How to Plan a Trip with Your Mom: Mother’s Day Travel Tips

collage of travel photos with moms

Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

If the mother figure in your life has ever taken you to a playground, taught you how to cook your favorite meal, or texted you (alarmingly) about the impending weather in your city, she’s taught you something new about the world. So it’s only right that, as adults, we do the same for them. In honor of Mother’s Day, it’s time we plan a trip with mom—or, if you happen to be a mom yourself, plan a trip all for yourself.

But sketching out the ultimate mom-centric trip requires a different set of requirements, one that might veer away from the vacations we’re used to planning. It’s all about starting early to make room for input, being flexible with your itinerary once you’re out there, leaving space for moments of downtime, and—if you’re the mom in question—allowing yourself the opportunity to recharge.

We sat down with a group of experts in the travel space to get the inside scoop on what it took to plan their favorite, just-the-two-of-us getaways and the things they’ve learned along the way.

“Some things I learned from traveling with my mom: Pack your patience. You have to keep in mind that your parents might not travel like you do. They may need extra time to get ready, want to go to sleep early, or skip out on meals and/or activities. If you’re a planner, be sure to explain the agenda ahead of time. I’ve learned moms don’t like surprises, and hopefully you can minimize any potential disappointment by presenting everything up front. As a mom, my best advice is to help your mom. Don’t burden her with all of the planning, packing, and organizing—lend a hand. And to all of the moms out there, let them help! It’s ok to not shoulder the entire responsibility of the trip. Assign tasks to your spouse and children and give yourself a break!” Kirsten Maxwell, Editor, Kids Are a Trip

“My mother is very adventurous but has had some health issues, including a broken back in recent years, so whenever I plan travel with her, I’m looking for accessible activities that will still nourish her sense of adventure. It typically means planning ahead and saving extra money to spend on creature comforts. I try to plan days based on location, so she doesn’t have to spend too much time walking or commuting each day.” – Opheli Garcia Lawler, Staff Writer, Thrillist

“In the summers of 2012 and 2013, I got the chance to travel abroad to Europe with my mom. In 2012, we went to Italy, London, and Paris. In 2013, we went to the Czech Republic and Poland. The sights in all of these places were incredible, but there was nothing like visiting Poland, because that’s where my mom is from. She was born and grew up in a small, rural village there, and came to the United States when she was 18. She doesn’t get back too often, so when we returned to her village, all of her relatives (cousins, aunts, etc.) greeted us like royalty! They prepared a huge, homemade feast for us, and we ate, drank, laughed, sang, and shared stories late into the night. It was very special to share this experience with my mom—in her hometown with the people she grew up with.” – Patrick Firlik, CEO, Well Traveled

“Travel is the perfect way to celebrate the mother figures in your life. When you’re young, your parents introduce you to everything, but it’s rare to share the joy of discovering new places and things together as adults. When planning your own trip, we recommend striking a balance of sightseeing with down-time for relaxation throughout the trip. Keep in mind everyone’s interests, and take turns deciding what activity or which restaurant to check out next so that everyone leaves the trip feeling fulfilled.” – Lillian Rafson, CEO, Pack Up + Go

“One of my loveliest trips ever was a weekend in London with my mom back in 2017. It was the perfect civilized ladies’ weekend: a tour of Kensington Palace; a perusal of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London; one fancy dinner at Nopi; and some scones, tea service, and Ottolenghi treats in between. One important learning, though: Keep expectations modest for how much you can pack in. When traveling with any parent, really, you’re going to need to move at their pace, not just physically, per se (my mom’s fitter than most!), but in terms of ambition. Once I let go of the idea of doing everything in London in one jam-packed weekend and surrendered to my mom’s more leisurely pace, I was less frustrated and more relaxed. Turns out you can ‘do’ a whole city in a long weekend if you just… do less.” – Ellie Krupnick, Executive Director of Editorial Operations, Vox Media

“I’m a mother of two young children. For me, the ideal mom-centric trip would look one of two ways. The first would be a trip focused on relaxation—spa, nature, quiet. Basically, the antipode to my days with a four-year-old and one-year-old. Or, alternatively, a trip with my girlfriends to gallivant around vineyards in Colorado or Oregon and pretend we’re still in our 20s.” – Anya Keyes, wife of Going CEO Scott Keyes

“My mom and I took a trip to Greece for my mom’s birthday. What mattered most to us was the opportunity to bond through shared experiences that challenged us to get out of our comfort zone. We did a cooking class next to the ocean, went wine tasting, and took an art class—we are not artists and the class had us try our hands at a skill that was unfamiliar, in a big class setting with more talented individuals. But we uplifted each other to do it and had fun in the process. We chatted later about how we would never have done that if not for each other and that we would be open to doing it again. And that’s what’s so powerful about travel in general: It can lend and change perspective and offer a transformative experience. I recommend for mother-child trips to focus on slow travel and to not consider resorts or all-inclusive, which are not conducive to a memory-making, rich trip. Also, after a trip with the mom, you are definitely the favorite child!” – Craig Zapatka, CEO, Elsewhere by Lonely Planet

“My mother and I loved to travel together. When I first took Mom to Las Vegas, it was an experience for her. Mom was amazed by the colorful buildings, moving trams, and array of stores. We saw shows, ate at buffets, and participated in tours. Mom especially loved the casinos—she loved slot machines and would often spend hours at one machine.

One night, after a busy day of sightseeing and shopping, I played a few slot machines and table games then went to our room. Mom told me she would be up in a bit. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, I woke up to find mom’s bed empty. Panicking, I headed downstairs to the casino area. After a few minutes of searching, I wandered into a secluded area full of slot machines. Being 3 am, the area was empty. But I heard one machine pinging away and rounded a corner to find my mom at said machine.

When I approached, she was fully engrossed in the game. There was a manic expression on her face, a mixture of anger, excitement, and obsession. Apparently, Mom was on a lucky streak and refused to leave the machine. I told her that it was the middle of the night and we had other activities to attend to in a few hours. My mom said she would be up soon and shooed me away.

A few hours later, I awakened to find my mother knocked out on her bed. She hadn’t even taken off her clothes. She was snoring loudly surrounded by money. There were $20s and $50s littering the bed and on the floor. I shook my head and stifled a laugh. Suffice it to say, our plans for the day had to be changed.” – Shirley Jones Luke, poet and writer

“In early 2017, my mom asked if I wanted to go to Paris the following year with her best friend Sue Fitzsimons and her daughter Kate to take a cooking class with a famous chef. It sounded like a good idea until the trip actually came around and I realized that I’d be spending a full week in a tiny Parisian apartment (unfamiliar with Airbnb, she booked through a travel agent and we wound up with four twin beds) with two very opinionated older women (and Kate, who was cool). Everyday, there were issues—the AC was too cold or the heat too warm, the rain was too loud and the TV was too quiet—but the one respite, aside from being in Paris, of course, was the cooking class. It was so fascinating and I learned a ton about French technique. My mom, ironically, hated it—she detests being told what to do, so I’m not sure why we thought this was a good idea in the first place. No bother, though, the whole group loved traipsing around the city… especially the nightly pub crawls I orchestrated after class.” – Meredith Heil, Editorial Director, Thrillist Travel

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram