My mother has been, for a little while prior to the trip, making efforts to subtly tell me that she wants to go outside of the country. She’s been to quite a few places within the country and wanted to level up.
If you think about it, my being a jack of all trades and a footloose may have been from her. She has climbed Mt. Apo twice back in the day, played tennis, has a penchant for music and wants to try new things until now that she’s pushing 60.
So when the day came, I booked her a RT flight to Hong Kong while using some of my GetGo points. Months since the booking was made, we hopped on to the plane bound for Hong Kong in what will become the most palpak-ridden trip of my life. Imagine, this was the first time for me that a typhoon cancelled an activity (Ngong Ping cable car), the first time I missed a flight / ferry (HK-Macau), and the first time to board the plane on its final call. Talk about putting your best foot forward!
Anyway, avoid any inconveniences for your parents and/or elderly relatives when traveling by following these steps:
BY ALL MEANS, GET A TOUR PACKAGE.
I do not own a travel agency (I wish to, someday) but I am advocating for this option when traveling with your parents. It has the least hassle, you won’t get lost which means you don’t waste time, money and effort. Bear in mind that the less effort is demanded from them, the less irritated they are. I mean, admit it, their patience is understandably shorter than ours. Put their convenience above yours, that’s if, you have the budget to do so.
Some of our best vacations, laid-back and carefree were those with a packaged tour. We enjoyed the far-flung Great Wall of China in Badaling and Ming Tombs in Beijing courtesy of China Travel Guide, El Nido through the arrangement done by Oh Maria’s Travel and Tours, and a Mt Fuji-Lake Ashi-Shingkansen tour in Tokyo because of Japan i Can.
However, if that is completely out of budget, proceed to the next tips.
PLAN YOUR ITINERARY FOR THEM, NOT FOR YOU.
This is easier said than done. I told myself this before the flight with mama but at times I still had to remind myself that the trip was about her and not me. Consider that bladder breaks for them are more frequent than yours. You always have to be on the lookout for toilets, or if they have to, ask them if they want to wear an adult diaper in case of long hauls flights or over land transfers.
If the activity involves a lot of walking, you might want to forget about it for this trip. You can always trek and walk on your own trips. It is best to plan your itineraries around places and events that are wheel-chair accessible. Sometimes even if they don’t need it on regular days, after a day of walking they might need one.
Keep in mind that some of our parents also need to take their maintenance meds and that means regular meal hours. Unlike us, younger travelers, we often forget to eat on time because of the travel time, or having gotten engrossed with an activity, or there simply was no food available when the time came.
Needless to say when you’re doing a DIY trip with an elder person, don’t jam-pack the day as you would if you were traveling with friends.
KEEP THEIR STUFF ACCESSIBLE.
This includes medicines, portable battery-operated fan if they prefer, baby wipes, a change of clothes just in case, some light snacks, water, umbrella or even a poncho.
The whole Hong Kong-Macau trip with my mother, it rained. It stormed, to be more accurate. And we didn’t think of even bringing an umbrella, so we had to buy one from the stores near Ruins of St. Paul.
Although my mother can carry her own backpack, I try to keep it light for her.
BRING A LOT OF LISTENING SKILL.
Elders love to talk about their endeavors back in the day. And you have to listen, connect. On our flight back to Manila, I was dozing off when my mother woke me up. Still dizzy, I tried to understand what was going on. It then dawned on me that the flight attendants were already about to start the game and she wants to snag the Cebu Pacific give-away! I almost laughed, but I focused. Sadly, I was not the first one to raise a hand after the question was asked. I tried to re-position myself to nap when she started talking about mundane things. I haven’t slept until the plane landed and I am a big flight sleeper.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EXTRA MONEY.
So I told you about a missed ferry to Macau on that rainy day. Her heart broke (though she didn’t show it) when the Ngong Ping cable car was cancelled the previous day. So when the dispatcher of Turbo Jet told me the boat has just left, I saw the excitement on her face die. And I couldn’t let that happen. I swiped my GetGo credit card and booked our one-way ticket to Macau (return ticket is already paid) and the smile that faded came back to her face.
That same night, she wanted to buy my sister a sampler perfume but we didn’t have the money anymore. She put it down and said, “I will tell her the stores are closed.” – Sorry Lec but the truth was, we just ran out of fuel. Imagine how that broke my heart. But with all the re-booking (I also had to rebook her flight for some reasons), I just didn’t have anything more. Mary saved the night by treating us with some soft-serve from KFC (which is not available here in the Philippines).
BE A PATIENT PHOTOGRAPHER.
My mother is one of the most independent people I know. She can do things on her own, she has even taken videos of herself at Ngong Ping, doing what vloggers do, only she’s doing it with a Cherry Mobile phone =). However, there were also times when she’d call me and say, “picture-ran mo ko dito. Dun din.” (“take a photo of me here. Oh, and there too!”)
Find their best angle, be patient to do re-takes, or move the subject to a different background. Besides, elders have facebook and instagram accounts these days. Get them a nice profile pic, for crying out loud!
MAKE A CONNECTION; REKINDLE.
Sometimes, families have unsettled disputes and differences. One way of getting them to talk about sensitive issues is when they’re outside of their turf – they become less defensive; outside of their comfort zone – they become more understanding and flexible.
This is probably one of the best moments to hug them, express gratitude, introduce a long-time “illegal” boyfriend, come out of the closet, talk about future plans, and what-not. When traveling, sometimes, you spend more time on buses and trains than the attractions themselves. Kill that idle moment by talking about something more pressing, instead of burrowing your head on to your phone / gadget.
ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B.
When the cable car was cancelled, I had to immediately find a way to get to the Buddha by other means. This is where bringing a SIM card for the specific place you’re going to is handy. Just google it, and you’re on your way. For rates and how to order, contact Benj Pineda of Pinoy Travelers’ Data Sim for your supply of Unlimited Data SIM cards before your travel. You won’t get stuck looking for wifi areas just to search the internet for something.
So what we did was, we took bus 23 to Ngong Ping from outside Tung Chung train station, less expensive at HKD 27 on a Sunday and 17 on other days compared to the 100++ cable car ride. It takes about 45 minutes but will get you there nonetheless. Even if she didn’t get to ride the gondola, she was still able to see the sitting Buddha, albeit the entire tourist spot was not operational.
LIGHTS ON / LIGHTS OFF.
I don’t think they have a problem with waking up early. So I suggest you start the day early because their energy will dwindle in the afternoon or early evening. If you prefer, go grab beer once they’re asleep so you can have that solo moment – if you’re not dead-tired yourself.
The challenge with this is, if you had your night out, you’d probably destroy anyone who wakes you up at 5am. So choose carefully, and stand by your decisions (**wink).
FINALLY, CARPE DIEM.
Cherish these moments. You can always earn the money you spent for the trip. But the happiness and smile on their faces, priceless. Over-all, it had only been 2 full days of her first out-of-the-country but I think, no – I know, that the trip had made an impact on her and she’s already thinking about… Japan! Haha! May God bless our parents! =)