Taking Mom to Europe

Feb 19th, 2013, 10:23 AM
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Taking Mom to Europe

For my mother's 88th birthday, I'm thinking of taking her to Rome and Paris in April, since she's only been to Europe once (Czechoslovakia – the "Old Country" – about 15 years ago). I'm looking at about a 10 day trip, including flights. She's really quite healthy and active, though she does use a cane in public. Her tastes are simple and tend toward the every-day versus, say, art (though she would enjoy seeing some museums). I'm looking for recommendations, please, especially regarding Rome or Florence or Venice and Paris. Thanks in advance for your time.
twmiller is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 10:31 AM
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Well - in 10 days I would pick ust 2 places.

And I think for someone elderly Vanice is probbly the most challenging (all those bridges - or managing to hop on or off a vaporetto that is moving to and fro the dock).

I would plan one major activity each day and then allow a lot of time for cafe sitting or enjoying a bus (public) ride or a boat tour of something.

Whatever you do, do not sign up for a group tour - that won;t have the ability to wait for someone who moves more slowly.
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 10:47 AM
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Thanks for the response. How do you feel about Rome vs. Florence and then Paris for the second leg?
twmiller is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 10:48 AM
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My best advice is, before you put too much of your heart and soul into this, be sure she wants to go. My parents are world travelers and they've reached an age where the idea of travel to Europe does not appeal because of the long flights, the airport struggles, and navigating hotels, transfers, etc. They are most comfortable with (Fodorites cover your eyes) cruises.

So from that perspective, a Mediterranean cruise might be the way to go. Also, at the airport, arrange for a wheelchair. Even if she is pretty mobile, it will make the whole security/airport thing easier.

Plan for lots of sitting time. Take taxis instead of metros and buses.
Grassshopper is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 11:00 AM
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Are you only interested in big cities? If your mom is more interested in the everyday vs. art, perhaps she'd enjoy the charms and pace of a smaller town. If that's a possibility, look into your flight options and consider places like Bologna and Siena (and many more, esp. if you're willing/able to rent a car for a few days).

If you'd rather stick to Rome vs. Florence, I'd pick Florence for its more manageable size and numerous day-trip options using public trans.
Jean is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 11:00 AM
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Interesting suggestion Grasshopper - I've done a couple European cruises (as well as land based independent travel). At first I thought it was a great suggestion but some of the ports, esp. some Italian ones, can be quite a ways from port to main attraction - for example Livorno / Florence and that could be difficult for mom. You would have to choose the excursions carefully. But what might be a better idea - a river cruise. I don't think there are any (or many) italian ones but we did one that departed from Paris, went by bus to Macon I think, then down the Saone and Rhone rivers. The plus to these is that most "ports" are riverside dockings right in the cities. Just something to consider.
suec1 is online now  
Feb 19th, 2013, 11:44 AM
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I travel with my mum who is 77, she is in pretty good health but has issues with walking for longer times. We've done European trips 3 times in the last 18 months. We have trips to NOLA, London/Amsterdam and Italy planned for this year.

Things I have learned about travelling with a senior.

Talk to her and ask directly "would you like to go on vacation with me" Would you like to go to Paris and Rome or would you prefer to do xyz" My mum would shoot me if I booked her on a ocean cruise.

~Always book a wheelchair. It's not just about walking, it means you have access to priority security lines
~I book flights with one stop, so that she has an opportunity to move around before the TATL portion.
~If you have access to any lounges through FF programs or cc, they can give you a break from all the noise and chaos of an airport. Seniors can get overwhelmed with the noise.
~If you can afford to fly or upgrade to business, it is worth it. If my mum can nap on the plane it makes adjustment when we arrive at our destination, so much easier on her.
~Encourage her to keep hydrated and eat on the plane. My mum forgets to eat, but if I pack things like dried fruits and nuts she will eat them when I give them to her

~Pack as little as possible
~Check your luggage, you don't want to have to try and juggle it on and off the plane
~We take one carryon bt the 2 of us, it's small with wheels, so she can put it between her legs on the wheelchair and then we both carry our own purses.
~Luggage with "spinner" wheels are worth their weight in gold. I can handle 2 if needed, while Mum has the carryon.
~My goal is to always outbound with one suitcase and pack a duffel for extras on the flight home

~Book a car service, so much easier than trying to navigate a cab or public transit.
~Don't plan an activity for your 1st day, we will usually walk around, get something to eat and then by mid afternoon she is ready for a rest. Then back out for another walk and a light dinner.

Build in lots of quiet time to your trip. Not necessarily "naptime" in your hotel, but time where you don't have to be someplace specific. If your mom is a morning person, then schedule around her normal rhythms. And be prepared sometime for the schedule to go out the window if she needs to rest.

We were in Rome last year and mum loved to sit in a cafe and people watch. She loved wandering the streets on our way to someplace. I booked 2 car tours through Rome cabs, one on our arrival and the other was a night tour. We had lots of opportunity to stop and take pictures without Mum having to walk everywhere. We also did a food tour of Campio dei Fiori. I find booking individual tours with a local guide works best for us. Then we can move at our pace and not at a predetermined pace.

When planning, I ask mum to pick a couple of things that she would like to make sure that we fit into the schedule. Other than that she is perfectly happy to let me plan things.

johnnyomalley is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 12:04 PM
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This is a good advise johnnyOMalley. I am taking my aunt to Europe (Ireland) for her 85th birthday in September 2013 so I will keep this note for reference.
Gisele1nonly is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 12:50 PM
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TW, I think that’s a lovely thing to do for your mother, and all the suggestions above are good. We took my mother in law to Venice a couple of years ago, and she was 86 at the time. I don’t know Paris at all, so can’t comment on that.

We had an apartment in Venice, and she stayed there for four or five nights, and then went with my wife (the two “girls”) to Assisi, Florence and Verona for a couple of nights in each place, then back to Venice for three nights. Train to Rome, because flights back to Australia from Venice would have been difficult for her because of arrival times back in Australia, as she was returning by herself.

The wheelchair suggestion is good, and my MIL got lucky in Rome, in such an Emirates way. “It would be so much easier for our cabin crew if we seated you in business class. Would you be happy with that?” She was happy.

Venice was OK, in spite of the bridges and vaporettos, and we had a water taxi from airport to apartment. You do need to take account of the lack of public seating in many places, and buy the odd coffee as table/seat rent. At least in Venice, there are no hills to climb.

Rome can be quite hectic, particularly for an older person, so think about that. Jean's suggestion of Florence in preference to Rome is good.

I’d suggest Venice and Paris, flying into Venice. Can’t really advise how to get from Venice to Paris, but www.Bahn.de indicates that it is 11 hours on the train, with one or two changes.

Consider just two destinations, and perhaps an apartment in each. Travel light – share a single wheeled suitcase. And taxis are your friend.

I wrote a trip report - http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 01:17 PM
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Another thought is a River cruise.
jane1144 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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What wonderful ideas! I truly thank all of you. (Keep 'em coming, by the way...)
twmiller is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 05:51 PM
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I like the suggestion of a river cruise, but I wonder if you're too late for booking this April...
Jean is offline  
Feb 19th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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There's a nice night train between Venice and Paris - see http://www.seat61.com/thello-train-f...s-to-italy.htm

There are also budget flights, but with the train you go city center to city center and save the hassle of trekking to/from the airport, not to mention getting through security and hanging around.
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 20th, 2013, 11:23 PM
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I am so jealous of the amazing time you will have with your mother, twmiller!

You've gotten some great advice about ways to make your mother's journey easier. I would just like to note that while making every step as easy as possible, you might still have a lot of options. I would encourage you to avoid assuming that anything is outside her capacity;, I would encourage you to work with her to identify her priorities, options, and back-up plans.

I have an amazing aunt, who - in her 90's - spent several weeks in London on her own. It was not her first trip abroad, she opted for more perks than she used to do, and she loved every minute! And bless-her-heart, she's planning her next trip!

She told me that a key to the success of her last visit was having thought through, in advance, what she would do if she became too tired at any of the places she planned to visit, or if she wanted to find a place to sit, etc.

I suspect that the more you engage your mother in the planning, the better the outcome will be.

Many wishes for a wonderful trip!
kja is offline  
Feb 21st, 2013, 12:11 AM
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Florence would be lovely, it's a quieter paced city and small. From florence you could take her on a bus day trip to Siena. And of course some time in Paris would be wonderful, but it's a big city so you might need to plan for some taxis.
cathies is online now  
Feb 21st, 2013, 12:47 AM
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Peter - that is lucky, to get an upgrade on a flight to AUS.
My elderly mom travelled to south America from Europe on her own, booked business class, so she would be comfortable.
And was downgraded by Air France to economy, as business class was overbooked. They were very rude about it too.

Twmiller; have a great time with your mom, my only additional advice is don't fly Air France!
Tulips is offline  
Feb 21st, 2013, 12:55 AM
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Since answering a question about river cruises a few months back I've spent a bit of time looking at which company offers good value (that is after seeing the Viking prices which shocked me to my core) these guys look more reasonable


I've done one of these on the Rhine, the boat moors up over night and sets off about 6 in the morning, so you take breakfast while sailing along the river. It moored up at noon so you have from then until night time to explore.

We chose the Rhine trip to coincide with wine festivals and many of these trips will only visit smaller towns but I still think they are a great way to enjoy Europe for those who don't want to spend everyday walking around yet another city.
bilboburgler is offline  

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