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5 Tips for Mother-Daughter Travel That Guarantee a Drama-Free Trip

Every mother-daughter relationship is different and special in its own way, and taking a trip together, no matter the age, creates memories and bonds. But once you add in the stressful elements of travel—think flight delays and jet lag—emotions can escalate quickly when you’re traveling with someone that you have a close (and sometimes complicated) relationship with.

My mom and I travel together, but we have different travel styles. The first time my mom ever traveled on a plane was to move across the country with my dad when she was 26, and she didn’t leave the country until she was in her 40s. As someone who was on a plane as a six-month-old and lived in two different countries before I was 23, I am much more comfortable with travel.

Here’s what I’ve learned traveling with my mom to destinations including Arizona and Australia.

Timing Is Everything

Even when you’re not living together, it’s easy to fall into the typical mother-daughter patterns when you travel. I’ve taken a trip at almost every stage of my life so far with my mom, and there have been good and bad ones. Timing your trip to suit you both will make or break a trip. Here are the two ways you’ll want to consider timing when you plan your mother-daughter trip:

  • Leave extra time for activities: Don’t overschedule your mother-daughter trip. There are reasons this is a good idea at every life stage. You might be traveling with a younger daughter and need extra time for diaper changes or dealing with teenage angst. If you’re traveling with an older mother, you may need to account for walking at a slower pace or taking longer breaks between activities.
  • Go at the right time: If you’re looking to take an annual mother-daughter trip, remember that each life stage will present unique rewards and challenges. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, pick a time when you’re at an ideal age gap for your destination, a time when both parties can make the most of the destination. This might mean waiting until your daughter is of drinking age to go to Napa or going to Machu Picchu while your mom is still active enough to trek.

Choose Your Destination and Activities Wisely

My advice for planning a mother-daughter trip when you’re both adults is to pick a destination that’s completely new to you both. This way, one person doesn’t take total control because they’ve been there before (a dynamic that can easily lead to arguments or disappointments).

Destinations that can be perfect for mother-daughter trips include:

  • For active travelers: Sedona, Arizona
  • For a relaxing retreat: The Cotswolds, England
  • For the non-planners: River cruising in Europe (France or Portugal especially)
  • For the trendy mom: Todos Los Santos, Baja California, Mexico
  • For beachgoers: Barbados
  • For shopping: London, England
  • For wildlife seekers: Vancouver Island, Canada or The Galapagos, Ecuador
  • For outdoor enthusiasts: Maine

For more mother-daughter trips, see these six trip recommendations from SmarterTravel.

Don’t Underestimate Each Other

I’m constantly surprised about what I learn from my mom on trips we take together. Most recently at a dinner in Charleston, she told me she made an Instagram account (which she swore she’d never do) and we ended up deep in discussion about how she could use it to find restaurants in new cities and keep up on the lives of her kids.

Another time she quite literally surprised me was when I was living in Australia. My mom is not one to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice. So, when she arrived in Sydney, alone, I was completely shocked. While we had an unforgettable time in Australia, it was the gesture itself that I’ll never forget.

And after a mother-daughter trip to Arizona last fall, my dad called me and asked, “What did you do to mom? She wants to move to Scottsdale for the winter … ” For someone who likes the comfort of her longtime home on the East Coast, even bringing up the possibility of moving was a big deal.

On the flip side, my mom, who acts like a typical parent and organizes everything, is always surprised at how easy it is to travel with me and how seamless the flying experience is when I organize the logistics. So, I can surprise her as well.

Be Realistic in Your Expectations

When you’re traveling as mother and daughter, it’s important to acknowledge food allergies, medical conditions, and a realistic activity level for you both before booking reservations. And to recognize that you can always come back to a destination a second time with your partner, friends, or at different ages.

My mom developed a dairy allergy a few years ago, and this changes how we go out to dinner. As someone who enjoys exploring a new destination through food and will eat anything and everything, this was the biggest compromise we’ve had to make in our travels to date. 

Don’t Expect the Perfect Instagram

Instead, expect better memories. On our trip to Arizona, I found that I was on my phone significantly less as we were more engaged in conversation and I cared way less about posting on social media. When I did want her to take a photo on a hike, I didn’t get the exact photo I wanted, but it didn’t matter. I hope one day my kid will be saying the same thing about me with whatever the latest social media platform is.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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