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How To Plan A Surprise Anniversary Trip For Your Parents They’ll Love!

Whether it’s your parents’ tenth anniversary or their golden 50th anniversary, this is a special day for them, and what better way to celebrate their marriage than by sending them on a relaxing or exciting cruise to the destination of their dreams! Keep reading below for tips on how to plan a surprise anniversary trip for your parents. 

When planning a surprise trip for your parents, you must:

  1. Determine your budget
  2. Have their details to buy the tickets
  3. Choose the destination
  4. Choose the cruise line and cabin
  5. Draw up an itinerary
  6. Purchase any necessities
  7. Arrange any further logistics

While booking and organizing an anniversary cruise for your parents may seem like a daunting task at first, you should find the process relatively simple if you follow the seven steps outlined above. 

How To Plan A Surprise Anniversary Trip For Your Parents | photo of happy senior couple celebrating on the ocean

How To Plan A Surprise Anniversary Trip For Your Parents On A Cruise

There are pros and cons to planning a surprise anniversary trip for your parents. On the one hand, it can be a really fun and memorable experience for them. Surprise trips can be a great way to show your parents how much you love and appreciate them. On the other hand, there can be some potential risks involved in planning a surprise trip. If you don’t do your research well, you could end up booking a trip that’s not suitable or affordable for your parents.

Let’s explore our recommended steps in greater detail so you have all the information needed to plan that magical anniversary cruise:  

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1. Determining A Budget 

Before you pick up your phone with your travel agent and begin the exciting process of organizing an anniversary cruise, you need to know exactly what your budget is. If you think that siblings or other family members would like to contribute to the financing, confer with them so that you can calculate your total vacation budget.

Although there may be a temptation to organize the most elite and expensive cruise, there’s no need for causing unnecessary financial stress.

Having a cruise budget also helps you and your travel agent narrow available cruise lines and/or itineraries, thus streamlining your potential choices to a handful of cruises instead of hundreds of options.

2. Get Key Personal Info 

When booking a ticket on behalf of someone else, namely your two parents, you will need to have all the details about their personally identifying information handy to book the reservations. Just make sure to explicitly tell the travel agent and/or cruise line that neither party must be informed; otherwise, this will ruin the surprise!

Details that you will need from your parents may include (among others): 

  • Full name and surname
  • Date of birth
  • Passport number and expiration
  • Special needs
  • Insurance details

Fortunately, you are fully entitled to book tickets on behalf of someone else while you alone are charged for the cruise ticket fees. (Just be aware that any subsequent reservation changes can likely be made in the name of the same passengers — not the paying party.)

3. Choosing The Destination

When choosing a destination, it’s best to try to make one of the destinations on a cruise ship at a location your parents have wanted to visit for a long time. Alternatively, it should speak to their interests (i.e., booking a Mediterranean cruise to visit museums and cultural sites or a Caribbean cruise to go diving.)   

Suppose you are uncertain about where your parents want to go. In that case, you can try to get other family or friends to subtly ask them in casual conversation about some “bucket list travel items” and have this information relayed to you, so you can book the cruise without spoiling the surprise!   

If you have a very robust budget, and your parents have lots of free time available, you could also consider a world cruise – which would truly be that “trip of a lifetime” people are always talking about.

4. Choosing The Cruise Line And Cabin 

Once you have a general destination in mind, you can figure out which cruise lines have sailings for that destination during your target time period.

When choosing a cruise line, and by extension, a cruise ship, do some research on the different personalities associated with different cruise lines, as well as the different types of ship activities that might appeal to your parents’ interests. vision and mission of each cruise liner and what activities they have on board each cruise ship.

For example, if your parents tend to prefer a relaxed and tranquil atmosphere, selecting a Carnival ship during spring break is not wise. Alternatively, if your parents love days filled with lots of variety and activity, one of the larger Royal Caribbean or Celebrity ships sailing a port-heavy itinerary may be ideal!  

When it comes to selecting a cabin, make sure to choose a cabin that’s comfortable and designed for a couple. If you have the budget and want to improve your parents’ stay on board, consider spending a bit more money on a cabin with extra amenities and a balcony, or perhaps spring for a suite.

5. Drawing Up An Itinerary

While you shouldn’t draw up a strict itinerary for every day of a cruise, since people prefer to have a level of flexibility while on vacation, you should draft a broad itinerary so that your parents can timeously attend any events/activities you may have booked in advance.

Just make sure that you have contact with your parents throughout the cruise, so you can reschedule any events/activities you may have booked if there are any delays or reasons why your parents cannot arrive in time. Alternatively, if you worked with a travel agent, you can provide your parents with the agent’s contact information as well.

6. Purchasing Any Necessities  

Once you’ve arranged, planned, and booked the trip, you should try to purchase any key items your parents may need to enjoy their journey to the fullest (if your budget allows). 

Examples include buying a pair of binoculars if they’re going whale watching or heavy coats if visiting a cold climate.

7. Any Further Logistics 

Finally, all further logistics to successfully attend to a cruise on time need to be booked in advance. A handy tip is to book a hotel room close to where the cruise ship is docked, reducing the risk of being late and missing the cruise!  

How To Reveal A Surprise Anniversary Cruise To Your Parents?

Keeping a secret and determining the best way to reveal a surprise can prove tricky; however, there are some methods you can try:

  • Host a surprise anniversary party
  • Gift your parents seemingly random presents (such as snorkeling sets) with the tickets hidden among the present
  • Plan an interactive anniversary event like a scavenger hunt with the tickets as the final prize/goal
  • Make an anniversary video with the cruise announcement at the end of the video


Now that you know how to plan a surprise anniversary trip, start researching all of the wonderful possibilities!

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