lot when we were in Istanbul for a family holiday. I was only 17 then. Call it teenage angst but every little thing seemed to irritate me. Fast forward to now and I'm a completely different person when I travel with my parents. I'm in my late-20s now and I've learnt to control my emotions better. Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen but I've learnt to let things go and not fight over everything because it'll only spoil the holiday mood. Take a step back and see the bigger picture - getting angry or annoyed certainly does anyone no good.

It might be tough to plan and coordinate your trip. You will be tested again and again, but you just have to keep being patient. If our parents could be patient with us when we took our very first steps as a toddler, surely we can do the same now that they are older!

8. Compromise and manage expectations

I've learnt a thing or two about compromise too. I admit - sometimes we tend to think that we're the only ones who have been giving in to our parents but that's not true. Through my travels with my parents, I've learnt that they make a lot of compromises too.

For instance, when we were at the Islamic Centre Canteen in Hong Kong, I was surprised to see my dad biting into a scrumptious plate of lor mai kai because he seldom (or almost never!) eats Chinese food back in Singapore. But there he was, making a compromise because my mom and I wanted to eat dim sum. I found that really amusing but heartening at the same time. Afterwards, we accompanied him to an Indonesian restaurant at Causeway Bay, where he really enjoyed himself with a taste of home ?

[P.S. If you're in Hong Kong with your parents, make sure you head to these awesome halal eateries!]

My mom and I on our plane ride to Bangkok

Similarly, when I was in Bangkok with my mom last year, she was game enough for almost anything. We were on our way to JJ Green Night Market but the taxi driver didn't drop us off at the correct entrance. So, we had to walk for around 15-20 minutes on a dimly lit pavement before reaching the market. I was super thankful that she was cool about it, even though she was tired. It's things like these that make us cherish the quality time we have with our parents while on vacation.

[P.S. If you're heading to Bangkok with your parents, check out our list the top 16 shopping spots in Bangkok!]

On our part, compromising would mean not complaining when our parents are in need of toilet breaks, or when they are walking slowly. This goes back to the point of taking things slow - you won’t be able to cover everything that you set out to do and that’s okay!

9. Be mindful of your parents' capabilities

Don't forget that your parents are way older than you. Things that seem easy for you like walking, climbing the stairs and transferring between subway lines might seem easy for you, but not for them! What you should do is to constantly check in on them, ask them if they are okay or if they need a break. Your parents might not always tell you that they need a break, and that's when you have to make your own judgment.

While you have to manage your own expectations, make sure you manage your parents' expectations too. If they insist on doing something that they really want to do but it's too strenuous for them -  you need to be firm and let them know that they shouldn't do it.

10. ...But they can be spontaneous too!

Sometimes, we think that just because our parents are in their golden years, they are not interested in exploring new places. But that's totally wrong - the worst mistake we can do is to underestimate them and think that they are not interested in uncovering hidden gems. Truth is, our parents are as adventurous as we are. If you think about it, most of us probably get our thirst for travel from our parents, so it's only natural that they still have that quality in them.

When I was in Hong Kong with my parents, I had wanted to explore the PoHo neighbourhood in Sheung Wan. It was a rainy day in the morning and we went back to the hotel to do our prayers. Initially, I thought they had wanted a little snooze so I told them I'd meet them back at the hotel for dinner. But I was surprised when they were game enough to follow me.

So, we took the bus from our hotel to PoHo and only then did I realise that the area had so many hills! To make it worse, the rain got even heavier. At this moment, I was afraid that my parents would berate me for bringing them to a hilly place. But thankfully, they told me they would try to climb the hill and it was so heartwarming that they were so light-hearted about it too ☺️

11. It's okay to spend time apart

Believe it or not, travelling together doesn't mean that you have to stick with each other all the time. Sometimes, a little time apart is great. Our parents just want the best for us and sometimes, they are happier knowing that you get to do what you want and at the same time, they can also have some space without feeling rushed.

When we were in Hong Kong, there were several times when I went out and explored the city on my own while my parents rested, and we'd meet back in the evening for dinner. Even if it's just for a few hours, having some time apart can be a good thing ?

12. It makes you a better traveller

All in all, travelling with your parents will make you a better traveller. It teaches you patience, tolerance, kindness and proper planning - all of which are essential for avid travellers. But more than that, it teaches you to not take things for granted.

You'll start to appreciate the little things in life - like how valuable spending time with your parents is. Back home, you probably only see your parents in the morning, at night and on weekends, but now, you have 24/7 to spend quality time with your parents, and that's a blessing ❤️

Enjoy the moment

Here's one last note before I conclude this article - the most important thing about travelling with your parents is to enjoy and cherish every moment of it because you never know how many more moments like this you'd have with them. Your travel story might not sound the coolest among your friends or you won't necessarily have the most Instagrammable pictures (most of the time, you'd be photographing your parents ?) But all of that does not matter because you've created those meaningful memories with your parents that'll last you a lifetime.

[P.S. Thinking of where else to bring your parents? Check out our list of top Muslim-friendly destinations in 2019!]