Vacationing with elderly parents has its challenges and when you are traveling with elderly parents and young children, it can be even more daunting.
The first time I took my 88-year old father on vacation with my kids, I felt torn between competing needs. My kids wanted me to take them to beach, but how could I leave my father home alone? My father didn’t want to slow us down, but I didn’t want to leave him out. I had told myself heading into the vacation, I would give my Dad his space and spend much needed time with my kids, but when we got there, it was hard for me to follow through on my plan.
What if my father fell or had a heart attack while we were out? What if my kids came home and found him? What if he needed help with the coffee maker or the microwave? What if he took a walk and couldn’t get home? What if? What if? What if?
The first day of our vacation, I sent my husband and the kids to beach without me and I hovered around my father. When he went to visit a neighbor across from our vacation home, I hid in the bushes and watched to make sure he got across the street safely. I was on edge. I couldn’t relax. I finally had kids who could walk to the beach without me – as long as they didn’t go in the water – and I was watching my father like he was a toddler.
By day three, I decided something had to give. I went to Radio Shack, bought my father a cell phone with short-term service, left lunch on the counter, and went to the beach. And nothing bad happened.
Some nights, I took my father and the kids out for ice cream so we could all spend time together. And one day, I took my Dad for a ride to do what he wanted to do – no kids’ agenda. I won’t lie; it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation, but it worked, and you can make it work too.
6 Tips for Vacationing With Elderly Parents and Young Kids at the Same Time
- Have a communications plan. If you want the freedom to go somewhere without your parents or kids, make sure they can reach you or call 911 in case of an emergency. Peace of mind plays a huge role in whether or not you enjoy your time.
- Plan an activity just for your kids and another just for your parents. Togetherness is nice, but too much togetherness could work against everyone’s happiness. For group activities, consider short excursions like a drive, or a lunch.
- Keep a loose schedule. Having a plan is great but you need to build time into the day. Kids dawdle. Elderly parents need time. You don’t want to rush or feel rushed.
- Mornings or evenings are a nice time for intergenerational fun. Encourage your parents to tell stories or your kids to ask questions about your parents’ life before grandchildren. Or play Checkers together. If you do play board games, make sure the lighting is adequate for old eyes and the skill level is easy enough for all players.
- Try to stay in the present. Parents can push our buttons like no one else, except maybe our siblings. Try to stay focused on who your parents are now and not bring your entire childhood on vacation with you.
- If your children are young, enlist your parents in bedtime help. If your parents need help, enlist your kids in assisting them.