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Best Place to Send Parents on Vacation?

Looking to gift my parents a trip for their upcoming anniversary (both in 60s). Ideally just a week away, but am open to 10 days.

They will be travelling from Toronto, are not super-outdoorsy, love wine, and are in definite need of R&R. I've contemplated an all-inclusive but don't think it's their style. I've also thought about Hawaii, but my dad isn't one for flights longer than 7-8 hours. My current ideas are Banff (and Lake Louise), Sonoma and Lisbon, all very different experiences but each with different components that make sense.

Budget-wise, things are a bit tight, but I'm also open to spending more for them to have the right experience.

Any tips or recos are highly appreciated! Thanks!

Posted by
542 posts

What time of year? If wine is a focus, why not France or Italy?

Other area to consider in California is Santa Barbara. Great wine and beautiful.

Other than wine, what would they like to do?

Posted by
381 posts

If your budget is tight then I recommend you shorten the trip so they can truly relax while away and feel this is a huge treat.

Posted by
3336 posts

A non-stop from Toronto to London is 7 hours, so Lisbon is probably too long of a flight.

Why not San Francisco? They won't need a car; great wine and food at all price points; culture if they want; great scenery, etc.

Posted by
7453 posts

We are in our 60’s, and our honeymoon was at Banff!

Some other trips within your parent’s flight time that we have enjoyed that have been relaxing:

Vancouver and either Vancouver Island or Whistler. Both are very nice & relaxing in the Summer months, too.
Staying at B&B’s along the coast of New Hampshire & Maine. We also included Boston in this one. Rent a fun car, not a “practical car” for this one. ; )
San Francisco is fun. We didn’t need a car there, but it is an expensive city.

Posted by
4012 posts

Are you going to pay for them to rent a car and all the expenses with that including insurance, gasoline? If they go to Sonoma or BC, they’ll need a car. That said, Lake Louise in Banff are absolutely spectacular compared with California’s Sonoma County and they would not have to deal with international travel.

For the hassle of international travel, why not Lisbon? Portugal is NOT an expensive country and they won’t need a car. Plus they might consider it a trip of a lifetime. If they can deal with the hassles of international travel, I think you have a winner with Lisbon especially with its excellent public transportation.

Posted by
993 posts

What a great gift for your parents. Any of the options you have listed could work depending upon your priorities and budget. Banff is relaxing, but not a wine/food destination; Lisbon has great food, but is a longer trip and may not be the most relaxing option. Sonoma is a great/wine food destination and is very relaxing, but not necessarily the most budget friendly.

I know Napa/Sonoma area very well as I live in the San Francisco Bay area and go their quite often for winery events. Here are some specific pros/cons of that area:


  • Very relaxing--it is the place I go to recharge my batteries. There is virtually no nightlife, great spas, and relaxed vibe
  • World-class food & wine: Sonoma is all about Pinot & Chardonnay while Napa is Cab Country and you are close enough to experience both places. Copia in Napa has very affordable cooking classes and events. The garden there in spring/summer is spectacular. In Sonoma, there is CornerStone which has acres of sample gardens, wine tasting, and cooking demonstrations. I actually mirrored my cocktail garden in my home after the one at CornerStone.
  • Nice mix of high-low for food options. You can eat very well here even if you don't want to spend for a Michelin star meal. If you go, PM me and I will send you those restaurants.
  • Nice outdoor options, if you want to take a short hike.


  • Car is required, adding a little expense. Although driving in Sonoma/Napa area is not difficult.
  • Lodging can be expensive, especially if you travel in the late Spring/Summer. There are affordable options, but they are not as luxurious, especially if you want to spa.
  • Things are spread out in Sonoma, so it is best to pick an area that you like: typically Healdsburg or near the town of Sonoma and then travel near those areas.
  • Wine tasting is very expensive, even if you don't take a tour. Costs vary, but typically $25-$40 for tastings (some include tours, some not). If you do a more extensive tour or food paring, costs are higher. The good news is that for us, we usually can't do more than a couple of wineries per day and because we are driving, share a tasting.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
11368 posts

Lisbon is only a five hour time change from EST , prices are very reasonable and it would be a total change for them. I vote for Lisbon!

Posted by
7906 posts

We did a great four night bus tour of the Canadian Rockies with Key West Tours from Vancouver. It was great.

Hawaii was nice, but if you go, make sure you go to the big island.

Consider a cruise. The ones that go through the Panama Canal, from Florida to California are great. You get the Caribbean as well as the historic canal.

Posted by
4473 posts

If they've never been to Hawaii, it's way better than Lisbon. Once in Lisbon was enough for me, but I never say no to Hawaii and expect to be going there for the 4th time in 2021.

Posted by
303 posts

My husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary flying into Calgary, renting a car and driving to Banff, Lake Louise and then the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. The Icefields Parkway is magnificent, but if relaxation is the prime goal, driving for 3 to 4 hours to enjoy this experience may not be for them. Staying in the Hotel Faimount Chateau lakeside in Lake Louise would be stunning, but expensive. We stayed in a lovely place close to the lake called Paradise Lodge. We stayed in the Lodge and had our own kitchen, living room with gas fireplace, separate bedroom and a balcony facing the mountains. It was the best place we stayed during our whole trip. We preferred Lake Louise over Banff as Banff seemed more commercial.

San Francisco is also a great place to go for a special event. It is more water oriented. Are your folks more seaside or mountain view people? That might be a determining factor for some locations.

If they are lake people, the Finger Lakes of New York are also picturesque, and there are over 100 wineries in this region!

Whatever you decide, you are a very special person to do this for your parents.

Posted by
5837 posts

I would be partial to a Hawaiian Holiday but for the brutal multi-leg flight combinations from Toronto. For a week trip there are wonderful places in Canada that I have enjoyed.

Victoria/Vancouver Island and Vancouver BC.

Banff NP and its CP grand chateaus (Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise) and nearby Yoho National Park (Emerald Lake Lodge). And if on a budget limit for hotels (spending on meals and wine), Canmore on the eastern outskirts of Banff NP is a good option.

Posted by
5837 posts

If budget and duration were not limiting factors, one could plan a grand tour. Toronto to Vancouver YVR then YVR to Hawaii (HNL or OGG non-stop) for a Hawaiian holiday, return to San Francisco (Wine Country stop), the SFO to home.

Posted by
327 posts

As a fellow Canadian, and taking into consideration your parents' interest in wine, I would vote for San Francisco (and Sonoma). They could fly non-stop from Toronto to SFO in 6 hours. Another "wine destination" closer to home would be Kelowna BC and the Okanagan valley - but that also depends on the time of year. There are one week wine-themed Pacific coastal cruises from Vancouver - usually in the spring and the fall when the ships are repositioning for the Alaska cruise season.

While I personally love Hawaii for R&R and have been many times, it sounds like your dad would not like the long flights involved to and from (10 hours non-stop), plus there is a significant time change between Toronto and Hawaii (especially if only going for a week to 10 days.) And if your budget is tight, I would choose some place other than Hawaii or Banff/Lake Louise. The Canadian Rockies destinations in Alberta have great food, but they are not inexpensive, and Jasper would be a more relaxing destination than Banff/Lake Louise, IMHO.

Posted by
6810 posts

Ensure they have current passports if sending them anyplace outside of Canada. If they’ve never been, both London or Edinburgh fall within the 7-8 hour flight range.

Posted by
1117 posts

While my first inclination is to say, "Napa", that's not inexpensive, and it's a long ways to travel. Why not just send them down to a nice B&B in New York's Finger Lakes district? Pretty country, not terrible expensive, and they'd have two extra days to relax instead of hanging around airports. All kinds of vineyards and tours available.