Summertime: Great Senior-Friendly Vacations I

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by Joy Loverde

Looking through my many photo albums and reminiscing about people that I love, especially those who have since died, keeps me keenly aware of the importance of the passage of time -- especially grandparents. Now that school’s out, opportunities for spending time with one another present themselves more often; and what better way to make that time more meaningful and memorable than to travel together?

Taking your elderly loved ones along on your next vacation has many advantages. In addition to grandparents taking an ever-increasing role in their grandchildren's lives, members of every generation learn to appreciate the unique perspective one has to offer the other. Time with our elders are moments we can’t put a value on, and by using travel to share experiences, family relationships blossom and grow stronger.

Travel with a Focus

Vacationing with family members has taught me many things, but none more important than this: Travel is most enjoyable when the trip has a focus. When family vacation plans pursue a single idea or theme, chances are you’ll all have more fun — and add something new to your life at the same time. The range of possibilities is almost endless. Here are a few ideas:

  • exploring the American wilderness
  • archaeological digs
  • lessons at some of the country's great golf courses
  • learning to cook Italian, Chinese, Thai or any ethnic cuisine
  • historical and architectural tours
  • photography lessons and expeditions
  • tracing the life and works of composers and visiting famous opera houses
  • learning to paint, or study the masters, or both.
  • scenic river floats
  • bird watching safaris
  • flight seeing (view volcanoes and canyons from the sky)

Focused travel doesn't mean you have to take a tour package: independent trips are available, too. Even if you sign up for an organized program, you can travel to and from the area on your own.  To find specialized trips, start with organizations that have already considered the special needs of older travelers:

  • Church groups
  • Museums
  • National parks
  • Colleges and universities
  • Elderhostel is open to travelers age 55 or over.

“Senior-Friendly” Vacation Ideas

If creating a custom vacation is what you have in mind, here are a few ideas that accommodate most families’ interests:

College Towns

A treasure trove of lectures, concerts, workshops, social gatherings, theater, music, sporting events and more awaits the entire family when a college town is the getaway destination. Not only that, campus lodging is often relatively inexpensive, and some are now available year-around.  Modern Maturity Magazine featured the following towns that exemplify the best qualities of the college town experience:

Austin, Texas

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Bloomington, Indiana

Charlottesville, Virginia

Columbia, Missouri

Iowa City, Iowa

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Madison, Wisconsin

Princeton, New Jersey

State College, Pennsylvania

Cruises

The biggest advantage to taking a cruise with family members is that nobody in your party has to organize either the adults or the children. But beware. Will the cruise really satisfy the family’s wish to "visit" different countries? Most cruise ships dock for just eight hours or so at each stop and sight-seeing usually takes place from the window of a tour bus.

Motor Home Travel

From visiting national parks to tracing historic events, renting a motor home is another popular family vacation option. Sleeping up to six persons for less than $100 a day can’t be beat. If this idea appeals to you, ask about unlimited mileage and insurance.

Work Conferences

One of the easiest family vacation ideas might be right under your nose. Do you have a work-related conference coming up in your near future? Take Mom. These days, juggling work/life responsibilities is not easy, and employers are beginning to see the benefits of encouraging employees to combine work travel with family vacations. They know how difficult it may be for you to get away, and bringing the family along might be a “win-win” solution. While you’re off at a workshop, Mom can shop or read by the pool.

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