I have been travelling in Europe either on my own or with friends all this time. I always knew that my parents would love to visit Europe, at least once. However, they are not so keen to follow tour groups that visit many countries in a short period of time. The planning for this trip was very last minute as I only decided to go back to Malaysia in November when I was offered a job back home. I could choose to attend my graduation in Jan or July but I was thinking I might not have long holidays once I start working, thus it would be wiser to attend the one in January. Initially I thought of skipping the graduation, besides none of my coursemates would be coming. However, my parents insisted that I should attend it and they would come and before that would want to visit a few (but actually quite a long list) places in Europe.
Fortunately for us and thanks to AFS, we have friends in most places in Europe. I drafted an itinerary which never stops changing as time goes. It took them weeks to finally book the flight tickets. Air Asia or MAS? In the end, MAS was it and since they flew on Christmas Day, it was cheaper. However, how stupid could I be, not knowing there was no public transportation running in London on Christmas Day. It was a headache to search for a convenient place to stay and to pick my parents up, unless money was not an issue. Sometimes money can indeed solve everything! Thanks to Darren, we stayed over his place and I booked a cab to send them over from the airport. My initial plan was to visit London first before heading off to other European countries. Since it was still public holidays and most places were closed. I decided to fly to Amsterdam straight away on the next day.
There are a few things to consider when I travel with two elderly parents. I pretty much have to arrange and book everything. Although they would like to go to as many places as possible, it is important to make sure the whole trip is not too stressful or exhausting for them. When I book for the transportation, I need ensure that they would not have to run and catch a train or bus so the cheapest options are usually out of question. Hotels need to be as near as possible to the station so that they do not have to drag or carry heavy luggages a long way.
After many amendments, I have the final itinerary…
25th Arrival at London
26th Afternoon flight to Amsterdam
27th Haarlem and Amsterdam
28th Amsterdam city tour, Zaanse Schans Windmills, Volendam and Marken day trip
29th Morning flight to Basel, Basel city tour and evening train to Zurich
30th Oerlikon, Zurich City and Uetliberg
31st Rheinfall and Munot, Schaffhausen
1st Rümlang and Baden
3rd Sledging at Arosa
4th Sledging at Hochwang
5th Peist to Rümlang
6th Relax (as I needed to search and book for hotels and trains to Italy and France)
7th Landesmuseum, Zurich
8th Morning train to Milan, Milan city tour and night train to Venice
10th Morning train to Florence and Pisa and night train to Rome
13th Evening flight to Paris
17th Morning flight to London
20th Train to Exeter
21st Graduation in Exeter
22nd Train to London
23rd Morning flight to KLIA
We had to skip Cologne as their friends were on vacation. We were supposed to leave for Milan on 6th but their friends were also away, which was the reason we stayed longer in Zurich. It was fine for me as I could spend more time with my host family. We stayed home a day and I realised it was boring for my parents. Therefore, I went to Landesmuseum with them the next day. However, it was quite hectic for me to go out during the day and to surf the internet for the best deals for hotels and transportation later until midnight. As much as I enjoy visiting different places, trying different cuisine, experience different cultures, learning new languages…I find this trip very touristic, meaning more sightseeing than proper experience living in a foreign country. Even so, I have to admit, it is interesting travelling with my parents and seeing them so happy and amazed by the places we visited. Their appreciation makes every planning effort and hassle worthwhile. I only wished my brother was here too!