My article today is inspired by my mom, and our travel over the years. As she became more constrained in her movement and energy-level, I learned to plan very differently, so I share some ideas for creating an awesome trip while accommodating a family member or friend with walking or stamina limitations.
Planning Trips with Limited Mobility
Taking my mom out for various activities inspired this week’s article as we maneuver dropping her off and getting her walker between the chairs in the restaurant. At this point it becomes a little more difficult to take her out, managing the physical aspects of getting her around, as well as her level of disorientation. This makes me appreciate all the times we got to travel together, particularly the last time in June 2014. I was very busy preparing for a group of 200 to go to Ireland in August, but the opportunity arose to host a group on a Rome to Venice Crystal cruise and bring a companions, and I really wanted my mom to have that experience. She was 88-years-old and living in Savannah at the time so it would be a nice chunk of time together. I am so glad I made that time to travel with my mom. We had a wonderful trip, and four months later she fell and broke her hip, so that cruise became even more precious.
I want to encourage folks to create that time for traveling together with family generations, as the memories are very special. But I also learned a lot on that last trip on accommodating my mom’s slower pace, and I had to adapt a new approach for planning the trip in a way that could be fun for both of us. So today I share some planning tips for traveling with family or friends who may need some special considerations while traveling – and this is not just the elderly. There are younger folks with medical issues that cause walking or stamina issues too.
Plan private excursions at key sites on your trip. To make the most out of the possible activities at our stop in Sorrento Italy, I knew that going to Pompeii and visiting the little towns along the Amalfi Coast wasn’t going to be an option for my mom. Instead, I planned a private driver who picked us up and escorted us to a delightful lunch at a little vineyard on the edge of Mount Vesuvius. Afterwards, our driver drove us along the Amalfi coast. It was a beautiful drive and normally we would have stopped along the way.
However, I knew that wouldn’t work for my mom since she really couldn’t walk that much. So, I planned another stop at a beautiful cafe built into the Amalfi coast cliffs. We stopped there to enjoy a drink in the gorgeous setting. Despite having to work things around a bit, we still had a wonderful day along the Amalfi Coast. The experience better fit my mom’s capabilities and she was truly able to enjoy herself without the physical stresses for her or the worry for me.
Realize that not all activities are created equal. On the cruise our stateroom was at the end of the hall and every time we would walk out the door, my mom would say “You mean I have to walk all that way?”. She would get easily fatigued with just a bit of walking. This from the woman who would be up at 6am on St. Patrick’s Day to go to Mass, walk from the Cathedral to where her group of ladies would watch the parade and party with bloody marys all morning, walk to the Civic Center for the next party, and then go to two other parties after that before returning home at 8pm. I realized that St. Patrick’s Day is her routine, she knows it and doesn’t think of the exertion of that day in the same was as these adventures I was taking her to.
I learned that I could not judge her capabilities based on what I knew she could do but had to accept what she felt she could handle. She really had no stamina for any type of distance. So when planning various activities or excursions, don’t think of your loved one’s energy levels during their most active times in their daily routine, but rather consider their pace and approach when trying new experiences, or their stamina at the end of the day. Build your plans assuming an energy level a little below that.
Be aware and adaptable. At our stop in Sicily, I knew that my mom couldn’t really handle touring around Taormina. My plan was for us to go into the port and maybe get a taxi up into the town. I thought we would see how far we could get in the cab and just visit a little restaurant with perhaps a view of Mount Etna. However, at this particular port, we didn’t dock. Instead, we had to take a tender (boat that holds about 50 people) to the dock on shore. By the time we walked down to the tender embarkation area, got on the tender, rode and then climbed out of the tender onto the dock, mom needed to rest.
At this point, I realized that going into the town was not the best idea. Across the street from the dock, about 20 yards away, was a little restaurant, so we walked over, had a drink, and then walked right back to the dock and headed back to the ship. It is important to be aware and pick up on any clues your loved ones may be giving you. I had to recognize her hesitancy and slow pace, and realize my plan wasn’t going to work and we needed to adapt just a bit.
Because I am just filled with ideas on this subject, more tips and suggestions next week.