Tips for Traveling with Adult Children


Natalie & Chris - Arthur's Seat, Holyrood ParkDave and Terri Long visited Scotland with their daughter, Natalie and son-in-law Chris. Here, the four offer tips for other families considering a trip with adult children.

What, if anything, did you learn from this experience? What advice would you give other parents and young adults when traveling together?

Natalie & Chris: I think an important lesson is to have an agenda planned out before you go. That way, you are sure to get through most of what you want to do. Keep it flexible, though, because some mornings, you may just want to sleep in – or you may hear about a great local destination and have to scratch plans for something else.

Definitely have a conversation about the agenda as a group. Most of what Dad booked, he did when we were together. This way, we all knew where we were headed and had a say. Talk about money. If the parents are paying, that’s fine, but everyone should know the expectations before taking off.

Dave: Plan most, but not all, of your trip. Get a comfortable car if you will be driving great distances – we got a nice Volvo wagon. Let yourself go. Forget about trying to be Dad. Be friends and enjoy each other like peers.

Terri: Plan to have fun—and do it! Don’t let petty grievances get in your way. Unless they’re truly interfering, let minor issues roll off. As Dave says, forget about being a parent—enjoy one another.

Traveling with family can be challenging. There must have been a few trying moments. What were they? If issues or problems arose, how did you address them?

Natalie & Chris: The most challenging thing was that Mom and Dad take a long time to get going in the morning. Chris and I are up and at ‘em and ready to go, but they like to take their time over a slow breakfast. There were a few mornings when Chris and I were feeling antsy to get going, and so one day, we did just that and met back up with them when they were ready.

Dave: Ditto – except it isn’t me.

Terri, laughing: I never realized this was an issue. This reinforces Dave’s point about our low-maintenance traveling companions and mine about the Golden Rule. If Natalie or Chris had complained or gotten angry, a fight might have erupted. Instead, they understood that we—or I—need time to wake up and gave me the luxury of enjoying the extra time at breakfast. And I had no problem with them leaving ahead.

View of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat, Holyrood Park -about a mile east of Edinburgh Castle, a 12th century Scottish fortress (at the center of this photo).If issues did arise, this being a good example, people handled themselves maturely. I think we all really wanted not only ourselves, but everyone to have a great trip. That makes a difference.

Who created your trip agenda? Who decided where you’d stay, what sites or places you’d visit? Were you pleased with the choices? If you had disagreements, how did you settle them?

Natalie & Chris: Mostly Dad decided with some input from each of us regarding the things we wanted to do. He’s REALLY good at this sort of thing – it’s kind of a hobby of his. We were all really happy with the hotels and restaurants he picked.

As for the places to visit, I think we had sort of heard of several places and had a general idea that we wanted to visit certain areas. Once we were in those areas, we asked around for suggestions on sites to visit. We never disagreed on the activity. I think Mom was a little less than enthused about the Loch Ness cruise, but I think she was glad she did (once it was over).

Dave: If I could reroute the trip I would have gone for one or two nights in true isolation to feel the space and beauty the way I know it can be experienced now.

Terri: As Natalie says, Dave plans all our trips and does a fantastic job. He spends weeks making travel plans. After Googling the destination, he visits various travel sites, researches suggested places to visit, and reads dozens of reviews.

We’re fortunate to have traveled to many exciting places, including Costa Rica, Thailand, China—I’ve never once been disappointed. My job is choosing the restaurants. The food in Edinburgh was terrific; outside the city, it was hard to find good restaurants using the usual sources (Trip Advisor, the Zagat Guide), so we followed the recommendations of the hotel staff.

For this trip, Chris also did quite a bit of research and came up with great suggestions. He and Dave considered the various possibilities and mapped out a 6-day driving route, doable without pushing or exhausting ourselves.

We’re all scotch drinkers; initially, we’d hoped to visit different regions. That didn’t pan out—too much driving—but we did enjoy the fun and informative Scotch Whiskey Experience Tour in Edinburgh, and we visited the Glen Ord Distillery. So, yes, I was very pleased with the choices.

Natalie & Chris - ruins Urquhart CastleNatalie’s right: I probably would have opted out of the Loch Ness cruise, but I was glad we did it.

Often, the moment we step into our parents’ home, we slip into child mode. Did you assume your familiar parent-child roles? If so, in what way or ways? If not, how did you avoid this?

Natalie & Chris: It didn’t feel that way to us except when it came time to pay the bills…

Dave: It didn’t feel that way at all. If anything we were peers – taking in new experiences and assimilating them together.

Terri: Chris and Natalie are wonderful, interesting people. As Dave says, traveling with them is like traveling with friends.

I can see how this could be a problem, though. For a trip to be successful, I think all parties need to be open-minded and conscious of their responsibilities. No person or couple should be stuck doing the bulk of the work.

In all honesty, it comes down to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. If you’re polite to your companions, respectful, aware of their feelings and concerns—if all parties work together to make the trip enjoyable—you can avoid any serious problems.

Terri Giuliano Long teaches at Boston College and loves traveling with her husband and children. She blogs at Her first novel, In Leah’s Wake, was released in 2010.

Photos: Top Left: Natalie & Chris – Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park

Above Right: View of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park -about a mile east of Edinburgh Castle, a 12th century Scottish fortress (at the center of this photo).

Bottom Left: Natalie & Chris – ruins Urquhart Castle

See Also: The Pleasures of Traveling with Adult Children