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What it’s like travelling with a parent as an adult

written by Annette Richmond November 18, 2022
Two women standing in front of a Serengeti sign in Tanzania

Annette was equal parts excited and nervous about travelling to Tanzania with her mother. Here’s her advice for adult travellers planning a trip with their parents.

Planning a family trip? Travelling with your parents can be stressful and overwhelming. It can also be healing and enriching. Something I’d always wanted to do as an African American person is travel to Africa. Going to the Motherland with my mom was my dream trip.

I recently went on Intrepid’s Premium Tanzania tour with my mom. Here are a few tips that made our adventure less stressful and more fun!

Pack distractions

Two women, one wearing sunglasses, smile for a selfie

It’s important to pack some fun activities, games and favourite snacks to help you pass time during the trip. My mom and I both brought colouring books and markers, which came in handy during a four-hour layover in Zanzibar.

Consider creating a trip binder that has a printed-out itinerary, a place to write down memories, goals, intentions and key landmarks. This is a good way to help everyone to remember what you did on the trip and how you felt.

Yes, you can buy snacks everywhere, but it’s nice to have some of the comforts of home on hand (this comes in handy if someone is a picky eater).

Technical assistance

If you’re travelling internationally or have a long travel time, it’s good to download a few movies, podcasts or a favourite series for your parents to watch while waiting. This will keep them entertained during transit instead of asking you all of the questions. Download entertainment at home where you have strong and secure wifi.

I’d suggest bringing an extra pair of headphones for your parents as well (they were a lifesaver on our trip!). My mom sleeps with the television on, whereas I need silence and darkness. She used one of her devices to watch downloaded shows at night. I used a sleep mask. Although I could hear her snickering every once and a while, I was still able to sleep, thanks to my headphones.

Find a meeting point

A woman wearing a pink tracksuit and an Intrepid tote bag poses in the Ngorongoro Crater

This wasn’t the first time I’d travelled internationally with my mom; we’ve been to Canada, Mexico and Jamaica together. However, this would be the farthest and longest we’d travel together and I was a bit anxious. I had 35 hours of travel to Arusha, Tanzania where the tour began. However, my mom was travelling from a different location so I booked her the shortest flight with the least amount of layovers.

Her first layover, and our first meeting point, was at Doha airport in Qatar. Wifi is not always accessible, especially at international airports, so it’s good to research your meeting point and find a specific, easy-to-find place to meet within the airport. There is a big teddy bear sculpture at Doha airport that was not only great for selfies, but the perfect meeting point to connect with my mom.

Comfort is key

As you get older, comfort isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. We had a 10-hour layover at Doha airport, so I decided to splurge and book a sleep lounge for us to lay down and rest between connecting flights. It’s nearly impossible to sleep comfortably in economy class, especially as a plus-size traveller. Booking the sleep lounge was our compromise since neither of us could afford to upgrade our seats on the plane.

Comfort is the reason we booked Intrepid’s Premium Tanzania tour instead of the other options. With Intrepid’s Premium tours you get the best accommodation and the highest level of service. This meant that we stayed in a mix of resorts, boutique hotels and permanent tented camps in both national parks.

When travelling with parents you may need to switch up your normal pace. This could mean slowing things down, taking more breaks, or opting to sit things out.

Ask for what you want and need

A woman with dreadlocks and a purple shoot looking through binoculars on a safari drive

Since my mom and I were travelling from different places it wasn’t possible to book seats next to each other. However, at every airport, we checked in together and asked if we could be seated next to each other. At this point, my mom would share that I was her daughter and we live in different countries; 95% of the time people responded with surprise that she is the mom to an adult daughter. The other 5% asked where I live.

During one of our check-ins, we were assigned seats for the next three flights. Our seats were supposed to be next to each other but ended up being rows apart. As soon as we boarded, I explained to the flight attendant that we were family and hoped to sit together. The flight attendant was extremely helpful and found us an empty row.

Take ALL the photos

A woman smiles at the camera as she poses on a balcony

Family time is sacred. It’s something that should be celebrated and memorialised, with lots and lots of photos. There’s usually one person taking the photos who is rarely in them, so it’s a great idea to pack a tripod and set your camera phone on a timer to help capture some memorable moments that you’re both in. Ask your trip mates to take a few snaps of you as well.

Give yourself some space

It can start to feel like the walls are closing in on you a bit when you’re sleeping, eating and travelling alongside a parent for days on end. It’s totally normal to need some time alone and it’s okay to ask for what you need. When my mom was dancing on my last nerve I would tell her that I needed a moment. Then I would take a short walk or go to our room to create some distance.

Take some time throughout your trip to do something solo, whether that’s going for a walk or listening to a podcast in the hotel lobby. If you can afford it (and if it’s an option), consider booking private accommodations. When you’re travelling and eating every meal together for days, having your own private space can be a saving grace.

Allow them to do their thing

Two women dressed in white, one with an orange cap and long green hair, the other with long dreadlocks, smile for the camera

There were more than a few times on this trip where my mom did or said something embarrassing. As a 37-year-old woman, I’ve learned to let most things go. While we were in Tanzania, I was reminded that, outside of being my mother, she is a fully formed person with feelings and flaws. For both of us to enjoy ourselves, I needed to allow space for her to be her authentic self and not just my mom. If that meant smiling through some embarrassing chats, so be it!

One of the things she kept doing while making her video ‘content’ to post later on social media was misstating our location. Although our entire 8-day tour was in Tanzania, my mother mentioned that we were on a tour in both Kenya and Zimbabwe. Eventually, it became a running joke with the group. We’d all ask her where we were or where we were headed… she always got it wrong!

But in the end, travelling to Tanzania with my mom strengthened our relationship. We made new memories. We travelled to the Motherland together and went on a safari. I was able to listen to her share stories I’d never heard. We learned more about each other in a way we wouldn’t have been able to if we’d been at home.

Feeling inspired? Follow Annette’s adventures on Instagram

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