The Croatian language can be a bit of a challenge for visitors to this beautiful Adriatic country. Just try wrapping your tongue around “Sretan 60th rodjendan, honey!” But one group of friends is at work on their accents now, anticipating next summer’s joint 60th birthday bash. When Grace, Carol, Kitty and Tom go cheek-to-cheek to blow out the candles on their cake, they’ll be marking the milestone on a landmark vacation. With a total of eight couples, they are traveling to Croatia and Montenegro to commemorate their cumulative 240 years.
Way back when—let’s say when those folks turned 50—celebration vacations were relatively rare. Not so much these days. Among the 45+ crowd, more than three-quarters now say that a vacation is their preferred way to celebrate milestone occasions, according to no less an authority than AARP. Do a Google search for “25th anniversary vacation”, and prepare to toggle your way through about 397,000 results. So if the idea has occurred to you and yours, you’re not alone.
Fresh back from a major birthday trip, Classic Journeys’ guest, Larry Jacobs, cites a song by The Grass Roots from the ‘60s as his inspiration: “We take the ‘sha-la-la-la-la-lala, live for today’ approach. Big days are worth a big gesture. It’s not just about the odometer turning over. I look at that day on the calendar as the perfect excuse to have an experience we’ll always remember.”
“I hear that sentiment over and over,” agrees Dave Van Hook, Senior Guest Services Coordinator at Classic Journeys. “I’ve arranged river-rafting parties in Montana. A candlelit honeymoon dinner for two at Angkor Wat. A bar mitzvah trip to the Amalfi Coast. And a high school graduation celebration in the Galápagos.” The common goal is to elevate what’s already a memorable moment into a truly unforgettable non-stop experience.
And when a specific celebration is nowhere on the horizon, legions of travelers—whether family groups or circles of friends—now invent an occasion and theme their vacations as reunions. “At home, we just can never get everybody together,” says Dick and Barbara Enberg. Soccer practice. Business trips. Family members strewn around the country. The obstacles are endless. “But invite everybody to come to Costa Rica for a family reunion, and it’s amazing how those calendars clear. There were times on that trip when the kids were telling stories and enjoying each other. It’s what parents enjoy most of all.”
The Knapp and Picon families are going for that effect next June. Grandparents, four adult children and eight grandchildren aged from 7 to 16 are headed off for a unique “grand tour” of Europe—from a scavenger hunt in London to a gladiator training session in Rome. “We want to have these experiences together while we all can,” says Judi Knapp, guiding force behind the adventure. That trip seems highly likely to fuel at-home Thanksgiving reminiscences for decades to come.
Marilyn Shockey and her husband just returned from a three-couple trip that included Budapest, Vienna and other spots in the Danube Valley. “Our husbands have all known each other since grade school. They could just sit on a porch and tell the same stories to each other over and over. On these vacations they still have time for that, but we create a lot of new memories. Traveling together means our relationship isn’t just about the past. It’s about the present and shared memories for the future too.”
The chance for an uninterrupted celebration of friendship is also inspiring a growing number of groups of women to travel together. Ultima Morgan, an Orlando attorney, has now traveled with her sister and four friends to Tuscany, Provence and Amalfi, each time with Classic Journeys. “If you’re married or you have kids, especially as you get older, it’s nice to have a chunk of time when you can reconnect with friends. Spending that kind of time together, you’re just bonded for life.”
In fact, most celebration vacationers are at least as interested in renewing and strengthening personal bonds as they are in partying in Provence or reunion-ing in the Galápagos. “Often, the milestone event is really just a happy incentive for people who love each other’s company to make time for each other,” Dave confirms. When they raise a glass to the Birthday Girl or the Anniversary Couple or the Class of ’77, they’re really saying, “Here’s to all of us!” Memorable, marquee moments that rare are definitely worth the trip.