When my sister Gail turned 50, I decided a surprise getaway would be the perfect gift for my Mom, sister Ilyse and me to give her. And thus a tradition was born. Now we go away for each milestone birthday. I was always the member of the family who came up with the idea of making an album (before everyone was into “scrapbooking”), planning a surprise or putting on a show. After becoming a travel agent, my creativity had new horizons to explore.
Over the years our birthday trips have become more elaborate because we are a family of creative souls- each lending their own particular talent. But special occasion travel can be enjoyed by everyone.
Here are some key points for planning a special occasion trip or the perfect milestone birthday—
WHO IS TRAVELING?
Our milestone birthdays consist of just 4 people- me and my two sisters and our mom. We have similar interests so it’s easy to plan. If you have a larger family or group of friends, you will have to take into consideration the needs of the group. If multi-generational, children’s facilities and activities come into play. Many tour operators offer trips for multi-generational families. Also, if different ages and levels of activity are required, consider an all-inclusive or a cruise where there will be something for everyone.
WHEN ARE YOU TRAVELLING?
If you’re planning a special occasion trip in the winter, you won’t be doing a cruise in the Mediterranean or Alaska. If going during the summer, you might need to be aware of anyone sensitive to heat. Depending on what you’d like to do, consider the best time of year to do it. Also, always consider “shoulder” season as a means of saving money and not going at the most popular time of year. Be aware that major holidays and often summer vacations may cost more because more people are traveling. We took my sister to Scottsdale Arizona during the summer because that is where she was born. It was hot, but we able to rent a beautiful casita at a luxury resort for a song because it was low season.
WHERE WILL YOU GO?
In addition to weather, you must consider interests and ability of passengers and of course, budget. Our trips have run the gamut from local day trips to a river cruise through France. As Mom has aged we like to keep air travel to a minimum. For her 90th, we drove to the mountains and enjoyed a hayride, a trip to a Magic Museum and a campfire. Her fondest memories from childhood were of her one summer at overnight camp so we recreated it for her. It was every bit as special as our trip to France.
WHAT ARE THE GROUP’S INTERESTS?
Though the birthday person or anniversary couple are the most important to consider, other participants must be taken into account. While planning our trips shopping, fine food (with an emphasis on dessert), art and theater are always at the top of the list. In Paris, I arranged a chocolate tour and a concert in Sainte Chappelle. But the personality of each group varies. Are they into sports? Or maybe music? The more information you have the more memorable the trip will be.
When planning a special occasion trip always try to plan at least one memorable component that distinguishes this trip from any other. We’ve done hot air ballooning, a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls and a ballet performance at Lincoln Center. It can be a “bucket list” item or simply a poem or song performed by a grandchild. For one of my Mom’s birthdays I created a book of family traditional and stories related to food with recipes at the back.
TAP INTO THE TALENTS OF THE PARTICIPANTS.
My sisters are clever with words. They are tasked with writing poems. Some are sent to pique curiosity and get the birthday girl excited about her upcoming trip. Others are delivered during the vacation highlighting the day’s activities. I put together scrapbooks after the trip as a memento. Do you have someone who is good at photography? Or who sings? Put their talents to work. If you’re not creative, enlist the services of someone who is. I have found great ideas on Facebook and Pinterest. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Take lots of pictures and if possible, make a scrapbook after you return. Half the fun is reliving your wonderful adventures. If you don’t have the talent or time, there are many companies who will do it for you. For Mom’s last birthday we videotaped her talking about her reminiscences of her childhood, growing up, meeting our Dad, and our early years. This will become a family treasure not just for us, but for future generations.
USE A TRAVEL PROFESSIONAL.
When planning a special occasion trip your travel agent can find the perfect trip and arrange all the components for a seamless and stress-free vacation. With everything planned in advance, everyone can relax and enjoy the trip. Remember- the more information you give to your travel agent regarding the participants, their interests and your budget, the more successful your trip will be.