Trips with the Grandparents

Parent Q&A

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  • Good vacation for seniors or other gifts

    (15 replies)

    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? 

    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 ) 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.

  • My parents are coming to visit us in August and I am trying to come up with ideas for Bay Area day trips or a short 1-2 night stay within a 3 hour drive from Berkeley that would be fun to do with the grandparents and an 8 year old.

    My 80 year-old father has limited mobility due to neuropathy. He has trouble with stairs but can walk short distances with a cane. During their most recent visit we all went to Monterey for a few days and managed to convince him to use a wheelchair while we were at the Aquarium, which worked very well for all involved.

    I’d love recommendations for attractions that have wheelchairs available and hotels with accessible rooms and a pool.


    If you're up for another trip to the Monterey area, we had a family reunion at Asilomar a few years ago. It worked well for kids and an adult with mobility limitations. Asilomar even has a beach wheelchair for guests to borrow. Come to think of it, many of the beaches in the State Parks system have beach wheelchairs.

    For day trips... a lot of museums and other venues have loaner wheelchairs for guests who have trouble walking/standing for extended periods of time. Check the accessibility info on their websites. Maybe a ferry ride + pedicab + loaner wheelchair for an outing to the Exploratorium? Depending on your budget and your dad's comfort level, you might also get a walker with built-in seating (search term "rollator" on Amazon or Craigslist). After much coaxing, we're finally getting my dad to use one.


    I did a family vacation with my 89-year-old, wheelchair-bound mother to Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove. They have accessible rooms (you'll have to call, as the online reservation system wasn't specific enough) and an accessible pool, and they lend beach wheelchairs to take to Asilomar State Beach (a short walk away). I have great pictures of my mom on the beach for the first time in 20 years. The grounds are gorgeous, there's a social hall with pool, puzzles and games, and a big fireplace, a dining hall that serves 3 meals a day (for an added cost), and a boardwalk on the adjacent sand dunes. The only downside I see is that you already did Monterey, and this is right nextdoor, so you may feel you have been-there-done-that.

    What about a house rental in Sea Ranch? Many are one level and have lovely decks and views of fields and ocean. Guests can access the community pools. You may need to investigate which paths are wheelchair friendly and it may feel tricky to not have your dad able to get into beaches (though some may be possible? But it’s inherently uneven terrain). But I think it’s a nice enough spot that sitting around and looking at the view while playing cards or doing a puzzle is also a good vacation. Biking, walking, beach, kayaking are all possible as well for the rest of you. 

    Redwoods River Resort is a “glamping” resort in Mendocino county right on the Eel River and it’s fabulous. About 2 hrs north on 101 from the Bay Area and nestled among the redwoods.  They have cabins and lodge rooms as well as camping options. There have a pool, bocce ball court, playground, ping pong, giant Jenga, a little pub with great food and drink and of course the river.  There’s also a mystery spot across the road and plenty of hiking trails. Something for everyone, highly recommend it!

  • Hi folks,

    I'm looking for suggestions for a place to spend a week or more this mid-August with a family of four and one set of elderly grandparents (probably 3BR 2Ba). I'm hoping for something within several hours' drive of Berkeley where the pace is slow, there is natural beauty, lots to do, an abundance of reasonably-priced vacation rentals,  and finally, a calm, warm-enough-for-swimming beach on a lake or river for shaky swimmers. Is this pie-in-the-sky? So far we have already tried Pinecrest Lake. I'm wondering if the Russian River would be a good choice? We may not be able to commit until July, to further complicate things.

    Thanks in advance for any tips.

    Look to Arnold or Dorrington.  There's the lovely White Pines Lake with a sandy beach and no motor boats.  Most of the homes up there are in HOAs with private lake access or pools.

    The Russian River Valley is perfect!! A bunch of cute towns very close together; about 1.5 hours from Berkeley (without traffic); tons of adorable vacation rentals, many of which are on the river; the coast and coastal towns like Bodega Bay and Jenner only about 20 minutes away; Armstrong Redwood Grove in Guerneville, which is a must-do- so peaceful and beautiful; tons of wineries, many of which are family friendly (we had a great time at Martin Ray recently); and last but not least, the river! Perfect for wading, kayaking, tubing, light swimming. It's truly one of our favorite areas and we recommend it to everyone looking for an easy getaway from the Bay Area. If you go take River Road near the end of the drive for beautiful scenery. Russian River Getaways is a good rental website, along with air bnb. 

    Tahoe! I love Tahoe in the summer.... and there's lots for everyone up there. We are spending a week up there this summer with granparents and I can't wait!

  • Daughter traveling alone with grandparents

    (7 replies)

    Hi everyone, I'm hoping someone can help me, or at least steer me in the right direction. My daughter will travel to Hawaii with my parents for two weeks in the summer. I will stay home and work, and my wife who is a Hungarian national will be in Europe. My question is this: What kind of permissions do we need, and how do we go about getting them? If anyone has experience in this realm, or has advice to give I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Ben Jarrett

    Give your parents a copy of your daughter's birth certificate and your own, along with a "to whom it might concern" letter (a) stating that your parents have permission to take your daughter to Hawaii and (b) providing phone numbers where you can be contacted.  That may be overdoing it but it should handle any situation.  You might also call the airline to find out if they have any procedures for this -- possibly even an on-line form. 

    When we sent our kids off with relatives, we sent along a copy of their birth certificate and a notarized letter, signed by both parents, stating that the relative had our permission to travel with them and that the relative was authorized to pursue emergency medical care for the child.  Probably overkill (I don't think either document was ever needed), but it could prevent a lot of hassles to have it along.  If you search online you can find examples of the wording for the letter.  Also a good idea to send a copy of the front and back of the child's medical insurance card.

    I would add to the answer above that the "to whom it may concern" letter should be notarized and signed by both parents.  My husband and I carry a notarized letter whenever one of us travels alone with our child.

    I don't have an official answer, but we did a similar thing.  We took my husband's grandson with us to the East Coast last summer.  We were never asked to provide ID nor how we were related - but his last name is the same as ours.  I think we had his health insurance card with us, or at least a copy of it.

    We have our aupairs fly with our kids often to visit grandparents. You should provide the grandparent with an original birth certificate and a notarized letter authorizing them to travel with your child from  location A to Location B from date x to date y. You should also make them a medical proxy  in case of an emergency.

    Hi, Ben.  Your daughter should be fine to travel with her grandparents without any kind of identification, but the world of travel is a rapidly changing thing these days.  I'd check with places a little more formal than a parents' advice column.  State Department website?  US Embassy?  

    Thank you to everyone here.  This was very informative and helpful.

    I think probably nothing will happen that will even require papers at all, but this will help everyone to relax a bit more.

    Cheers to a great ending of the school year and a great summer,


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Bay Area outings with visiting grandparents

Dec 2008

I am looking for recommendations for things to do in the Bay area over Christmas. My parents are coming from Canada and are staying at our (very small) house with us. They are in their 80s and somewhat restricted in the amount they can walk, but I need to play cruise director and entertain them during their stay. The house will be cramped so I would love to be out as much as possible with them and my 2.5 year old. Help! Don't let me stay stuck in my house with my parents! I'll go nuts!

I recommend the Academy of the Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It is fun for all ages, with benches for resting (although I could always use more). Both my kids loved it, and I saw many older folks enjoying themselves. My 2 1/2 year old was scared of the 3D bug show because it was too loud, but your parents could watch it while you explore if your child doesn't like it. The first two minutes looked really good.

We also enjoy taking the ferry from Jack London Square to Pier 41. We then visit the sea lions and the small aquarium there (my kids love fish). Or you could just look around and have lunch. The ferry is about 45m ride, but there is a lot to see, so it a favorite adventure for my kids, while being restful for adults.

Have fun! Love to Sightsee in SF

A few ideas that are fun for kids, parents and grandparents:

How about the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito? Fun for kids and spectacular views for the parents. Plenty of parking and not too much walking for the grandparents (you could even drop them in front and then park).

Lawrence Hall of Science - again, fun for all ages, spectacular Bay Views.

Steam Trains and carousel in Tilden Park-evening visits during the holidays are festive

Botanical Gardens

If your little one can handle a sit-down experience, high tea at one of the hotels in San Francisco might be fun, though a bit pricey. Palace Hotel has a fun one.

Take a drive/walk around San Francisco, Marin Headlands, Muir Woods.

Take a ferry ride on the bay.

Take a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Have fun! bay area parent

Some ideas: you could take the ferry to San Francisco (with a little visit to Ferry Plaza) and/or Marin. Go up to Tilden Park and ride the steam train or visit the merry-go-round or Little Farm. Maybe ''play tourist'' and take a bus tour of San Francisco? Look for holiday concerts, particularly kid-friendly ones. Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights. Go to a playground with comfy benches, or one of the indoor play cafes like Tumble and Tea. Go to a cafe for hot chocolate and people-watching. Go to the library for storytime. Remember, they will get a kick out of just spending time with the grandkid. Enjoy and good luck!

I have a toddler and elderly parents and in-laws too. Here are some of our activities when they have visited:

Muir Woods. You don't need to go on a hike, just the boardwalk area and listen to the docents. Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge on the way there or back.

UC Botanic Garden or Tilden Park Botanic Garden, if they can walk a bit.

Tilden Park Steam Train, Carousel, Little Farm and Nature Area. Or even just one of these at a time for shorter outings. Be sure to bring celery or lettuce with you to the Little Farm. Parking is pretty easy. If you haven't been there, Do a pre-visit run with your child so you'll know how much walking is involved. I don't think your child will mind.

Take your child and parents to Children's Fairyland and Habitot.

My MIL wanted to go shopping, so I took them for brunch and shopping at Ikea. She loved it.

Looking forward to the other responses. L