Traveling with Parents
If you’re planning a trip in the near future, don’t knock the idea of recruiting a new set of traveling companions: the people who raised you. Traveling with your mother and father as an adult provides the perfect opportunity to reconnect with them or — if you’re the one footing the costs — a memorable way of saying “thank you” for all those years that they supported you.
Plus, traveling with parents allows you to experience the world at a more leisurely pace. And if you take your kids, you'll be able to secure free babysitting, while enjoying the incredible experience of multi-generational travel.
With that in mind, here are the best destinations to take an excursion to with your ma and pa — places with plenty of culture and activities to offer that are also accessible, relaxing and fairly laid-back.
Who knows, you may even learn something new about the people who know you best.
Napa Valley, California
When road tripping with retirees, be aware that a few too many hours packed together in tight quarters might cause everyone to become a little testy. Luckily, after arriving in Napa Valley, a bottle (or three) of Cabernet from the nearest winery you come across will soothe everyone’s nerves.
In fact, the hills and golden fields of Napa Valley are home to nearly 1,000 wineries, which you can explore by tour bus, train or even a private chartered limousine if you’re looking to drink in style. In addition to an assortment of fine wines, including internationally-acclaimed Cabernet, this destination also boasts award-winning restaurants, spiffy boutiques, and quaint orchards and farms.
Just remember: Reading a book by the hotel pool with a drink in hand is also a totally reasonable choice. (And as a bonus, it will give you some time to decompress after hours with the folks.)
Not everyone gets the opportunity to travel with their parents, so consider making it a trip to remember by heading south to Mexico. Tulum, situated on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula, is a tropical, warm paradise where resort-dwellers can spend their days moving from lounge chair to poolside bar and back again.
But since you’re here, consider picking up on the local hippie vibe and sign mom and dad up for a yoga class, meditation session on the beach or visit to one of the many cenotes — natural swimming holes. Later, follow the crowds and try some of the popular local restaurants.
While the touristy joints may serve mostly American fare, authentic places offer unique options like fresh-squeezed coconut water, handground coffee, hot servings of huevos rancheros, jicama salads and even cocktails crafted with housemade mescal.
Many children across the country dread the prospect of being dragged by their parents to the old town of Williamsburg — a place most known for its American revolution museums, historical reenactments and restored battlefields. But as an adult with aging parents, this beautifully-preserved city near Virginia’s coast is worth every minute spent waiting in line during peak season.
In fact, this destination seems to always surprise people of any age with its diverse array of activities. History buffs could ostensibly spend several days stopping at historic sites and slow-walking along the shady cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Outdoor enthusiasts will encounter a range of accessible and not-too-strenuous activities, such as kayaking and biking. The area is also home to lovely bed and breakfasts, elegant restaurants, and stores that sell far more than typical tourist fare.
Playa Herradura, Costa Rica
At first glance, Central America might not seem like a go-to choice for those vacationing with older family members. Yet travelers who are looking for a unique and exotic location will be rewarded for their efforts with this location.
Playa Herradura — a coastal town on the Pacific side of Costa Rica — is best known for its well-preserved black sand beaches, turquoise water and lush rainforests. There are plenty of opportunities here to treat your parents to luxuries, such as the all-you-can-eat seafood buffets or fruity cocktails served poolside.
In order to make lasting memories, take some time away from the modern amenities and sign up for one of the many daily tours. Sports enthusiasts should check out the deep-sea fishing boat excursions or snorkeling sites. Or, see if you can talk your parents into strapping up and ziplining through the trees. Just remember to bring your camera.
The charming region of Tuscany is one of Italy’s best destinations for stunning scenery and excellent food and wine, making it an obvious choice for travelers of all ages. As the countryside is only a short bus or car ride away from the city of Florence, Tuscany is also an accessible option for those looking to avoid long hours spent en route.
And while napping the day away at a bed and breakfast overlooking a vineyard (or at a private villa settled amongst rows of cypress trees) will certainly be delightful, Tuscany also allows for a range of experiences. For instance, consider spending one or two days exploring the neighboring medieval towns. Day trips to wineries can also be arranged through one of the dozens of tour groups in the area.
Just be aware of the summer heat — that’s what all the shady plazas and cool cafés are for.
If it’s your parents’ dream to visit Europe, but the distance and/or cost makes it impossible, look no further than Montreal. Once they’re strolling along the cobblestone streets, your mother and father will soon forget (or just not care) that they’re not in France.
Montreal also has excellent public transportation, meaning you can park the rental car or forget the taxi fare. But after exiting the subway, the city is best seen on foot. With character-filled neighborhoods bursting with restaurants, bars, cafés and art galleries, Montreal’s atmosphere is distinctly old-world-feeling.
The Notre-Dame Basilica adds to that vibe and is a necessary visit for lovers of architecture and history. Mont Royal, which offers a breathtaking view of the city, also belongs on the to-do list — and there are buses for those unable to make the climb.
Also take time to indulge in Montreal’s culinary fare. The local bagels, poutine and espresso drinks are famous for a reason.
If your mom and dad have romantic ideas about France, here’s a suggestion: Avoid the wild, stressful and sometimes smelly streets of Paris.
With its olive groves and lavender fields, France’s southern region of Provence is idyllic enough to melt away any regrets about not snapping a pic near the Eiffel Tower. For those interested in a little adventure, the limestone canyon — Gorges du Verdon — offers affordable boat rides across its sparkling, aqua green waters. Or, for a family of art and culture enthusiasts, drive down to the harmonious city-commune of Aix. Here, you can trace the steps of famous creators who lived in Provence, such as Albert Camus, Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne.
It’s also easy to book day trips to nearby medieval abbeys or easygoing port towns. Then again, with the quality of coffee and cuisine in Provence, you may be tempted to spend all day at the local café.
Palm Springs, California
Napa Valley may have rolling hills and wine tasting, but Palm Springs has something else unique to offer. It’s a really relaxed resort town, making it a great choice for later-in-life parents.
Historically referred to as an “oasis,” Palm Springs is graced with warm weather and frequented by celebrities. If you grow tired of the pool or lavish hotel brunches, hot springs and spas are in abundance. Moreover, most businesses are catered to seniors, so any one of the excellent restaurants downtown will likely be quiet and free of long waits, but without feeling like an old folks’ home.
Note: Staying out past sunrise is rewarded with jazz music emanating from laid-back clubs. Or, consider calling it a night so you can all make your tee time in the morning at one of the area’s lush golf courses.
For those with parents who prioritize history when choosing where to travel, the UK’s medieval city of Edinburgh has all the offerings of other European capitals, but without the elbow-to-elbow tourist traffic and astronomical high-season hotel rates.
The city’s most popular destination is Edinburgh Castle — its grandiose stone walls are visible from nearly every neighborhood. Moreover, museums, ancient ruins and architectural masterpieces are in abundance here.
If your parents grow tired of climbing castle steps, Edinburgh is also home to a few different whiskey distilleries, as well as popular Victoria Street, perfect for a shopping spree.
Plus, if you’re in need of some alone time, you can send your parents off for tea and head toward the city’s massive public park — The Meadows — for a jog, walk or nap.
A week away in Spain may sound like the perfect excuse to party until sunrise, night after night. But visiting this European gem with your parents may help you experience it in a new (and less mojito-fueled) way.
Granada, located in Spain’s Andalusia region in the south, is graced with stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Perhaps even more awe-inducing is the Alhambra, the 14th century Islamic palace and gardens. As this site sometimes receives thousands of visitors a day, make sure to book tickets ahead of time, or, better yet, treat your parents to a day of no waiting by paying extra for a private tour.
Beyond the palace walls, there are numerous other citadels, basilicas and patios to visit. And, although they’re not as grand as the ancient Moorish architecture, the hotels and restaurants in the area are often opulent and inviting.
Bar Harbor, Maine
If your parents are hoping to get in touch with nature, think about Bar Harbor. Full of rocky shores and pine-covered mountains, Bar Harbor is adjacent to Acadia National Park, which is comprised of more than 47,000 acres that run along the Atlantic Coast. While most swaths of wilderness this size require at least a moderate level of physical fitness, Acadia can be accessed with a single day pass via bus, trolley or boat, all of which leave from town.
It’s also possible to do a little wildlife watching without walking too far — the park is home to bears, moose, seals, whales and seabirds. Plus, upon return to Bar Harbor, there’s plenty of whimsical shops to explore and restaurants to try. Ask for recommendations if you like, but any local will tell you to try to the rich and buttery lobster.
For any seasoned traveler, it’s probably no surprise that Italy graces this list twice. From the food, wine and diverse landscapes to the architecture, museums and shopping, Italy is a go-to destination for travelers young and old.
The island of Sicily, located at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, is a particularly smart choice for those seeking both sun and substance. Depending on mom and dad’s mood, you could conceivably laze on the beach all day picking at plates of grilled swordfish, freshly made ricotta and tomatoes the color of Chianti wine. Or, if everyone is feeling adventurous, lace up your walking shoes and explore the abundant historical sites, which include ornate Catholic cathedrals, Greek temples, baroque palaces and Arab domes.
Sicily requires a bit more effort to get to than, say, Rome or Florence, but if your parents are up to it, this island won’t disappoint.
Depending on your home base, flights to many parts of Asia, Africa and Australia might be too long and difficult for those with older parents. Yet Jerusalem is a good compromise on distance; it’s also possible to get one-stop flights to Israel from some U.S. airports.
Given that this deeply important city is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, Jerusalem is an excellent destination for those deeply interested in religion and history. While it may be difficult to pry your parents away from the magnificent holy sites, remember to rest and seek relief from the heat. Israel boasts many modern destinations, like posh rooftop restaurants and quiet cafés.
If you’re a family of shoppers, set a self-imposed limit on your credit card: Israel is not only home to bustling markets, but to massive, multi-level (and air conditioned!) malls.