How to survive a road trip with your folks
No matter how old you are, there will always be a pretty big generational gap when it comes to road tripping with your parents. And for some, this gap can spark a sense of dread.
But for the open-minded, travelling with your parents not only offers a fun adventure – it also brings a chance to reconnect, make memories, and even learn something new about each other.
So if you’re heading into the holiday season and feeling nervous about hours boxed into a car with your folks, here’s some advice for enjoying the road together.
Before we get to the practical advice, it’s important to start off in the right headspace. If you’re planning to throw your bags in the boot, buckle up, and chuck on your noise (and family) cancelling headphones for the long drive ahead, you’re not off to the greatest start.
Be conscious of what your parents might need along the way. That includes their need for a travel buddy who isn’t more concerned with technology than family time. Travelling together can be a rare gift, so if you’ve all agreed to bundle up in the car together, don’t use your mind or phone as an escape.
You’ll also need to remember the physical needs of your parents. It’s likely they’re at least a couple of decades older than you, so think how they’re built differently at this stage in their lives. Make room for a few extra toilet breaks or stretch stops, and don’t feel frustrated if the pace is a little slower than what you’re used to.
We’ve looked at compassion, so now you can make room for compromise. Sure, you mightn’t be thrilled about arriving at your destination and spending a few hours resting to get your energy back, or visiting that museum, or having lunch at that ‘90s café for the hundredth time. But that doesn’t mean these experiences aren’t meaningful to your family. You’ll have a happier time if you make some room for what everybody wants to do.
Try to fit at least one activity you enjoy into each day. This could give you the opportunity to introduce your parents to new experiences, and show them a little bit about who you’ve grown into. And at the worst, if they aren’t interested in joining in, it’ll give you the chance to catch up with an old friend or see some nearby sites while they’re taking some downtime or doing something else for a few hours.
Find a moment alone
We get it, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed when you’re constantly around your family. Try to steal a few moments alone each day. When you get the chance, be mindful, take a few breaths and wind down from the continuous social stimulation. If you take some time to recharge, we guarantee you’ll be less likely to build up petty complaints or resentments in your mind along the way.
But don’t be (too) antisocial
Your parents aren’t going to enjoy watching your eyes glued to your screen as you check every Snapchat you receive. And if your folks are annoyed with you for choosing your phone over them, it’ll kill the vibe from the get-go.
You might need to whip out your phone for a number of reasons – whether it’s to check in with a friend in need, respond to an urgent work email you’re expecting, or to simply avoid the FOMO that comes with feeling out of the loop. If you absolutely can’t switch off, at least try to keep your screen time to a minimum. Or, better still, be honest with your parents and tell them you’ll need to check your phone once every few hours – but you’ll be quick and won’t let it get in the way of your trip together.
Of course, we’d certainly challenge you to give yourself a digital detox and reconnect with your family, if you can!
Pick a great soundtrack
The soundtrack to your road trip is everything. But if you’re pumping Flume when your parents love the Bee Gees, you’re going to have some problems.
Stick to music you know your folks will enjoy – it’s a worthy sacrifice.
You could surprise them by hitting up their favourite album on Spotify, or ask them what they’d like to listen to. If your folks are adventurous, you can always play them your go-to track or band – but if they don’t like it, don’t force it. No joy can be found in inflicting music on someone who isn’t into your creative tastes.
If you have time to plan before the trip, you could even ask your folks what they’d like to listen to. Take responsibility for the music and build a playlist that you know they’ll love. Again, it comes down to compassion and compromise. (And hey, the Bee Gees are reliably great, after all.)
Plan ahead, but be flexible
There’s nothing worse than wrapping up a four-hour road trip only to arrive at your destination and think: Great! So…what now?
There’ll be some members of your family who are stricter with organising the travel plans than others. But no matter who these people are (or if you’re one of them), be sure to communicate before you all hit the road. It’s important to have something to look forward to, rather than waste time with conflicting ideas about what to do once you’ve already arrived.
Be realistic about your plans, too. You’ll need to come up with activities that suit everybody's needs and interests. On the flip side, if your folks surprise you and suggest an activity you weren’t expecting, embrace it. They may be down for that bushwalk more than you’d thought!
At the end of the day, while flexibility is important, don’t be angry if plans do change at the last minute.
Written by Tasmanian writer, Stephanie Eslake.