Taking the Kids -- And Traveling With Millennials in Wine Country

by Tribune Content Agency and Eileen Ogintz, Taking The Kids, March 23, 2017


We were kayaking at the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner, California, when the tide started coming in. The wind was strong at our backs, making it hard to steer, and my husband and I couldn't seem to keep the kayak going in the right direction.

We didn't have far to go -- we'd already been to the beach where the 66-mile river meets the Pacific Ocean to watch, from a respectful distance, the 100 or so harbor seals lolling on the beach. We'd seen harbor seals, egrets, great blue herons and ospreys with fish in their mouths, presumably going to their nests.

But this bit wasn't exactly fun, though my daughter, Reggie, and her husband, Dan, didn't seem to be having any trouble. Somehow, we made it back to shore, wet and tired, landing in the mud, instead of where we should have.

If you think vacations will go perfectly when you're traveling with grown kids, think again. As millennials continue to travel with their parents -- even before they have kids of their own -- it's the older generation that is likely to cause travel hiccups. We must adapt to our grown kids' vacation style (using apps not maps for directions and restaurants, following their lead to new and sometimes taxing adventures, packing so light we forget an essential or two).

These days, growing numbers of millennials are traveling with their parents after college and before they have children. I've met these families everywhere from Antarctica to Colorado ski resorts, cruise ships and European cities. One young woman told me traveling with her mom on her mom's dime was the only way she could afford a vacation. And they are changing the way their parents travel.

"Good Job!" my daughter said when we finally got out of the kayaks, echoing what I had said to her brother and sister so many times when I'd pushed them a bit out of their comfort zone on a trip. We started to laugh and, like so many other misadventures, we laughed over the telling that night over wine before an excellent dinner together.

We were in Sonoma County, after all, which offers 425 wineries in 17 distinctive wine regions, and is a foodie paradise with some 500 restaurants, including the Coast Kitchen at the newly renovated 46-room Timber Cove Resort, which sits on a bluff high above the Pacific and where we were happily spending the night. "I don't want to leave," my daughter declared.

We all loved the sleek modern decor with retro touches like record players and classic vinyl albums in every room, the huge stone fireplace downstairs and the outdoor "living room" with foosball and billiards. (Think hippie chic meets rustic modern, complete with wine tasting and restaurant serving up unfussy local fare.) Timber Cove, incidentally, is as equipped for kids as for romance offering kids' menus, plenty of board games, a bunk room and a treasure hunt on the property designed by the 11-year-old daughter of one of the owners.

This trip had its genesis three years ago, when my daughter, Reggie, and I were scouting wedding venues near her San Francisco home. We managed to squeeze in a night at the historic Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, famous for its underground hot springs, indoor and outdoor thermal pools and 40,000-square-foot spa.

Ever since, Reggie has wanted to share the experience with her husband Dan. So when my husband and I invited ourselves to California for Reggie's 31st birthday, she asked if we could spend a long weekend in Sonoma County, starting at the Fairmont Mission Inn for spa treatments.

It didn't take much convincing. The Fairmont Sonoma spa is one of my favorites with its indoor "bathing ritual" (I loved the water tunnel and scented steam) and outdoor thermal pools and beautifully landscaped grounds.

Afterward, appropriately relaxed, we indulged in a special birthday lunch in Sonoma at The Girl and The Fig, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. "If it's not fresh, we don't serve it," said owner Sondra Bernstein. Think local cheeses and house-made cured meats, salads with greens and vegetables from local farms amazing matchstick frites and burgers, grilled cauliflower and roasted pumpkin for the vegetarians, all with local beer and wine.

The weekend we visited also happened to be Barrel Tasting weekend, which means for the price of a $70 ticket we could visit more than 100 wineries and sample wines, including some from the barrel. We managed three near Healdsburg -- all family owned -- Acorn WineryMietz Cellars and Christopher Creek. Besides the wine, the high point was hearing the vintner's stories -- the San Francisco lawyer turned winemaker at Acorn; the artist daughter joining her chemist/winemaker dad at Mietz.

Rather than spend all our time drinking -- and eating, we took advantage of the sunny weather and all Sonoma County, about the size of Rhode Island, has to offer -- more than 50 state and regional parks with hiking, biking (maybe a wine-sipping and cycle tour), birding (which we did right from our deck at the Jenner Inn where it's not unusual to see eagles among the 200 species of birds) and, of course, the kayaking misadventure, which we'll certainly hear about the next time my three kids are all together.

"A really special birthday," my daughter said when we got back to San Francisco. "A great time," my son-in-law added.

There was just one disappointment: We'd packed such small bags we had no room to take any wine home.

(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow "taking the kids" on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)


This article was written by Tribune Content Agency and Eileen Ogintz from Taking The Kids and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].