Good vacation for seniors or other gifts

I am getting a very sizable bonus this year and besides paying off car loans and paying down the mortgage a bit, we wanted to treat our parents with some of it.  We already offered to give them the money to spend on whatever they wanted and both set of parents refused to take a check so that's out.  We think they will accept an expensive gift for birthdays/anniversary and thinking about what to get them.  We are thinking to pre-pay for a luxury vacation (something they won't splurge on themselves) but don't know where to and are also thinking about something else that is more tangible.  We are going to get them all new phones (with the excuse that we want them to have the latest model so they can take high quality pictures of our kids when they watch them, which they do regularly), but not sure what else we can buy them.  Both sets of parents are in their late 60s/early 70s, active, and are doing ok financially so they don't need the basics but have limited means in terms of retirement savings/income so do not splurge on themselves and we would like to treat them.  What would you have gotten your parents or, if you are parent of adult kids, what would you have liked to receive? 

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As a grandmother myself I would love a cruise with the whole family.We all went to Alaska one year and there was something for everyone.You may think you are not cruise type people but it is hard to travel by car in Alaska and we met all kinds of people that we liked.I would check out Royal Carribean and Princess.

You're very thoughtful. But when it comes to travel and technology, the devil is in the details.

I love to travel but like to make the arrangements myself and cruises (for example) bore me. So just make sure it suits their desires, interests, and personalities. And travel can be disruptive and unpredictable. So if you gift them with travel, it should be date-flexible and refundable. And with insurance!

New phones means learning a new interface. Do they enjoy learning new technology? Do you know the features that are important to them?

Some alternatives include ... booking a large family reunion for 4-5 days at somewhere like Sea Ranch or the Ahwahnee Hotel or a dude ranch or a hotel in Hawaii--something where they can spend time with you and the grandkids, giving you all precious time and memories.

Another option would be to pay for something like a membership at a museum or or golf club or country club close to them, or a theater or concert subscription. That would be something they could use and enjoy for a year. Or you could give them gift cards to some favored local restaurants so they can enjoy a nice evening out and treat some friends (something they probably have little chance to do).

Iceland and the Nordic countries are good for seniors, especially in Summer when it's not cold. I took my Mom when she was in her mid 60's to Iceland, Finland, and Sweden. Those countries are safe, clean, in general easy to navigate and locals can speak English, and so were low stress vacations. I was the guide, but there are guided tours for those places.

You can also try the National Geographic Expeditions which are semi-guided tours. 

Are your parents foodies? My Mom likes it when I take her to try new restaurants.

And, lastly, this is not sexy, but save/invest the money for their long term care needs.

What a great “problem” to have! I love the idea of gifting them a certain amount of money and asking them to use it for acts of kindness. About a month ago I read an article in the AARP Magazine where a woman gave a number of her friends a certain amount of money. She asked them to “spend it or gift it” in any way they felt would be an act of kindness. 
As a senior myself, no trip or material item would make a difference. This country needs some love and kindness right now. Kudos to you for reaching out for suggestions!

I don't know how you quantify "expensive" but my mom's main concern is having a really reliable car, so if that's within the range you are talking about spending and either set of parents has an older car, I'd think about replacing it. Otherwise, I think something experiential like a vacation is an excellent idea. Have you thought about suggesting a family vacation? We went on a cruise to Alaska recently and were a bit jealous of all the big happy extended families having a great time together.

What great adult kids you are, and aren't your parents fortunate! I'd say go for the luxury vacations, so much more meaningful and fun than something "tangible". Perhaps get up with a good travel agent (see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/travel/luxury-for-less-travel-agents.... ) for help with laying the groundwork within your budget. As a senior traveler myself, I'd love having a seasoned agent suggest several possible journeys, then make my choice all happen like magic. 

What we would love as grandparents is a family vacation with our adult kids and the grandkids. We babysit a lot but would love to have family time away with everyone!

I wish I could have that money to treat my Mom to a River cruise in Europe... My business partner who is 80 and has been taking them for the last 10 years, love them. His wife is a travel agent and gave me 3 options: Viking, Tauck European River Cruising and Avalon Waterways. If you would like to talk to her, contact me. I don't like cruises, but this ones are small, sophisticated, great food and they stop in small ports where one could bike, hike or just go for a stroll, that way the whole family can enjoy..

Very nice of you to share with your family. Enjoy!

My parents’ dream gift would be a family cruise that includes their kids & grandkids. Or if there’s a trip they’re already planning, upgrade their flights/rooms. 

My mother was happy to get her first posh designer handbag. She never would buy one herself 

I just took my father on a European river cruise with AMA Waterways.  He wanted a cruise to make travel easier as a senior.  AMA did an amazing job.  Small boats since on a river, less people therefore.   Very little downtime cruising - we did the Seine and went to Normandy among other cities.  The food was delicious, and the daily excursions were interesting. This might be an option to consider. 

What about a membership to something they're interested in?  Do they like the theater?  How about a berkeley Rep Subscription?  Do they like to take your kids to the zoo or kids museums or the aquarium?  Would they want a membership there?  

My parents and my in-laws both loved a photo shoot with them and all their grandkids.  Or a photo with their whole family.  This is hard to coordinate but parents on both sides LOVED it and they cherish the photos. 

As for the vacation, I have found that my in-laws and my parents want time with us or with their grandchildren.  Not sure that a trip together would really be a good surprise present, but maybe you could coordinate something with them:  you all rent a house or neighboring cottages somewhere.  Again, in my experience, any place you want to go, they want to share with you.  

Your gesture of sharing your bonus is generous and commendable. I am a mother of adult children who has been in the converse position of giving money to my children to help them out or treat them. But I thought of your situation, your request for advice and believe the way to be most generous to your parents would be to ask them what would bring them the most meaning and/or pleasure. I think they should be included in the decision in some way. They may want a vacation that includes you, they may want you to support a cause close to their hearts. This is a great way to have a meaningful conversation about what your parents truly value and enjoy and for you to enjoy presenting them with options. Have fun with the process as well as the gift! 

For the past few years my father decided to treat the whole family (myself and my sister, our spouses and children) to different vacations: Hawaii, Alaska cruise, Mediterranean cruise, and a few others. These were really special memories for us now. He passed away this year, and we are all so glad we had those vacations together. I recommend a cruise or all-inclusive resort for maximum fun with a big group (we were 12 - 15 ppl depending on the year) and minimum hassle. There are some less expensive/closer to home destinations that we also enjoyed: Asilomar, Graegle Lodge. I definitely recommend a whole family vacation. 

My parents love cruising so we got them a cruise to Hawaii for their 40th wedding anniversary. They have no problem getting around but they enjoy the convenience of cruising to be able to see multiple locations and only unpacking once. Another recommendation is a Panama Canal cruise. Sailing the Panama Canal was a bucket list item for my dad. The cruise left from Fort Lauderdale and ended back in San Francisco. Easy splurges you can add on are upgrading to a balcony room or paying for shore excursions for them.

It really depends on what they like -- a hotel in SF, and theater tickets might be perfect for some, Asilomar or Calistoga (not sure how it is post-fires) for others. Ashland and tickets to the Shakespeare fest might be good. Some people might like season tickets to Berkeley Rep or the Symphony. (I am clearly revealing what I would like in my answer :) . Would they like to go off by themselves or with you and the grandchildren? A trip is a lovely idea, but I think you need to ask more questions.