How to Travel With Your Parents

If you are an adult (or can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel), the thought of traveling with your parents may not have crossed your mind since you got your license. Occasionally, however, traveling with your parents may be a good option to keep open: it’s cheaper to carpool, if you and your parents live closer together than you and your Aunt Maybelle, or whomever you’ve all got to visit. Or perhaps your life has turned into a road comedy. Either way, traveling with mom and dad has, apparently, become unavoidable. Fear not, though – there are ways to make things bearable.

Ironically, approaching the situation as something that even needs to be made bearable is probably a mistake: Whether you’ve been away at college for a year or out in the workforce for ten, it’s good to remember that your progenitors are not your enemies. They put up with you long enough to get you out of their house, after all. Approach them softly, possibly bearing small gifts, and they won’t bite.

However, it’s important to bear in mind the differences in mindset between you and your parents. No matter how long it’s been since you flew the coop, they probably still have the vague idea that they know you better than you do, and there’s a good chance they’ll act like it, too. They saw what you looked like in diapers and in whatever crazy stuff you decided to wear in grade school; they have a sense of entitlement in this regard. You don’t have to buy it, but you do have to be aware of it.

One of the most characteristic aspects of travel, be it a three-day road trip or a month’s stay in the Sahara, is the sense of confinement that often accompanies at least part of almost any trip. At some point, you are all probably going to be stuck in a small space together for an extended period of time. Accept this, and you can be better prepared for it: Headphones were invented for a reason, and people haven’t been reading silently for hundreds of years because they want to talk to others around them. If worst comes to worst, pretend it’s the subway.

If your parents are “getting on,” as the English would have it, they may require special accommodations and various changes of plans. A hike up the Appalachian trail is a bad idea of your mother has just had a hip replacement; steering clear of barbecue pits and roadside cafes is probably wise if your father has been told to eat less salt. Or maybe they just don’t feel like doing what you want to do – even without health problems, they might not be up for clubbing or crewing. Just remember: It isn’t their fault, and they cut the crusts off your sandwiches when you said you didn’t like them.

All of this probably sounds pretty dire. But traveling with your parents can be very rewarding, from a personal standpoint. An opportunity to spend some quality time with dad, especially if you haven’t seen him in a while, may be one you’d regret missing later. Two things to remember here: They’re only human, and, furthermore, they may well be humans you end up liking. And if you’re not open to them wanting to get to know you as a fellow adult – which, if you’re lucky, they will – you may always remain a sullen sixteen-year-old in the backseat.

If you can bear these things in mind, your trip may be a lot better than you expect it to be.