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Travel Planning for Your Parents

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When you’re an experienced traveler, you’ll find that you often get roped in to travel planning for other people. Parents are a key example here. Here are some things we’ve learned from experience of helping our parents plan their trips.

1. You can guide but you can’t control.

For example, let’s say your parents book very expensive cruises through their travel agent. They “love” their travel agent. Their travel agent “loves” them. Of course she does! She’s getting whopping commissions from them. We’re sure we could save them hundreds and hundreds of dollars on their cruises by booking online but they want to stick with what they know. We’ve given up and accepted this and are no longer beating this particular dead horse :)

2. Watch out for what they haven’t thought of.

For example, has anything changed since they last travelled? A key example here is have they had any health issues arise that would now be considering a preexisting condition? If so, they may need to look into a “pre-existing” medical travel insurance policy even if they haven’t needed one before. Also, have they passed any milestone birthdays? If they are relying on insurance they’ve used before, like credit card insurance, make sure someone checks that they are still within the age restrictions. These are all easy mistakes to make.

It’s also a good idea to make sure their passports still have enough validity on them. Last time my Mum had to pay an expedited processing fee because she didn’t think about her passport expiry in time.

3. Help them not feel embarrassed about goofing.

Our parents make a few rookie mistakes when they travel. Sometimes these mistakes result in things like missing or almost missing flights, like the time my Mum misread her gate number on her boarding pass. However overall they do extremely well. For example, Kathryn’s parents recently booked their first Airbnb apartment. They’re certainly much more adventurous than the vast majority of people who don’t travel internationally.

For us, one thing we notice is that our parents don’t speak up and ask questions when they’re feeling unsure. For example, my Mum just sat there in the terminal when she couldn’t see an announcement for her flight at the gate she was sitting at. Our parents also tend to not complain, or report things, when stuff goes wrong and in the same circumstance we would be complaining about it or trying to negotiate a discount/compensation/upgrade. Try to encourage them to speak up and ask questions when they are feeling unsure. Tell them about the times you’ve goofed and made mistakes so they don’t feel so bad. The most important thing is that they have a good travel experience overall so that they want to do it again! The more experience they get, the more confident they’ll become.

4. Try not to do everything for them.

It’s easy to want to take over and just book things for your parents. However, even if you find them deals, try to get them to do the actual booking. Remember they didn’t grow up with the internet so it’s a different thing for them. However, making bookings online is a very important skill to have as a traveler and in life.

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