An Interview with Margie, Amanda, and Leah Whaley
Your mom might not be the first person you think about taking a trip with, but she should be. Even though you're old enough now to buy meaningful things for your mom, you know that it's the thoughtful acts and spending time together that still top her wish list.
One of the best gifts you can give your mom (that also happens to be a gift for you) is giving her the world. Planning yearly trips with your mom, whether it's a big trip overseas or a quick weekend getaway, is a special activity for the two of you to cherish.
Rules of the road dictate that when you travel with your mom the following could happen:
Get Out of Your Comfort Zones
Get to Cross Off Bucket List Items
Learn More About Each Other
Learn How to Travel Well Together
Create Special Memories to Last a Lifetime
On this Mother's Day, I caught up with the Whaley women - Margie, Amanda, and Leah - they are a Wander Women travel team. Margie, a.k.a. Mom, is in the USA, while daughters, Amanda and Leah, reside in Switzerland and Germany. They've traveled the world together from childhood to adulthood so I asked them to share their experiences with us.
When did you first catch the "travel bug"?
Margie Probably when we took our first family cruise when the girls were in 3rd and 6th grade. When I grew up my family didn't travel - except for camping trips, which were so fun, but not the same, so for us going on cruises and seeing different parts of the
Caribbean became an annual thing. Then we expanded to domestic trips - California and Colorado. Tom and I got the real travel bug on our first trip to Europe in 2002.
Amanda Our parents instilled this in us since we were little, that was just where we spent money and saved on other things. One year when we were little my mom and dad asked if we wanted Christmas presents or a vacation to the Caribbean over Christmas. We immediately picked the vacation and I think we were under
10 years old! Since then I have always picked travel over stuff. It’s the best way to spend and the best gift to receive!
Leah When my parents took us on our first Caribbean cruise when I was around 8 years old. We decided to do a snorkelling excursion one of the days. I think all of the Whaley women were a little hesitant of the unknown ocean water before that excursion. Ever since then, I have fallen in love with the water and everything about it! I went on to get my scuba certification years later in 2009 and now try and incorporate that on any beach vacation I go on! Last time diving was in Egypt in April 2019!
What are the differences between traveling as mom and daughter versus with friends or solo? How has it affected your relationship with each other?
Margie We haven't been able to take a lot of just mom & daughter trips lately - but we like to meet up in Lucerne [where Amanda lives] or Garmisch [where Leah lives]. We enjoy the same things - sightseeing, trying new food - a big part of any trip for us! We also enjoy just
being together since we aren't able to do that so much these days.
Amanda It’s so special to be able to travel with our mom. She is so full of life, energy and wanderlust. She’s an incredible balance between extremely organized and spontaneous. We always joke that she plans everything to a T before she leaves so she doesn’t worry about a
thing when she’s on the road. Literally the whole plan could be thrown out if something comes along, but regardless she never has to stress because she has her excel with all the details should you need it.
When we’re traveling or when my mom is coming over to visit us in Europe we get this incredible alone time to just talk and sit in front of each other and have a glass (or three) of champagne or wine and just soak up truly special moments with our mom. It’s less about being adventurous or relaxing or having an agenda. The agenda when I’m traveling with my mom (and dad!) is to just enjoy their company and also try to take care of them a little bit more than the last time. They deserve to have these special moments, I always try my best to just give them all the energy I have. We live on different continents so time is precious, and we're really lucky that we have parents who make the effort to come to see us as often as they do.
Leah I know this may sound cheesy, but traveling with my mom is like traveling with a friend. It was not always like this though. I think once I hit the age of 18, things started to change when we traveled. I matured a bit, and my mom realized her little girl was growing up. Traveling with my mom is definitely more organized and planned out than with friends or a solo trip. Having that time with her to plan and get excited about future trips is most of the fun for me!
Describe your experience of traveling as mother and daughter?
Margie Really, it's just living in the moment and creating memories with them. We don't have quantity time with each other these days, but we do get quality time when we are together. Ever since they were little, I always asked them at the end of the trip what their favorite thing was. It's so fun to hear what they say - after we spent a week in Cancun when Leah was about 3, her favorite thing was riding the bus to go to dinner from our hotel.
Amanda She is like a little kid!! I love seeing my mom traveling. She is light and smiley and joyful. The little things surprise and delight her when we travel - a good chocolate croissant in the morning will make her day, swing by a pastry shop and have her pick out usually multiple desserts for later, or after an activity finding a great terrace for a drink - just thinking about it I can see her face light up, she does a little side step shuffle and claps her hands saying “well let’s go I’m getting thirsty!” She enjoys the challenges too and
usually doesn’t take the easy toad out. Like taking a taxi vs. taking public transportation. I hope I can be like that as I get older. She is eager to learn how to navigate and move around a city and just really embraces wherever we are with such joy and respect.
Leah Her love for adventure!! We always find unique experiences whether that involve food or a brew and bike tour that we once did in Ireland! Some of my most cherished moments with my mom and sister are all of the markets we tend to find ourselves at. Just walking around looking at what every stall has to offer. And, if we're lucky finding a wine or champagne stall!
How do you decide where to go?
Margie When they were in high school, I took a mother-daughter trip with each girl before her senior year. I let them decide - and they both picked New York! We had gone as a family several years before that, and I think they had such good memories, they wanted to
go back. All three of us went to LA one year when they were in high school for spring break. These days, I usually decide - wherever I can get to in Europe, one or both of them will meet me.
Amanda We usually go where Margie picks! She is our travel hero and does all the work, wherever Margie (and Tom) want to go - we are there!
Leah Most of the time, my mom starts telling my family what fun we would all have in a certain city or country. Then, we kind of all start finding little things whether that be a historical monument or a famous local restaurant. After that, we start booking!! My mom's strength is definitely her planning and organizational skills! She thinks of everything! But she does it in a way that makes everything run so smoothly and effortlessly. I think there always needs to be a balance, when traveling, of the organization but also spontaneity. My sister is the city guide! Her sense of direction is impeccable. She is always the one leading us from one place to another, even though it may be her first time in that location as well!
Is their one trip that stands out amongst the rest?
Margie Tough question! They've all been so great. I guess I would say December 2018 when I went to visit them and we went to a bunch of Xmas Markets. I'd always wanted to do that,
and it was so special to get to do it with my girls. I just remember eating, drinking and laughing so much!
Amanda Funny enough one of my favorite trips together was when my mom and Leah came to visit me in Luzern, Switzerland last March. It’s normally a cold month and more skiing weather. We had a weekend full of sun and blue skies. We spent the long weekend just reconnecting and enjoying each others company. Our first trip to Europe together as a family was also an incredible trip. We went to England, Scotland and Ireland. It was fun to all be there together, we had all traveled solo or in smaller groups but this was the first time that all 4 of us traveled to Europe together. I think Ireland is still one of our favorite stops in the Whaley family, we have a connection to my grandfather there and let’s be honest we cannot get enough of the Irish brown bread and salted butter! Or our big trip to Greece also with my aunt and uncle who we travel with every year. We went to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. We rented beautiful Airbnb villas with pools and it was such an adventure to travel around with ferries and just enjoy the sun and each others company.
Leah Our Italy trip with our family friends in 2018! This was a very special trip for all of us because it was with family friends I haven't seen since my childhood. What also made this special was the type of traveling we did on this vacation. We started with some big city stays like Milan, but then ventured off to smaller areas like lake Iseo. Here we rented a house on the lake and stayed in almost every night grilling and sitting on the back patio drinking wine and just enjoying each others company.
Travel isn't always glamourous, what are some challenges you've experienced while exploring together?
Margie Another tough one! I do remember when we were in Ireland and I had arranged a walking tour at 10 am and they had been out late the night before. They weren't getting up and ready when I thought they should so I was upset with them and they were upset with me. I learned not to plan anything before noon!
Amanda To be honest, we typically do not have many challenges when we travel due to my mom's incredible planning. Our biggest challenge though was probably when we were in London during our first trip. We love to have apartment instead of hotels so we can experience it more like a local, it’s more affordable, and we have a living space so we can all hang out and have coffee and drinks at night. When we showed up to our London apartment we were all in shock - it was the first time I saw my mom cry while traveling. (And only like the 3rd time ever). The apartment was more in a subsidized building, it was dirty, unlike the photos and didn’t feel safe. She was devastated. Luckily and funny enough one of my close friends [YOU] lived in London at the time. Sandy helped us get an as
affordable hotel as we could in a good location during peak season. We ended up spending triple on our accommodation in London but I remember my dad saying, it’s not about the moment, it’s our last stop on the trip and we’re losing time with you since we have hotel rooms. My poor mom was so disappointed! She did, of course, get the money back, reported the apartment and now we know to review locations in a different way and see who is writing the reviews. We are just a bit more diligent.
Leah We went on our first European vacation as a family in 2014. We have all been to Europe at this point, but separately and on tours. We traveled through Ireland, Scotland and England. When we got to London, my mom booked an Airbnb off of one of the main shopping streets. When we arrived, it looked nothing like the photos we have seen. The bathroom door was broken, sheets were dirty, it was a disaster! Seeing how devastated my mom looked after all of that planning was heartbreaking. But, we found a solution in no time! We phoned a friend (you!!!) and she helped find us a last-minute hotel for the weekend. We all quickly learned that you always need to read every review on the website!
What is everyone good at when it comes to traveling?
Margie I am a planner and probably annoy them with my spreadsheets. I can't think of anything that they do. I'll try and come up with something.
Amanda My mom is just a planner and wants to seize the day. She doesn’t like sitting around in the morning and losing ample travel time, so if we are going along with the plan for the day we are usually not sleeping in and having a lazy couple of hours. The quirky thing is she will just leave if people are not ready or don’t want to go! I love that about her, she genuinely doesn’t care if others don’t join but she will still go ahead. I think deep down she does want Leah and me there to get more time so I have pushed through many travel hangovers to make sure she is happy - I’m always happy I did!
Leah My mom's binder of itineraries! My sister and I always laugh at how many menus and detailed information is in there. But we both end up reading that thing front to back!
Amanda has now actually developed this same habit and has the same spreadsheets as my mom! I am terrified of checking bags and refuse to! So I always find a way to fit everything in a carry on whether that be a weekend trip or a 2-week European vacation.
What advice would you give to anyone who might be hesitating to travel on a mother/daughter adventure?
Margie Do it! It's such a special time - you're not at home with responsibilities and you can focus on each other. I'm so lucky that we all like to spend time together and try new things.
Amanda I think it’s really important to remember to step up when you’re the kid on vacation, especially when you’re older. We have been so blessed and lucky to have our parents and pay for so many incredible vacations over the years - from lake trips in Texas to traveling to Europe to the Caribbean. It’s important to me to do the best I can to just give them as much energy as I can, to be present and appreciate them and our time together, and also pick up a bill or two! Even if it’s gelato, or a drink, or a surprise dinner. I love that Leah and I always try to do something for them.
I think it’s important to set yourself up for what you need to be the best you can be on that trip. Some families cannot be with each other as much as we can and that’s okay, (Even we need breaks sometimes!). Maybe it’s making sure you have your own studio apartment or something more private nearby. Take breaks during the trip. If you need a lunch off every few days, plan that in! Or if you need a day off with your sibling or your partner that’s traveling with you - break off. It will allow you extra time to recover and get more patience if maybe you don’t have as much of an open relationship. I think breaking off also gives you something to talk
about when you come back! Parents want to ask questions and just know that you’re okay, but mostly to just engage with you, when you have an activity or restaurant or night out to share it takes some of the pressure off.
Leah Appreciate your mother!! Embrace all the things you think may be quirky, because one day you are very likely to have those same quirky habits! Also, cherish every moment with her. Also, I think it is important for every traveler to find some time by themselves and just walk around and explore and take in the sights.
Where to next?
Margie Hmmm. They have been to more places than I have, so it's tough to find somewhere that no one has been. Although, I think we all enjoy returning to a place we loved. Maybe Columbia...none of us have been there and we all want to go. We could get a nice mix of culture and beaches. Or... anywhere with good food and good wine!
Amanda I recently went to South America for a month with my fiancé (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile), and I cannot wait to get back to South America with my family! The culture, food, languages, different ways of life - it was just humbling and energizing. I cannot wait to get to experience that with my family.
Leah This is a tough one! I would love to go sit on a beach with my girls, but we all love the adventure as well! So, I would have to say Turkey. I would love to explore all of the local cuisine and open-air markets and bazaars with them!