When a parent or other family member reaches a milestone birthday, chances are there aren’t a lot of things they need. Searching for the perfect gift can be a challenge. Why not celebrate with the gift of your time? As a parent of adult children, I can tell you first hand, moments together mean more to me than anything anyone can buy for me.
The same is true for my parents, so when my mother’s 75th birthday was approaching my brother and I planned a trip to San Francisco and its surrounding areas with our parents. Despite having traveled much of the country and most of Europe, they had never been to this part of California.
The trip was a huge success and described by our mother as "the best gift ever" but it takes planning to create a successful multi-generational trip with aging parents. Here’s how we did it.
Choose Lodging That Promotes Time Together
While hotels work for one night at a destination, having a place where you can spend time together other than the hotel lobby or someone’s individual hotel room is ideal. We chose to go with Airbnb for this trip, just one of many vacation home rental options.
My brother found a lovely Victorian home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. With three bedrooms, two baths, living and dining room, eat-in-kitchen and an outdoor patio with a grill and fire pit we had plenty of space as well as plenty of places to hang out together.
We started our days with a light breakfast in our temporary "home" and spent the evenings reminiscing about all those growing up years. Being in a neighborhood also gave us more parking options and easy access to the neighborhood grocery store.
Consider Their Physical Abilities, Stamina and Limitations
My parents are in great shape for a couple in their 70s so they’re game for most activities. However, we do have to remember that they can’t go nonstop without a break…who can? Besides those San Francisco hills can be exhausting at any age.
We chose walking routes with fewer hills when possible. But we also took advantage of those iconic cable cars along with taxis and Uber to round out the transportation in and around the city.
Create an Itinerary for the Guest of Honor – Not One Based on Your Interests
My parents are known as speedy tourists – they can take in the highlights of a museum in 10 minutes. In fact, when we were kids we could cover seven states in a day on a family road trip. Knowing this about them, we decided to split the four day trip between a little time on the Monterey Peninsula taking in the natural beauty of the area, a full day in the city, and a drive through Napa Valley. It was an ambitious itinerary that would panic most travelers, but we knew it would work for us.
San Francisco has a lot to offer so unless you have unlimited time, you’re only going to be able to cover a few of the sites. We had one full day so after we all arrived in San Francisco, we sat down and came up with a "must see" list together. Since my brother and I had both been to the city several times before, it was up to the parents. The decision: a hop-on hop-off bus tour that gave us an overview of the entire city. After getting a look at many of the attractions, it was easier to narrow down which ones we wanted to devote more time to during our visit.
Above All, Be Flexible
We are definitely a road trip family – remember the 7 states in a day note from above? And although the original goal was to show my parents the city of San Francisco, when we asked what they preferred it was clear that really wanted to see as much of the area as possible. And for our "Mama"…it was all about lighthouses.
My mother has spent countless hours tracking down lighthouses all over the country and, in fact, around the world. So it came as no surprise when she said, "Could we do a few detours to find the lighthouses in the area?"
Of course we said yes. And that would explain the 22 mile drive through the Point Reyes National Seashore in search of the Point Reyes Lighthouse which, when you finally do arrive, is another half-mile hike.
To be honest, I probably would have never put this on the itinerary when planning this trip, but watching my parents walk that half-mile to the lighthouse was a moment I will treasure forever. Happy 75th Mama!
Stay social and follow us on Twitter where we share even more great stories and photos!