Plan a special vacation with an older parent, from travel writers

By Nicola Bridges

As we walked down the long hallway, pausing for the fourth time to catch our breath, I began to think that I had done the wrong thing by booking a hotel at a major resort. My mother, a true trooper who never complains, said, “It’s okay, honey. It only takes me a minute. We’ll be at the pool before we know it.”

She is 86. We were in Palm Springs for an impromptu vacation and things didn’t go as planned. I agonized over staying at a small boutique hotel where the restaurant, breakfast buffet, cozy lounge, outdoor terrace and plunge pool were steps away from the lobby elevator. But it felt too limited for a whole week of relaxation and “just doing nothing” as my mother had requested.

So instead I opted for one of the big desert valley resorts – Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells – knowing that we would pretty much be staying put, vacationing in one place due to my mother’s mobility limitations and the difficulty of getting to and outside the car. I was proud that my thinking led me to book our stay at a resort where we would have fun and have options, but I hadn’t considered the many steps it would take to get from our room to the lobby elevator and all rest in the hotel.

We initially settled in a room I requested as close to the lobby as possible, but my mother’s first shower—which required stepping over the tub wall, difficult with a prosthetic hip and knee—proved precarious. Preferring safety over location, I switched us to the only accessible room with a walk-in shower in the fully booked resort: a mini-apartment, floors above and well away from the lobby elevator.

After our slow walk-rest-walk-rest from the room, we arrived at the lobby lounge and parked at a table to unload our assortment of word puzzles and coloring books, playing cards, knitting, embroidery and iPads, and headed to the cafe to fetch coffees and croissants, as I did every morning of our stay. We got up in what I called “senior hour,” showered, and sat on the patio of our sixth-floor bird’s-eye view suite, watching the families arrive at the pool below to grab their lounge chairs and unload their bags at pool toys.

After the lobby cafe opened, we headed downstairs and spent most of the days in the lounge or under the sprinkler fans on the patio by the pool in the shade, playing cards, coloring and crafting, then having lunch, then back to the lounge and reading room, more card playing or crafts, more people-watching on the patio – and then dress for dinner.

By 8 p.m., mom was ready for bed. I checked my e-mail and read, then stared at the ceiling for hours, my night owl mind unaccustomed to the early retirement of a senior. Then my mom would get up and mess around at dawn and we’d do it all over again.

I was nervous at first, but by the third day I had learned to follow her pace and enjoy the luxury of lazy days. I was happy just to be with my mother, knowing that behind her contented eighty-year-old smile, she always wondered and quietly worried if this might be the last time we travel together.

What I learned from this trip is that time with older parents is precious and my trip with my mom was time well spent. Here are a few ways I found that made our vacation more manageable.

Make your parents’ health and comfort your No. 1 priority when booking everything from the hotel to the room offer to sightseeing excursions. Think about how you will spend your stay. If you’ll be mostly staying at the hotel, a larger resort will have a greater variety of on-site entertainment for longer stays, such as game rooms and multiple dining options. For short stays, a cozy boutique hotel can offer a more intimate and luxurious home away from home.

No matter how fast and mobile they are, most seniors appreciate a room on the ground floor or one that is close to the elevator in the lobby. Call ahead to check if your room requires more than a 10 minute walk to resort amenities and if wheelchairs and golf carts are available.

If you’ll be spending most of your time at the hotel, look for one with a variety of indoor and outdoor seating and a variety of on-site dining options that provide some variety. Be sure to check to see if the hotel offers senior discounts or AARP membership rates.

While you can book most amenities online, call and speak to a live person at the hotel to follow up on any special requests. Don’t hesitate to ask if the hotel can make your travel companion’s stay extra special with perks like a complimentary fruit basket.

Research nearby activities and excursions that minimize stress for your parent, such as a botanical garden or park that is wheelchair accessible. Expect to take it easy and don’t overdo it with route planning and sightseeing.

Be good to yourself. Maybe treat yourself to a spa treatment at the hotel or some pool time during your parents’ afternoon nap.

WHEN YOU GO

www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/pspsr-renaissance-esmeralda-resort-and-spa-indian-wells/overview

The author and her mother enjoyed watching families in the pool from their sixth floor balcony at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells, California. Photo courtesy of Nicola Bridges.

    When traveling with older parents, it's important to slow down and do the things they enjoy.  Photo courtesy of Nicola Bridges.

When traveling with older parents, it’s important to slow down and do the things they enjoy. Photo courtesy of Nicola Bridges.

    Palm Springs, California, proved to be the perfect location for the vacation the author shared with her mother.  Photo courtesy of Phil Allen.

Palm Springs, California, proved to be the perfect location for the vacation the author shared with her mother. Photo courtesy of Phil Allen.

Nicola Bridges is a freelance writer. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate authors and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

The author and her mother enjoyed watching families in the pool from their sixth floor balcony at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells, California. Photo courtesy of Nicola Bridges.

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