Multi-generational travel is on the rise. Some 40 percent of U.S. leisure travelers, nearly 21 million people, took a multi-generational trip in the previous 12 months, according to a new study by Preferred Hotels. Another study found that half of all grandparents have traveled with their grandchildren and one or both parents, while one-third have traveled with grandchildren without either of their parents.
Grandparents used to live near their grandchildren. Today families are more mobile and live apart so grandparents and grandchildren don’t see each other as regularly. Grandparents are always looking for ways to bond with their families. These tips for multi-generational vacations will deepen the relationships among the generations.
Tips for traveling with your grandchildren:
- Plan your trip together. Discuss it with your children first. Parents know when their kids are ready to travel. Get your grandchildren’s suggestions and incorporate them into your plans. Remember when you were a child and plan age-appropriate activities.
- Practice first. Have a few long day trips to see how the children cope without their parents.
- Be a good salesman. Children will behave better on a trip if they know what to expect and are actually looking forward and excited about it. Give them details about how and where they’ll be traveling, what they’ll be seeing, where they’ll be staying and what they’ll be eating.
- Be realistic. Some children may be ready to travel with you while others are not. Or you may know that you simply can’t manage more than one child at a time. Spread your travels out over different school vacations so you can just focus on one.
- Remember being a child yourself. Keep the activities appropriate for your grandchild’s age. Kathy said she took her grandson to a “Sponge Bob” show instead of a museum because she knew he’d enjoy that more.
- Be a good sport. You are a role model for your grandchildren. Teach them good sportsmanship and manners while traveling by demonstrating those qualities in yourself – especially when things don’t go smoothly with travel details. If you get angry or frustrated, take a few minutes to calm yourself before you react. Treat people you meet with respect and you will teach that quality to your grandchildren.
- Invite a friend. If you’re traveling with one grandchild, consider letting him/her invite a friend. The children will amuse each other and you’ll feel less pressure to entertain them. You might even consider inviting a friend along, too.
- Put health and safety first. Be sure to bring important documentation for your grandchildren and written permission from their parents that allow you to make medical decisions on their behalf in case of emergency. When packing, consider health, diet and activity restrictions, prescriptions and first aid supplies.
- Plan for down time. Travel today includes a lot of waiting so pack reading material, games and cards. Kathy said her daughter calls her “Mary Poppins” because she always carries “stuff” in her purse. GaGa Beverly has traveled with many of her six grandchildren and keeps a deck of cards and journal handy for keeping score in their card games. Remember that kids need their “toys” no matter what age they are.
- Be creative. Look for opportunities that engage grandchildren’s minds and bodies with hands-on museum exhibits. Vary the activities so grandchildren can burn off energy followed by quieter ones.
- Be flexible. Leave room in your schedule for spontaneous activities and for those times when an activity takes longer than expected. Be sure to let grandchildren know they can call home.
- Share yourself. Of all the tips for traveling this one is the most important because in years to come your grandchildren may not remember which museums they saw, but they will remember having your loving and undivided attention. Take lots of photos and when you get home, plan some time to make a scrapbook together. Talk about your trip – what you liked and didn’t like so you will know how to plan your next adventure together.
Whether you take your grandchildren to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands, on a Road Scholar trip to the Grand Canyon, or closer to home to spend the night at a local lighthouse, a world of possibilities, adventures and memories await you and your grandchildren.