Have you ever taken a mother-daughter trip? I’m not sure of your relationship with your mother… but for me, my mother is my favorite traveling companion. She has always encouraged me to travel and as a single immigrant mother, I am still in awe of how she put me through college and a study abroad program.
When I was in college, it was before we had smartphones, Airbnb and other travel apps. More than ten years ago, she planned my post study abroad trip to Italy from Switzerland. I had used the excuse that I was busy studying, which we all know isn’t entirely true but at the time, my exams seemed urgent and important. She booked the hotels, trains and flights.
It was only years later when I planned a mother-daughter trip that I realized exactly how much she had undertaken without the conveniences and ease of today’s technology. Since that first big trip to Europe we have traveled to Japan, Canada, Mexico, France, the UK, U.A.E. and Sri Lanka.
I’m currently planning a trip with her again this fall to attend a friend’s wedding. Here are some of my biggest suggestions for planning an amazing mother-daughter trip!
Find what you have in common
It may not be what you think you have in common. Get to know her as a person. What does she enjoy? What are her pet peeves? Use this as a way to figure out where to stay and what to do while you’re in said location.
While you may be fine sleeping in a private hostel room, your mom probably desires much more comfort and cleanliness. I have always booked an Airbnb for us. I’m in my 30’s now so I’m not up for hostel hopping and my mom has probably never stayed in one, which is why booking an Airbnb is a wonderful option. You can brew your own coffee, make breakfast and have your privacy.
Book Transportation & Accommodations As Soon As Possible
This will remove a great deal of stress on your part. With your friends you might be okay having booked the first night of your stay, but you want to make your mother-daughter trip as stress-free and fun as possible. Part of this is to get the two largest expenses and possibly challenging aspects of the trip out of the way.
3. Do your homework
Will you need to know a foreign language? I have found that in my travels, English isn’t always as common as you think. Non-verbal communication makes up a large portion of overall communication. Being clear in your actions even if you don’t know the language will be helpful. Additionally, speaking louder doesn’t mean that you’ll be understood unless they are hard of hearing.
I am fortunate to be skilled at learning new languages and while my mother is bilingual, her languages she heavily relies on me to communicate our needs. My favorite language app (it’s free!) is Drops. I find it far superior to Duolingo as it starts you from the very basics and uses topics that make sense in day-to-day conversation. On the contrary, maybe your mother is the linguist in the family and she has the time to dedicate learning some phrases for your trip.
Will you need a visa beforehand or is there a visa on arrival that you can buy? How is the political climate? While I personally don’t check the U.S. travel alerts, it is likely that you’ll have a friend or family member that will be concerned about your travel destination. The destination I personally get the most questions about is Mexico. “Is is safe?”
Again, do your homework so you can avoid certain areas or situations. Use your gut instincts. As women, this instinct is quite intense, but it is always useful to hone that strength. For example, you might not want to walk around after a certain time at night. Whatever rules you follow at home, you should follow while you’re on vacation.
What is the appropriate attire? Are there customs that you have to follow to remain respectful? Taking off your shoes, covering your shoulders or head, dressing conservatively as to not attract extra attention, asking to take someone’s picture etc… Religious sites tend to be where you will have to be most aware. You do not want to put you or your mother in an awkward or uncomfortable situation.
Research Places To Eat, Things To Do, etc…
My mother’s favorite part about traveling is to eat food that she doesn’t get to eat when she’s home. She also has a dietary preference. This is where knowing the local language will be essential. Does your mom have allergies, special requirements or preferences? You and/or her will need to be able to communicate this effectively. In my experience, some countries in Asia do not think that chicken is meat. If you’re vegetarian for example, this would limit what you can have, but if you can’t communicate this preference then you will have to adjust your mother-daughter trip itinerary accordingly.
Choose one or two places per day for the length of your stay. Don’t be too stringent with these choices as your local Airbnb host or someone you meet during your trip may recommend something that outweighs whatever you found on a blog/Yelp/Instagram post. Airbnbs not only offer privacy, but save you from having to go out and buy breakfast if you pick up a few things and make your tea/coffee in your room or apartment. In Sri Lanka, our hosts provided breakfast, but we had to make sure they knew my mother’s food preferences.
As far as places to go and what to do. This is a trip for the both of you so while I don’t necessarily recommend separating from your mother, it might depend on where you’re going. Personally, I need some alone time no matter who I travel with. But that’s something you can do during the day like waking up before your mom or going to sleep later.. as long as you’re safe.
You and your mom may like different activities. Maybe you love to lay on the beach and relax because your work week was stressful while she doesn’t like much sun. Find some middle-ground so that you can both enjoy your mother-daughter trip and each other.
Ask for recommendations from locals because it’s likely you’ll discover a hidden gem that might be something only locals know of. Then plug these activities into your itinerary while allowing for some flexibility. If you and your mom both love a detailed itinerary, then go ahead and do that, but it’ll reduce stress if you don’t have to worry about being at a certain museum at a certain time when your taxi driver doesn’t understand where you’re going for example or you’re caught in traffic.
Make A Packing List
Not to draw too much of a blanket statement, but women really like to shop. Keeping this in mind, pack less. If you don’t live in the same city as your mom, talk about what you’re planning to bring based on the climate, season and local attire. If you happen to have the same shoe size or can wear the same tops then bring even less. That way you can alternate or share even if your fashion style isn’t the same. Unless the trip involves a fancy gala, you won’t need formal attire. Plan a list based on comfort and what you’re doing. Nothing ruins a mother-daughter trip quite like too much luggage!
You might not want to risk the time wasted or stress over lost luggage so you may only want a carry on. What is the drinking water like? I’ve loved having a filtering water bottle from REI to fill up at the Airbnb so I can save time, money and reduce waste. However, if you’re somewhere where the tap water might be unsafe then plan accordingly.
You and your mom will probably buy trinkets, gifts or hand-made items during your trip. Maybe she’s a collector of wooden bowls and wants to buy one. You’ll have to account for this before your trip. If you have a rendezvous before you fly somewhere together then pack together, combine, edit your things so that each of you is carrying an even amount. And for carry-ons, if you’re young, a backpack might work for you especially if you’ll be somewhere will a lot of cobble- stone streets, but that might not be practical for her. Carry things for her even if she’s a super fit, it’s just the right thing to do.
Leave Your Worries Behind
Depending on how long you two are traveling, things may come up in that time and you might have a disagreement or argument, but don’t go into the trip with emotional baggage and leave anything that happens on your trip behind you once you’re headed home. The trip may create a deeper bond and you don’t want to risk that by bringing up unpleasant things that happened on the trip or blame one another for anything. Unless an awkward situation could be funny, it isn’t worth bringing up displeasing things once you’re around other family members. Be advocates for one another, uplift each other as women and find that friend who also happens to be your mother.