Survival Tips for Grandparents Traveling with Grandkids
Intergenerational travel is becoming quite popular. Many
destinations and organizations - like Elderhostel, for example -
offer special programs designed just for grandparents and their
grandchildren. Still, traveling with the kids isn't as simple as
having them over for dinner or even a sleep-over. It's important
to consider the needs of each family member, from the youngest to
the oldest. Some things to keep in mind:
Try a Test Run
Before traveling alone with your grandchildren, spend a little
time getting to know them. Take them for a day trip or two; have
them stay over for a weekend; try a one- or two-night local trip
first. Be sure they're comfortable with the idea of traveling
with you without their parents.
Limit the Brood
It's best to take one grandchild at a time, two at the most.
Taking cousins together can be better than siblings; they're less
likely to fight.
Know Your Traveling Companion(s)
Review with the children's parents any of the kids' special needs
like medications, allergies, diet, rest, and even favorite (and
"won't eat at all") foods.
Share the Planning
Let your grandchildren help plan the vacation, and keep the first
one short. Be flexible and avoid over-planning by building in
free- and/or down-time.
Everybody's Gotta Eat - And Sleep
Discuss mealtimes and bedtime beforehand. Fortunately, many
grandparents are on an early dinner schedule, which works nicely
with younger children. Also, if you want to plan a special
evening out, make reservation ahead of time. Stash some crayons
and paper in your bag to keeps kids occupied in restaurants.
Gear plans to the kids' ages; if they're not happy, you're not
Call the parents when you first arrive at your destination, and
call periodically after that. Have the kids speak to mom and dad.
Everyone will feel better - and it's good for the kids to share
their adventures with their folks.
Take a Break
By choosing a vacation that offers some supervised kids'
activities, you can gain a much-needed rest.
Let Them Bring Their Own Tunes
If you're traveling by car, especially with teens, we highly
recommend portable CD-players and headphones. Teenagers' musical
tastes differ vastly from most grandparents', and it's simply
more enjoyable when everyone can listen to their own music.
Let There Be Light
Bring a nightlight.
Carry the kids' health insurance information and a notarized
statement from parents for permission to obtain medical care in
an emergency. Tell your grandchildren about any medical problems
you may have so that they can be prepared if there's an
emergency. Pack basic first aid items - including a washcloth,
tissues and some extra toiler paper.
Go To "Plan B"
"The best laid plans of mice and men..." When life throws you a
curve - illness, bad weather, unscheduled attractions closings,
whatever - you can still thrive if you have an alternate plan and
stay positive. Assimilate the challenge and make it part of the
Don't Duck the Discounts
Many attractions and hotels offer discounts for seniors. Check
ahead of time for bargains.
Go to the Pros
As noted earlier, organized grandparent/grandchild travel is
becoming more common. Often, a cruise makes the perfect venue -
plenty of daily activities for everyone, but other activities are
shared, as are mealtimes. Look into Elderhostel (1-877-426-8056,
www.elderhostel.org), which offers intergenerational
programs. Or, if planning a child-friendly trip seems
overwhelming, try Grandtravel (800-247-7651;
www.grandtrvl.com) a tour operator/travel agent aimed at kids
...... Mitch Kaplan
is the author of "The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids," a
contributor to "The Unofficial Guide to New England & New York with
Kids," and the author of "The Cheapskate's Guide to Myrtle Beach" and
"The Golf Book of Lists".
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