Memorial Day has passed and here in the Midwest, it’s finally beginning to feel like summer is around the corner. When that heat hits (and you know it will), the last place I’ll want to be in August is the sweltering city. That means it’s time to make some vacation plans.
“Family Vacation” was once used to mean nuclear family, or parents and their children. But that’s changing. I’m an active member of the Sandwich Generation — I take care of both my children and a parent. I am not alone. According to AARP, 66 million Americans between the ages of 40-65 find themselves caring for multi-generation family members. Those responsibilities don’t end when I get a little down-time. Just as I would need to make arrangements for my childrens’ care if I vacationed without them, I must also arrange for my mother’s senior care in my absence. And while I guess I could make other arrangements, I also believe that my elderly mother would also like a change of scenery and an excursion to look forward to. I also know that at 84, she can’t travel as she did at 64, so I have to approach this vacation a little differently.
Tips for traveling with seniors are all over the internet. It’s one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. If you are a family caregiver considering multigenerational travel, here are some tips I’ve gotten.
Check with the doctor and discuss activity comfort levels.
Clearance from the family doctor is important. Are there any vaccinations needed? Are medications up to date? Set the level of activity to a safe one. If mom can’t climb to the edge of an inactive volcano, she shouldn’t. But if she can, why not do it?
Be realistic about expectations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will you see it in one. I tend to push myself, and I remember the frustration of having to take a break every four hours for baby naps when the kids were young. The same time frame can hold true for seniors. Don’t overschedule and take frequent breaks.
Everyone gets Alone Time.
It’s very tempting to make grandma and grandpa the free babysitting service for nights on the town, but it should be everyone’s vacation. Enjoy the time together better by allowing for some time apart. Alone. That means seniors as well. If they’ve been leading a quiet life (I think I remember what that’s like), constant commotion of kids can be unnerving. But certainly take grandparents up on the offer and take advantage of a community of responsible adults.
Sometimes, you should just leave the planning to someone else. Cruise ships offer activities and entertainment suitable for all ages. Even Club Med, once the bastion of swingerdom, is getting in on the action by offering special deals and incentives catering to multigenerational family travelers.
I’m not sure if I’m crazy for giving this a go, but there’s no doubt we will all come away from this adventure with very special memories.