Living Like a Senior: Vacation at Grandma’s House

Family & Kid Travel — By on November 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

By Kayleigh Minicozzi
LG Contributor

It’s usually a part of everyone’s yearly routine. It’s prompted by a mid-afternoon call filled with guilt trigging accusations of unreturned phone messages and ends with my all time favorite closer about the party on the end of the line having an impeding expiration date. That’s right, I’m referring to the annual visit to the grandparents’ house.

If you’re like me, and from a hometown destination where snow and ice are more common than sunshine, then you’ve probably witnesses the senior citizen migration south on multiple occasions. For as long as I can remember older family members and neighbors who reached the 60-something age bracket, packed up and head south in flocks, seeking out warm breezes and sandy beaches.

My grandparents were no exception. They moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida when I was in my freshman year of college and now only occasionally head back to the northeast for holidays and family gatherings. Since moving to New York City a few years ago, our paths rarely cross when they make their visits home, so this year I decided to pack up and make the trip down to see them.

As soon as they picked me up from the airport I felt like I was channeling Cameron Diaz’s character in the movie In Her Shoes. The side walks along the beach were dotted with blue haired women out for their morning walk, jolly gentlemen with ankle socks and visors tended to lawns and gardens and there were rows of condo complexes as far as the eye could see complete with swimming pools and shuffle board courts. I was in retirement heaven. The trip was an interesting experience to say the least and each day my grandmother lived up to a new fabulous cliché of a retired housewife.

After three days of kicking it like a senior, I actually started thinking about the interesting travel tips and ideas my new lifestyle brought to life and so I give you the top 5 tips for channeling your inner senior when needed.

Morning Bird Catches the Worm: When I go on vacation the first thing I can’t wait to do is sleep in but starting on the first day of my visit to Lauderdale, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. My phone buzzed like clock work at 8:15 and on the other end of the line my grandmother asked if I planned to sleep my day away—seriously. In the end I decided to embrace the early bird life style and was pleasantly surprised by what it brought. My days seemed longer and I had more energy for site seeing, swimming and best of all shopping. I even woke up early enough to see the sunrise over the beach. First living like a senior vacation tip, don’t give into the temptation to sleep late. By the time you start your day you miss prime beach time and usually end up more tired then you would be if you set the alarm.

Early Bird Special: So you have to live under a rock not to know the age old stereotype that seniors tend to each dinner in the early afternoon. I never really bought into the whole idea but my doubt was laid to rest when each night we headed out to mangia at 4:15 and when we entered the local hot spots they were hopping like a midtown bar at happy hour. There was practically a waiting list. It wasn’t until I saw the menu prices that I learned why. The early bird special is a budget travelers dream! You could get just about anything on the regular menu for 5-10 bucks cheaper before 5:00. Here in lies living like a senior vacation tip two, plan to eat dinner earlier when traveling with limited cash because you can capitalize on insanely cheap grub and happy hour specials.

Driving Slow: Leaving the NYC public transportation behind was one of the things I was most looking forward to when heading south for a long weekend. My grandparents had a car and I couldn’t wait to cruise around. Any dreams of speeding down the freeway with my hair blowing in the wind and sun shining on my face was put to rest when I witnesses my grandmothers method for switching lanes. She was a self proclaimed, slow Florida retiree driver. It wasn’t until we took a site seeing tour of Miami Beach, that I came to appreciate the patience in which she made her way down the road and the total lack of awareness she had for other cars and honking drivers. I got to see it all, take pictures and get a guided tour without paying the price for a tourist bus. Living like a senior vacation trip number three, cruise slow and soak it in. Taking pictures from the comfort of your car can be fun and allow you to cover a lot more ground and go off the beaten path. Next time you plan a journey somewhere new it might be worth the cash to rent a car for a few hours instead of hoping on the double-decker bus and create your own site seeing tour.

Grandma’s Magic Purse: I don’t know what your elders are like, but I can tell you with some certainty that my grandmother literally is Mary Poppins. She carries an average sized purse but for some reason she constantly has everything and anything a person could need or want with her at all times. Rip a piece of clothing? She has a needle and thread kid. Thirsty? She has bottles of water. Head ache? She has aspirin. The supply is endless. Somewhere between her pulling out a bottle of SPF 50 when I was getting burned and her stuffing a granola bar down my throat because we were a little late to lunch, I stumbled across living like a senior travel tip number four, always over prepare for the little expenses. It’s a brilliant plan for budget travelers because more often than not you splurge on useless overprices things at the airport, gift shop and beach hut because you simply didn’t think to pack the every household staples you often need before you left the hotel room. Taking the extra step to pack a necessities bag can save you a big chunk of change.

Talk to Everyone You Interact With: This is a classic trait of my grandmother and has always been since before I can remember. Every shop we entered, restaurant we frequented, gas station we stopped at, she needed to chat. She delved into peoples’ life stories, showed them pictures of her grandkids, exchanged numbers, it was mind blowing. After a few of these exchanges I started to notice something, people liked it and in return offered tips, advice or even discounts. She was brilliant! She learned the best places to go for the perfect tuna burger, what bars had jazz bands playing and even connected with people who offered to lend her their condos when they were away. I was schooled in a harsh lesson of the value of friendly hospitality and you guessed it, living like a senior travel tip number five, be open and talk. You never know the connections you can forge, friendship you could create and exciting vacation memories you can make by simply talking with be and being open to spontaneous connections and plans.

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