I recently took my mum to Rome for her birthday. (I won’t say which birthday, but it was a biggie!) It’s somewhere she’s always wanted to go, and to be able to go with her was immensely satisfying. My sister came along for the ride too, and despite thunderstorms and some unwelcome gastroenteritis, we had a fab – and completely unforgettable – time.
I can’t recommend travelling with your mother/daughter/sister enough. Here’s why, and how to do it while keeping everyone happy.
Why you should travel with your mother and/or daughter
Travelling with those who you know better than almost anyone else in the world, and who you know better than anyone else, can be a deeply rewarding experience.
It’s not just that they know when you’re annoyed rather than simply slipping into your Resting Bitch Face; when you need some space just because you’re an introvert; or that they (probably) won’t be repelled beyond repair by the forced intimacies of a shared en-suite – all of which mean that travel with your female family clan is probably an altogether easier affair than travel with more recent friends or lovers. There’s far more to it than that.
“This is time that will create memories to treasure for the rest of your lives together and beyond.”
Future generations will pore over the photos and videos you take on the road, giving them a sense of continuity, and an understanding of where they might have inherited their own mannerisms, oddities and eccentricities from.
When I’m old and decrepit and stuck in a home for the elderly, I hope I can still picture my sister whirling a selfie stick around Piazza Navona, my mum enraptured as the Pope preaches in St Peter’s Square, and the long hazy lunch we spent gossiping over a bottomless bottle of rosé in a tiny sun-soaked square in Trastevere.
Travelling with your mother/daughter/sister/grandmother/granddaughter/niece/aunt will help to forge deeper, stronger bonds. It’s a guaranteed way to see a different side to your fellow female family members, and understanding them in a way that takes you all beyond the pigeon-holed roles that are so often forged in youth. Travel is a great revealer. It turns out that my sister, for example – usually a last-minute sort of person who more often than not misses her train – needs to know exactly what’s going to happen each day and is exactly the sort of person you want to plan a group trip.
How to make it work
Travelling with your family isn’t always plain sailing though. It’s easy to slip into Sulky Teenager mode (guilty!), or feel resentful that your needs haven’t been telepathically received (also guilty!), and the best intentions to get on with each other can soon turn sour. But with a bit of empathy, some deep breaths and some careful forward planning, travelling with your girly family can be one of the best experiences of your life.
Here are a few things to bear in mind.
- Make sure that everyone involved feeds into the itinerary. Try to make sure everyone’s needs are met to some extent, and manage expectations; everyone will need to compromise at some point. A good way to do this is to ask everyone to come up with one thing that they simply must do or see – their deal breakers. This approach worked well in Rome. I wanted to go the opera, my sister had to see the Colosseum, and my mum had to see the Vatican: check, check check! And I enjoyed my mum’s and sister’s dealbreakers just as much as my own.
- At the same time, make sure that the itinerary allows for plenty of downtime and spontaneity. We left one day completely unplanned, and that was the day we ended up in St Peter’s Square watching the Pope give mass – the highlight of the trip for my mum.
- Every group will generally have a mix of introverts and extroverts. Allow people to go off and do their own thing if they want, without anyone taking it personally.
- Look after each other. It’s obvious really, and should come naturally, but it’s easy to get carried away with the pressures of being a tourist. Make your family’s wellbeing your priority. My mum, bless her, tried her very best to get to the Colosseum – she made it as far as the ticket queue – but she was feeling awful after catching gastroenteritis (while looking after my son earlier in the week – oops!) and we all realised that she wasn’t going to enjoy the experience. So my sister and I put her safely in a taxi with clear directions back to the hotel. She rested, and my sister and I saw the Colosseum. That same day, I also felt awful on a bus tour. So we all got off the bus and walked instead, which made me feel much better and there was no resentment.
- Share food! If your family is anything like mine, you’ll want to sample as much local food as you can, but there aren’t enough meals in the day! Co-ordinate your menu choices so you can swap and taste as many different things as possible. It’s an intimate thing to do, and everyone wins!
Finally, go with an open mind and no expectations of what the trip should be like. Be prepared to go with the flow and you might just be pleasantly surprised – both with the destination and what you discover about the very people you thought could never surprise you!
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