Other than when I was a child, I never really had the opportunity to travel with my parents. I would visit them in Florida when they spent some time there, but that’s pretty much it. Because of that, I think I missed out on some quality “grown-up” time with them. Now, they’re in their seventies and both of them have mobility issues. Traveling with aging parents can be tough, especially if a good deal of of physical activity expected. My mom is 72 now and has arthritis that has progressed pretty far. My dad is six years older. In other words, walking around a city all day probably isn’t something either of them could do.

Traveling with aging parents: Getting ready to board!
Getting ready to board!

I live pretty far away from mom and dad. They’re in eastern Canada and we’re in Atlanta, USA. We don’t get to see each other very often. When we have, it was just a short trip. Most of my friends have moved away from their home town, and while I like to visit my parents, there really isn’t much to do in my hometown other than that. To be honest, after about four days, I’ve had it!

Traveling with aging parents on the water

So how to go about traveling with aging parents that doesn’t involve a lot of physical activity. Here are a few things we shot down immediately (but are still on our own list):

  1. Hiking the Inca trail
  2. Excursion to Everest Base Camp
  3. Kilimanjaro
  4. Hitchhiking through the Outback

We settled on a Caribbean cruise.

I’m not a huge cruise fan, but I do like them. Why? Because you don’t have to think. And sometimes not having to think is the best. You just buy the tickets, get on the damned boat, eat & drink till you explode, and go home. If you want to do stuff in between, perfect! But there is very little planning involved – you just go.

Cruising – it’s your parents’ demographic anyway

So that’s what we did. In fact, we found such a great deal that Halef and I not only brought my parents on the cruise, we also brought my brother and sister. Even though it was six of us, and I paid for the flights for my parents to come down, it was still FAR cheaper than, say, tickets to the U.K. for me, Halef, and my parents. Not to mention the costs of hotels and meals. All six of us headed on a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Except for me and Halef, it was everyone’s first time cruising.

So,what did we do for fun?

Traveling with aging parents: Sometimes, though rarely, we cruise together!
We even went to a beach!
  • Honduras
    • Halef and I got to do some diving. My brother and sister tried “Introduction to SCUBA themselves.” Mom and dad walked around the port area and did some shopping.
  • Belize
    • We all went into Belize City and did a walk that might have been a touch too long for mom. But everyone enjoyed it – even though it started to rain and ruined mom’s hair (which, amazingly, popped right back into place when it dried off!)
  • Cozumel, Mexico
    • We left my mom back at the port to shop some more, while the rest of us did a tour of some Mayan ruins site for the day (courtesy of my dad!). We all got to do what we wanted to do. Mom likes shopping. What can I say?!
Traveling with aging parents: Chacchoben Ruins, Mexico
Chacchoben Ruins, Mexico

Chacchoben Ruins, Mexico

What about on the ship itself?

On board the ship (the Carnival Valor, by the way), we made it a point to always have dinner together. It was perfect because I’m sure my mom and dad loved seeing me put on something other than my usual shorts & T-shirt. After dinner, we’d either head to a show, go play bingo, watch live music, head to the piano bar, or to a movie on the lido deck. Great fun for everyone and my parents had a blast.

Chile Rellenos
The food is always great!

My mom enjoys the sun. She and my sister also enjoyed walking around the ship looking at all the trinkets and the gift shops, even if they didn’t buy much of anything. If she felt tired, mom would go to the deck or back to her room for a rest. My dad liked walking around the deck and popping into one of the many self-serve restaurants during the day and helping himself to whatever he wanted. He was usually looking for one of us to hang out with.

My brother, Halef, and I often went to trivia. Usually winning, because I am really f—ing good at Trivia (I have three┬áCarnival trophies. Ahem!)

Trivia. I always win! Bwahahaha!
My brother and I win at trivia!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part

At the end of it all, I was really sad to see everyone leave to go back home. It was a wonderful week seeing my family. Taking my family on a cruise was some of the best money I’ve ever spent connecting with them. It was a very relaxing environment. No one had to clean dishes, get groceries, or take out the trash – nothing. There was literally nothing that week that caused stress to anyone.

If you have aging parents, I recommend a cruise. Sure, it’s not like you’re going to be a valiant explorer for the week you’re on that ship. And it’s probably not even your thing. It’s not really meant to be. But it’s an easy vacation, you do get to see a sampling of different places, and you do get to connect with your family. And in the end, that was worth it to me.

Traveling with aging parents: Dinner in the formal dining room with my family.
Dinner in the formal dining room with my family.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you an ….

Alcohol tips for cruises

Carnival doesn’t let you bring your own alcohol. They want you to buy their overpriced liquor. But it’s way easy to get around. Everyone is allowed to bring one bottle of wine apiece. But who wants to just drink wine? You’re in the Caribbean. You want rum and vodka!

So, in the weeks before your trip, everyone should consume one bottle of wine in a green or black bottle (or, if you’re me, consume a bottle for each person). Then, go to your local wine-making store and ask for the “cruise kit” – it usually contains 6 plastic corks, 6 different labels, and 6 bottle shrink wraps (the plastic stuff that goes over the neck). Fill those empty wine bottles with your firewater, cork it, and you’re good to go!

Remember, they just x-ray it on the ship. They don’t taste it!

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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert and has traveled to over 40 countries to date. Currently saving all his money for a Round the World adventure.

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