When I told friends I was planning a trip to Thailand, the first question they asked was, “With your boyfriend?”
Nope. I'm going with my mom. She's been my travel buddy for five consecutive years. It only makes sense, because she's my career mentor, landlord and best friend.
We have trekked across the Grand Canyon, toured Arches National Park and camped along the Escalante River in Utah. We shared a tent during all those trips and, perhaps incredibly, still love each other.
For the most part, my mom and I get along. Once, it started raining during a hike and I snapped at my mom for asking me to get her rain cover out while I was trying to deal with my own. I've since learned to be more patient, and we keep each other in check.
As a successful traveler with mom in tow, here are some ways to make the experience memorable and positive.
Embrace the fact that you're on vacation.
Instead of worrying about maintaining your sanity while traveling with your mom, consciously remember that vacation shouldn't feel like work.
My mom and I travel frequently, so our excitement to skip town trumps the stress of planning a trip and being in a new place. Since we're both excited to ditch the daily grind, we're happier and get along better.
When in doubt, there's always booze.
Though my mom and I aren't heavy drinkers, we always have a great time hitting up local bars when we travel. After a long, dusty day of hiking in Arches National Park, we went to a little taqueria for some Mexican food. One margarita became two, and all of the sudden it was happy hour.
Having drinks with your mom is different than getting boozy with girlfriends. You have a lot more history with her, and when the wine flows, so do the stories. And there's nothing like bonding over the struggle of a slight hangover the next day.
Share the planning and be flexible.
If your primary concern is finding stuff to do that you'll both enjoy, share the planning.
My mom likes remote locations, while I don't mind doing touristy stuff. When it comes to hikes, I prefer a grueling challenge, while she wants something difficult but still enjoyable. We're both flexible.
The planning also forces us to hang out, brainstorm and be productive. While planning, we use an empty conference room in her office space to scribble on a white board and visually create our plan while eating takeout.
Make it special.
Planning around a birthday or milestone makes a trip even better. May is my birthday month, so my mom has always called it my “birthday” trip.
Having something to celebrate is like the cherry on top for my mom and I, making our time together a little bit sweeter. I will never forget celebrating my 22nd birthday in the middle of the Grand Canyon. For her most recent milestone, we stayed in upstate New York. She told me her birthday couldn't have been more perfect.
Planning a trip around celebrating a special occasion also justifies taking a break from life, putting a positive spin on the entire experience. It gives you yet another reason to travel together.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Trying new things together is proven to strengthen relationships. In the Grand Canyon, my mom and I jumped into the freezing cold Colorado River for a much needed rinse. That's a memory we share and created together.
You'll probably be pleasantly surprised with how adventurous your mom is. Seeing my mom push herself during our hikes made me respect for her more, and I'd bet she feels the same way about me.
Don't spend every second together.
Relaxation is crucial when you're traveling. If you need some space and time, don't be afraid to say so.
After our five-day hike in Utah, we had less than two days at a resort to recover. I spent an afternoon sitting by the pool while my mom relaxed in the hotel room. Spending time by ourselves was necessary.
Avoid the touchy topics.
Don't spoil a whole day because the subject you never discuss came up. When you're traveling, there are less chances to get away from each other. If you have a fight on an airplane, you're stuck there.
My parents had a bad divorce, and sometimes my dad comes up in conversation. I've since learned that my mom has a better time on vacation when we don't talk about him too much.
Take advantage of the quality time.
This is the best time to talk about life and get deep.
As a successful business woman and entrepreneur, my mom is full of wisdom. In our daily lives, we don't have the time talk about my issues and her advice. During our long hikes, my mom has spent hours explaining things to me like what a 401k is and how she launched her own business.
Parents are a well of free, personalized knowledge. We have a lot to learn from them and traveling gives us the beauty of time to discuss it all.
I hope my mom and I continue our travel tradition for as many years as we possibly can. Our relationship has only grown deeper by having these experiences together, and she makes an excellent travel partner.