A dream trip will take your parents’ breath away – it’s so thoughtful and unexpected.
Rally siblings to chip in for a that once-in-a-lifetime trip your mom or dad could never afford. Or pop for a lower-cost road trip – perhaps Route 66 or the California coast. Use your online trip-planning skills to map out a road trip itinerary, book lodging and plan interesting stops.
1. Wonders of the Canadian Rockies
Rocky Mountaineer train tours are coveted for views of snow-crisp peaks and glacial lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Trains capture sweeping views through panoramic windows. A Rocky Mountaineer trip is not just train touring; other explorations and hotel stays fill out the package.
Favorite routes include legendary grande dame hotels in stunning mountain settings. Fairmont Banff Springs rises like a palace among the peaks, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is set beside a mesmerizing popsicle-blue lake. “Canadian Rockies Connector” and “Canadian Rockies Getaway” are routes including these beauties, but you’ll have to go for the top tier Goldleaf package.
2. European River Cruise
River cruises are wildly popular with passengers who like a little comfort and coddling. Ships carry in the range of 130 passengers, which means lots of personal attention on detail-oriented lines such as Viking River Cruises. Two of Viking’s most popular sails are the 8-day “Rhine Getaway” from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland and the 15-day “Grand European Tour” which sails both the Rhine and Danube rivers.
3. Route 66 Road Trip
Route 66 is America’s memory lane and Arizona has a good crop of nostalgic throwback towns. A fun Route 66 Passport earns stamps at classic stops such as Snow Cap Diner in Seligman, a tiny town with big Route 66 memories.
Flagstaff is another 66 mecca with retro Galaxy Diner and Museum Club roadhouse. This friendly college town is ideal for an overnight stay, plus it’s an hour from the Grand Canyon, a not-to-be-missed side trip.
4. Paddleboat Cruise on Lower Mississippi
The Queen of the Mississippi and American Queen are two modern ships dolled up like paddleboats of days gone by. Both offer slow-mo trips on the lower Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans. The easygoing sail allows ample time to gaze at farm fields and small towns, but also includes a visit to a sugar plantation in Louisiana and the chance to take a solemn look at Civil War battlefields of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
5. New Zealand
A country to visit at any age, New Zealand is spectacular with jagged mountains, postcard beaches and misty fjords. Scenery finds its match in hospitality – locals are happy to chat and help out travelers. Self-guided touring companies make trip-planning easier; pre-planned itineraries follow routes that focus on beaches, or you might choose mountains, or perhaps it’s fjords that will thrill your parents.
6. Britain’s Lake District
Parents can think of this as their own Downton Abbey trip, not quite living in a manor house but a good substitute – living the good life in a Lake District in England. Send parents on a three-hour train ride from London to Windermere to the lovely country inn you booked.
7. New York
A boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is particularly touching if relatives immigrated through Ellis Island –your parents can probably find their names. For freebies, map out the High Line walk in Chelsea and add tips for Central Park, Times Square and stores on Fifth Avenue.
8. California’s Coastal Highway One
San Francisco is the hop-on point for this classic road trip winding past cliffs that give way to the sea. Compelling stops include quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea and neighboring Monterey. Book two nights’ lodging to fit in strolling in Carmel, a haven of art galleries and wealth-polished quaintness. In Monterey, visit Cannery Row and Monterey Aquarium.
9. Coastal Norway Cruise
Here’s the anti-cruise for the parent who cringes at the thought of cruising. Norway’s fjords and coastal Arctic are spectacular and plenty of cruise lines go there. The alternative is Norway’s Hurtigruten ships. They’re hybrids – part cruise ship/part working ship, stopping to drop packages and pick up passengers in scattered coastal towns.
Dead-of-night stops at tiny Arctic outposts are the stuff of anti-cruise, and spare cabins are not unlike a seaman’s. But bars, an espresso bar, lounges and dining areas are very nice and service is good from an English-speaking crew. Plus, shore excursions get to the heart of Norway: midnight concert in Arctic cathedral, crabbing on a frozen fjord, celebrating summer’s midnight sun.
10. Coastal Oregon
If a poke-along trip with no checklist of “must-sees” is the relaxing road trip your parents need, Highway 101 along the coast of Oregon fits the bill. Plentiful beaches are rocky and windy, ideal for walking, beach-combing and whale-watching, but rarely sunbathing. Weather is often gloomy – think atmospheric.