Give my father a vacation!
February 23, 2005 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Can anybody help me help my older, foreign, single father take a vacation?

My dad is hasn't taken a vacation away from his home in decades and he's now retired and has nothing to do all day. I don't think he's very happy and he doesn't have enough initiative to get out and do something.

He's an immigrant to the US, so he doesn't have many friends around the country, he'll 72 in a few weeks so I don't think he'd necessarily want to do the things I would enjoy, and he's single so it would be nice if he could go on a vacation with a group where he might have a chance to make new friends. He hasn't seen the US ouside of New England/New York and he likes guided tours. Any ideas?
posted by crazy finger to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
While not inexpensive, some of the semi-adventure travel companies - Mountain Travel, Backroads, etc - have some wonderful trips that are interesting and relatively easy for anyone who is a decent walker. I went on a trip throughout the Czech Republic with Mountain Travel and was very happy - I was 29, my friend was 60, and the rest of the travelers ranged from 30 to 85. There were 15 of us in all, and we had two young women guides who were absolutely terrific, great little country inns, fantastic food, and we stopped at every small winery and at the home of hobbyist winemakers to taste the current crop. It could not have been any better, really. The 85 year olds had no trouble; the toughest walks were leisurely strolls through the woods and small towns and castles. If he can afford it - or if you are going to pay for it - I really can't suggest these companies enough. They also have some wonderful short boat trips on sailboats in Turkey that are supposed to be amazing - if he likes boats, that might be a lot of fun - gourmet food and several days on a sailboat, stopping here and there along the coast to explore small towns and markets. All these firms have wonderful illustrated catalogs, with the trips rated based on physical difficulty. I usually stick to the 2 and 3s (out of 10 - for example, the Himalayan Trek might be an 8 and the optional Everest ascent might be a 10).
posted by luriete at 10:25 AM on February 23, 2005

When I took the Alaska Marine Highway system up to Alaska from Washiington, we shared the ferry with an Elderhostel. There were educational talks all through the day [available for anyone on the boat] some neat movies, meals together, and a ranger available for answering questions and being around while people were sightseeing off of the decks and wanting to know "what's that bird?" They offer pretty moderately priced interesting group tours to places all over the US with people about your father's age. If you found one that went someplace you'd also be interested in going, you and your father could share some time together and at the same time he could spend the day learning about things that he enjoyed.

OT: I just finished reading a good book called Get A Life which talks about planning for retirement and some of the pitfalls that older people have when they find themselves in that "home all day nothing to do" phase. It's an upbeat book with some good suggestions, might be worthwhile for you to read for some additional insight into the 70+ crowd. I'm in my thirties and I thought it was useful for understanding a bit of where my parents were coming from.
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2005

It might help to know a bit more about him. Where did he immigrate from? How fit is he? Any hobbies? This is a program I have heard great things about. It looks like they have just about every kind of trip imaginable, and since it's for senior citizens he should have a good chance to connect with people on the trip. My new employer is involved with the Cape May program and says over 500 seniors participated last year.

On preview: what jessamyn said!
posted by katie at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2005

my parents are around that age and i've just finished travelling with them. a lot depends on how active he is. i went with them at times (this last week in buenos aires, a week or two earlier to the north of chile); at other times they went by themselves.

they enjoyed just about everything - tours into the desert, a boat trip to see some island, a stay in a "hacienda" where dad did a bit of mtn biking and my mum rode a horse, wandering round museums and shops in b a, etc.

i found it pretty exhausting being with them and organising stuff, so if you're like me and get exasperated/frustrated easily (and i guess it's worse with a single parent) then you may want to look more at organised tours rather than travelling alone. but on the other hand, that was largely because they didn't speak (and were apparently overwhelmed by) spanish.

so i guess i'm saying that, provided he's still fit and active, if he's anything like my folks he'll do/enjoy pretty much anything. what's more critical is finding something that gives you both time to be together and time when you're either apart, or at least without much to worry about. also, i'd suggest doing it soon and not postponing it a year...
posted by andrew cooke at 10:52 AM on February 23, 2005

Second the Elderhostel suggestion. My elderly aunt seems to be always traveling since her husband died, and she relies heavily on the hostels.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:43 PM on February 23, 2005

Thanks for the help, I'll give Elderhostel a try and maybe send him out to Alaska or Arizona this year. In case it changes anything, he is pretty fit and pretty active. He's not ready to run a marathon or hike a mountain, but he is in pretty good shape. For hobbies, he has neglected that aspect of his life for years, so I'm hoping that a trip like this can jump-start his personal life again and get him to spend some of his money on himself.
posted by crazy finger at 1:29 PM on February 23, 2005

If he'd be more into a group setting, why not look into the local senior centers. It seems like the one my grandmother goes to is always doing trips and tours all over the place.
Added bonus of being with people who are local to him, so if he does make friends they won't be halfway around the country.
posted by Kellydamnit at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2005

(slightly off-topic, but my dad really loves mountain biking. it's kind of odd at that age, i guess, but he used to cycle competitively before he was married. what got him hooked was me borrowing a friend's bike when he visited and the two of us going out together. then my sister and her ex (they live in the uk) did the same a couple of times, lent him a bike, and finally helped him buy one. so maybe look at old hobbies he had and see what can be started anew...)
posted by andrew cooke at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2005

My best friend works in the photo department at Grand Circle Travel, a Boston-based company that specializes in guided tours for active seniors, and she can't say enough good things about the company. Might be worth checking out -- they go all over the world.
posted by damn yankee at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2005

You know, DC is very elderly-friendly, except in the deep winter and the high summer. Lots of well-designed museums, open spaces, friendly folks. I'd show him around my office, and I hear that there's another MetaFilterian who works in a pretty cool place. Shoot me an email if you want.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:11 PM on February 23, 2005

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