There was a time when grandparents lived just down the street and saw the grandkids everyday. But, with competing schedules and long-distance families, many of today’s clans don’t have that luxury. So what’s the answer? For many grandparents, it’s hitting the road with their grandkids. Just think of all the benefits: You can reconnect, explore the world together, learn about your grandkids, and make the kind of lifelong bond that only time alone — without parents — can foster.
Of course, traveling with the little ones has both its rewarding and challenging moments. That’s why it’s important to be prepared and to communicate. There are many points to consider and details to plan before you set off on your journey. Here are some tips on how to make a vacation memorable and stress-free.
Take a test drive
When it comes to traveling with the grandkids, practice makes perfect. Since many of us don’t spend too much time alone with our grandkids, it’s helpful to plan a trial run before setting off for a longer vacation. One idea is to invite the grandkids over for a weekend retreat. While you’re together, you can get a sense of their routines, temperaments, likes and dislikes. If the test run doesn’t go so smoothly, it may be wise to postpone the vacation until the kids are a bit older.
If you’re traveling with teenagers, a trial getaway can also be a great opportunity for you to gauge their interests so you can decide what kind of vacation will suit you best. While some teens will be open and communicative, others may need you to get the ball rolling by asking direct and pointed questions.
Choose the right destination
The most common mistake many grandparents make is planning a vacation that is either too kid-focused or filled with too many adult activities. The key to striking a happy compromise is to find a destination that offers plenty of diversions for everyone. After all, you don’t want your grandkids complaining while you spend four hours touring museums. Nor do you want to exhaust yourself by devoting all your time to amusement parks and dinosaur exhibits.
Many grandparents who want the best of both worlds opt for cruises or all-inclusive resorts. Not only can you enjoy your time together, there are kids’ clubs and supervised activities that will give you some much-needed alone time. Plus, many activities are pre-planned, which takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Get the kids involved
Discussing the vacation with your grandkids ahead of time and getting them involved in the planning will go a long way to making the trip a success. Kids are at their best when there are few surprises and they know what to expect. Pick three to four options and try to make the final decision a unanimous one. Once you’ve selected your destination, keep the good times rolling by buying some guidebooks so you can all plan the trip together. Make sure to answer all their questions about the trip: Will they be traveling by plane or train? What kind of hotel will they be staying in? What will the view be like? Will there be a swimming pool? What kind of restaurants will you be dining in? You should also send e-mails with photos and ideas for activities to get them excited about the trip.
Cover your bases
Naturally, every parent’s biggest concern is the safety and well-being of their children. Allay their worries by planning ahead. Before you set off, make sure to get health insurance information, recent photos, and a letter of permission stating your rights to make independent medical decisions in case of an emergency. You should also write down each child’s allergies and immunization history and get a letter stating permission to travel with the kids. It might seem like a pain to collect so much documentation, but a little peace of mind can go a long way. Once you’ve collected all the necessary paperwork, make sure to outline your trip carefully. Have a list of all schedules, travel transfers, activities, and local information on hand so you can be free to focus on having fun with your grandkids.
Just because there’s a strict “no parents” policy in place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call and check in regularly. Before you take off, leave a detailed itinerary for the parents with approximate times and dates that you will call. Not only will this put their minds at ease, but your grandkids will also appreciate the opportunity to call home so they can brag about all the fun they’re having with their grandparents.
Disney: Disney offers complete packages, from cruises to theme park vacations, specially tailored to grandparents traveling with their grandkids. For more information, visit disneytravel.com.
All-inclusive resorts: Hang out by the pool, practice yoga, snorkel, and have all your drinks and meals included. There are also plenty of organized activities for the grandkids, which means that a great time is virtually guaranteed. Popular all-inclusive resorts are offered by ClubMed. With locations in Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico, there are plenty of options to choose from. For more information, call 800-CLUBMED or visit clubmed.com. Another all-inclusive option that gets raves from loyal guests is Beaches. With many top locations in the Caribbean, it’s a popular choice for discerning families. For more information, visit beaches.com.
Cruises: Grandparents who love all-inclusive resorts, but also enjoy the idea of moving from place to place, would do well to consider a cruise. Cruises offer the benefits of all-inclusives along with the opportunity to explore a variety of locales. For more information about popular cruise lines, call Cruises Only at 800-278-4737 or visit cruisesonly.com.
Loews Hotels: The hotel chain offers “Generation G” packages, including connecting rooms at reduced rates, a photo memory album, disposable cameras, a phone card for calling parents, and a booklet with tips for grandparents. For more information, visit loewshotels.com.
Camp: The company Grandkidsandme offers Grandparent Camps, an opportunity for grandparents and grandkids to share fun weekend adventures near Amery, Wisc. For more information, visit grandkidsandme.com.
Elderhostel: This intergenerational travel company offers many trips for grandparents and grandkids ranging from spelunking to a behind-the-scenes tour of a zoo. For more information, call 877-426-8056 or visit elderhostel.com.
GrandTravel: This company specializes in educational and cultural trips for grandparents and grandkids. For more information, call 800-247-7651 or visit grandtravel.com.