Tips for travelling with the grandkids
You may have heard that multigeneration travel is one of the latest trends, but some grandparents are taking it up a notch: they’re leaving the parents behind! There’s even a buzzword for the trend: grand travel.
Travelling without the parents may require more planning, but it offers a valuable opportunity for different generations to share their interests, make memories and get to know each other better. There’s a measure of practicality here too — some parents simply don’t have the time or budget to travel with their kids.
Whether you’re exploring a new destination together or sharing a favourite place, we’ve rounded up some tips to get you started:
Be realistic. If you want the trip to go smoothly, experts suggest setting some limits. For instance, you might not want to travel with more than one or two of your grandchildren at a time — both for supervision reasons and so you can spend some quality time with the youngsters.
Some experts say the best ages to travel with grandchildren range from about 8 to 14. After all, you want your grandchildren to be old enough to enjoy and remember the trip, not to mention independent enough to be away from their parents. Teenagers can be tricky travel companions, but experts note that you can engage them with the right trip.
Start with the parents. It’s all about the kids — their interests, their pace and their abilities — and parents can be a wealth of information. They can tell you about their children’s sleeping and eating schedules, any health concerns, how to handle difficult situations and what rules are expected to be followed — along with the consequences of breaking those rules.
Most grandparents foot the bill for the entire trip, but be sure to talk money with the parents early on if you plan to share some of the costs.
Start small. Not sure if your grandchildren can handle a weekend or week away from home? Expert suggest a trial run such as a day trip or overnight stay without the parents. It’s your chance to see how the kids fare without mom and dad around (and how tired you feel at the end of the day!) If a few hours with your energetic grandchildren wears you out, experts suggest scaling back your trip plans for now.
Think like a kid. Children function best when they know what is expected of them and when they have a familiar routine. Even on vacation, you can maintain the rules as well as the usual sleeping and eating times. Try not to leave too early or stay up too late — it’s best to stick to their normal schedule as much as possible.
While you may want to surprise your grandchildren with an activity, experts say the trip will go more smoothly if everyone knows what is ahead.
Do your research. If it’s been a while since you’ve planned a family trip, do a little research on family-friendly destinations, activities and travel options such as cruises. Some travel companies such as Road Scholar offer family programs designed with grandparents and grandchildren in mind.
If you’re planning your own itinerary, you don’t have to limit yourself to kids’ stuff like theme parks. Many museums, galleries, parks and historic sites have programming options for all ages — though you may need to book ahead.
Not sure where to start? There are a wealth of family travel blogs and websites for ideas, not to mention travel review websites such as TripAdvisor.com. Many travel guide companies have guides for traveling with children too.
Plan transportation options carefully. There’s a limit to how many hours kids will last in the car, and do you want to be tackling layovers at the airport? Experts advise to stick to direct, non-stop routes and familiar modes of travel as much as possible. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there and get around.
Involve your grandchildren in the planning. Who doesn’t love having a say? Getting kids involved with the planning helps prepare them for the trip — and builds excitement too! Besides, your grandchildren might have some ideas you haven’t thought of, and the planning process helps them take ownership of the trip.
Allow for some downtime. You don’t have to be on the go every moment just because you’re in a new place. Reasonable bed times, naps and quiet activities can help reserve energy and prevent vacation burnout. Settle in with a book or watch a movie — or take turns watching the grandchildren while you or your partner has a nap. Some resorts and cruises offer supervised activities to give adults a break.
Bring the right documentation. Passports aren’t enough! Many countries also require a notarized letter of permission from the parents or legal guardian. (Check with the local embassy well in advance of your trip.) Kids need travel insurance too, and you’ll want to bring along any important information such as what their medical history and emergency contact information in case you need it.
Think safety too. Don’t be paranoid, but do be prepared — staying safe can be even more challenging when travelling abroad. Take some time to brush up on safety advice before you leave and discuss it with your travel companions. For example, consider dressing everyone in bright colours or hats so you can spot each other easily in crowds, and point out to children where they can go for help if they need it (like a train conductor or police officer.)
Another tip: have each child carry important contact information such as your travel cell phone number and your hotel’s contact information. You should also carry a current picture of your grandchild just in case. (Use can use your digital camera to snap a picture before heading out each day.) For more tips, see Keep kids safe abroad.
Make sure rules and expectations are clear. Your grandchildren may be facing situations with which they aren’t familiar — such as airplane travel, different cultural norms and new activities. Take some time to discuss what behaviour is expected and what to do if something goes wrong — such as getting separated in a crowd.
Coordinate packing with parents. Sometimes it’s hard enough just keeping track of our own belongings! Experts advise to work with parents about what to pack and who is responsible for what. (Packing lists can come in handy here.) Be sure to bring extra books and games to stay entertained on trains and airplanes.
Involve your grandchildren in the journey. It may be tempting to do everything for your grandchildren, but experts say travel can be rich with learning experiences. For example, reading maps and signs is part of the travel experience — and helps build literacy skills. Let them help you locate a landmark or attraction, and help them handle unfamiliar currency.
One last piece of advice: phone home. Let your grandchildren check in with their parents and share their exciting experiences. Experts say staying in touch can help stave off homesickness, and keep parents reassured as well.
Sources: About.com: Travel, IndependentTraveler.com, TravelSense.org, US News
Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!