With minutes to spare before our train departed, my mother and I sped through the streets of Florence toward the rental car return. I weaved through traffic like a race-car driver, while she read the map and shouted out directions. Miraculously, we found the correct garage, then raced to the train depot with all our luggage, arriving out-of-breath and one minute ahead of our coach. As we collapsed into our seats, my mom looked at me and said, "Thank goodness your father isn't here. He'd have had a heart attack."
Women's travel and girls' getaways are gaining popularity with dedicated hotel packages and tours, but multigenerational women's travel is an oft-overlooked but equally important segment of this trend. Mother-daughter travel is the most common, but grandmothers and granddaughters, aunts, cousins, and nieces should not be forgotten. I've traveled alone with my mother on four continents, but I've also traveled with an older cousin and a great-aunt. When you travel with women of differing ages, you have the advantage of getting different perspectives on the place you're visiting. Plus, you create some of your best memories of the women who play such a big role in your life.
Why travel with your mom or daughter?
If you haven't spent 24 continuous hours with your mom since you moved out of your parents' house, a mother-daughter trip may sound intimidating. But once on the road, you'll find that there are many perks to traveling with women of a different generation.
"For daughters, there's often an 'a-ha' moment when they realize Mom isn't so bad," says Debbie Jacobs, president and founder of Explorations in Travel, a vacation provider for women over 40. Traveling puts family members in a foreign environment, so mothers and daughters can see each other in a new light. Maybe, family members will develop newfound respect for each other when the mom braves a white-water rafting trip or the daughter negotiates a low rate for a taxi.
Foreign travel especially helps the older generation realize how capable the younger generation is and deflates any stereotypes each age group may have about the other. SmarterTravel.com Associate Editor Sarah Pascarella and her sister took their mother to Italy, a place where the siblings had both lived and learned the language. Their mother hadn't been out of the country since her honeymoon. "Mom was dependent on us and let us steer her around," Pascarella remembers. "It was a nice role reversal. You learn a lot about people when you travel with them."
Another positive aspect is the conversations you'll have without the guys around. "You can have conversations about sensitive issues rather than politics," says Lori Cowen, who took a cruise with her mom, her friend, and the friend's mother. "There's less light conversation and more intimate conversations." Not to mention the freedom you have to talk about fashion, cute men, and great chocolate without incurring the ridicule of your male travel companions.
"You can have some amazing conversations you wouldn't have at home," agrees Phyllis Stoller, Founder of The Women's Travel Club, a women's tour company. When women with different life experiences come together, they can enlighten each other with new perspectives and fascinating anecdotes.
And women's travel in general lets the girls plan a trip that suits them. If Dad wouldn't be caught dead in a mud bath with cucumbers on his eyes, you can leave him at home and take Mom on a spa vacation. The boys have been heading out on fishing trips for generations, so now it's the gals' turn to pack up and go on shopping, theater, or hiking trips sans men.