Tips For Taking Your Elderly Parents On An Overseas Holiday
Growing up, I never had a chance to go on family holidays due to our financial situation. Whenever other kids used to talk about the different countries they visited on family vacations, the very concept felt foreign to me.
Fast forward to the present day. As our financial situation has improved, I’ve been lucky to be able to travel with my parents on a number of family trips throughout my late 20s. As the eldest of three boys, the responsibility inevitably falls on me to coax the younger brothers to join these holidays and even plan for them to a certain extent.
Now that my parents are in their early 60s, it’s become even more pertinent that I cater to their needs and ensure it’s a smooth and enjoyable experience for all of us. Looking back at our recent trip to Langkawi, Malaysia, here are 5 tips that would be beneficial to anyone who’s planning a holiday for their elderly parents.
Tip #1: Always be punctual
While there are some people who are super siao on when it comes to forming a holiday itinerary, I’m more of a chillax kind of guy. I’d much rather plonk myself in a city and just explore the area without a fixed schedule.
Suffice to say, that does not apply when it comes to travelling with elderly parents. My mum, especially, is incredibly strict about punctuality. That meant a 6.30am breakfast and an 8am move out timing each day when we were in Langkawi. In another lifetime, she would probably excel as an army encik.
Hence, rather than protest, my brother and I chose to pick our battles and relent. Most nights, we slept early and reminded each other to get ready. Even on the odd occasion we were late, I would inform my parents ahead of time for a grace period.
The silver lining was that we were able to get a lot done during the day and hit all of our planned visits around the island, which left us plenty of R&R/shopping time before dinner.
Tip #2: Include elderly-friendly activities
IMAGE: FARHAN SHAFIE
This is a more practical tip, especially if your parents are starting to slow down physically. It doesn’t make sense to include a rigorous hiking expedition up a mountain if you’re with your parents, unless they’re still in insane shape. Hey, more power to you!
But for the rest, you’ll probably need to chill on any activities that might be physically taxing. My brother certainly tried his luck when he tried to convince our dad, who is in his 60s, to jet-ski with him. My parents, unsurprisingly, declined, preferring to chill by the beach with their coconut juices.
This doesn’t mean we couldn’t have fun, as long as it was a relatively low-intensity activity. I did manage to convince my parents to join us for an ATV ride through the island’s padi fields, which culminated in a waterfall pitstop.
Despite it raining halfway through the ride, my parents thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They even joked that they haven’t mandi hujan (showered in the rain) since their childhood kampung days.
Tip #3: Always be of service
While on vacation, it’s easy to get lost in your own bubble, whether it’s playing with your phone or shopping for your own souvenirs. However, it’s important to always be of service to your parents and to prioritise their needs whenever possible. It is a family holiday, after all, where the whole purpose is to bond with your parents.
For our recent trip, I became the designated driver for the family, practically chauffeuring my parents all over the island over the course of three days. To be very honest, I was happy to do it. It allowed my parents to rest in between activities while also testing my driving capabilities overseas. They've got some mean, winding, two-lane roads along the coast of Langkawi. Imagine swerving downward on a tight angle while trying to avoid oncoming traffic coming up from the corner at the last minute!
It’s also important to strive to be the level-headed one within the group and diffuse any escalating tension. This usually happens when someone is tired or hungry. 🙂
Tip #4: Get them acquainted with technology
As kids, we’re naturally the gatekeepers when it comes to technology in the family. During the trip, I introduced my parents to a number of apps that serve as travel hacks. Top of the list is Wise, a multi-currency app, which I believe is the best international debit card for overseas travel.
Instead of withdrawing money from an ATM and incurring overseas charges, Wise lets you make cashless payments and enjoy fair exchange rates. I’ve used it in Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia without any issues. My parents, who usually carry a lot of notes with them when they travel, were amazed that such a thing existed and promptly downloaded Wise. I can assure you that this is not a sponsored post.
Tip #5: Manage the budget
This leads me to my last point: who pays for what during the trip? Well, it really depends on your family dynamics. Regardless, I think it’s important that you set those terms ahead of time in a way that is respectful and thoughtful.
If you're in a position to sponsor your parents for the entire trip, then great! If everyone prefers to split everything equally, there’s no issue as well. Personally, my mother is used to booking flights and accommodations due to work. While everyone funded their own ticket and hotel stay, we transferred the money to her to handle it.
During the trip itself, we all paid for our everyday expenses, except for dinners, where me and my brother treated my parents. I also absolutely made sure the ATV rides were covered so that my dad couldn’t escape doing them 🤣.
IMAGE: FARHAN SHAFIE
As my parents grow older, the quality time spent with them becomes ever more precious. It’s important to appreciate them while they’re still healthy and mobile. My only regret was that I couldn’t bring them to see the world much earlier. But hopefully, God willing, we will still have more chances to do so in the coming years.