Traveling with Grandchildren
Befitting their titles, grandparents and their grandchildren should engage in grand relationships. Since the dawn of man, grandparents lived in multi-generational communities, living and working alongside their children and grandchildren. They were not "in the way" or a "nuisance;" instead they served as teachers, advisers and role models - key figures that positively shaped the lives of their grandchildren.
Times have changed and families are now spread across the country, forcing grandparents to constantly seek new ways to cultivate relationships and share special experiences with their grandchildren. The answer: inter-generational travel, where grandparents plan vacations with only their grandchildren, leaving the parents at home. Inter-generational travel is a win-win-win situation: parents get a well-needed break; grandparents get quality time with the grandkids; and the grandkids get a week without homework, learning about the world with their grandparents. Yet while more and more seniors are leading active lives, it can be difficult to match the energy and interest level of a child for an entire week.
So if you want to take a "grand" vacation but are worried about keeping a grandchild entertained, check out these trusted travel tips from the American Society of Travel Agents. Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know that children love shiny toys, and there is no better shiny toy than an exciting vacation with loved ones.
Tips to Travel By - Create a Multi-Generational Itinerary
Too often seniors plan activities to solely please the children, running themselves ragged to keep the trip in a high gear of constant fun. But if you become unhappy, the kids will soon follow. A travel agent will help you craft an itinerary that appeals to both generations, paying special attention to natural attractions, like mountains and canyons, and historical sites, like lost temples and medieval castles.
Consult the Parents
It may be awkward to turn to your own children for advice, but talking with your grandchild's parents is a critical step in planning a successful trip. Parents know their children's favorite activities and subjects, along with their sleeping and eating habits.
You're the Guardian, So Be Prepared
One lesson travel agents teach time and time again is to always have proper identification and medical histories wherever you go, for emergencies enjoy being unpredictable. During the vacation, you are 100 percent responsible for the children, so make sure you have their proper identification, health insurance, contact information, recent photos and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention. All identifying documents for the children should comply with the latest federal requirements for passports and other entry/exit documents. Also, it's your job to know their medications and dietary needs backwards and forwards.
Finally, some countries do not allow entry of minors not accompanied by both parents unless the children have written, notarized permission from the absent parents. The rules vary from country to country, so consult your travel agent before your trip.
Since a child's energy level escalates exponentially with each additional child in the room, it's wise take no more than two grandchildren at time, or even just one. As much as you would to include all eight grandkids, in reality you should play favorites and take only a few at a time. You can always plan more vacations for the others.
Keep the Kids Excited
Just like a movie studio builds excitement for an upcoming release, so should you with your impending excursion. Have your grandchildren help plan the trip by reading guidebooks or visiting your travel agent's office together. As the date approaches, send your grandchild e-mails about the activities or maps and pictures of the destination in the mail.
Take a Warm-Up Trip
Before traveling alone with your grandchildren for an entire week or two, discover how you all travel together by taking a day trip or have them stay over for a weekend. If this short trip is more sour than sweet, maybe your grandchildren are not ready for a longer journey away from home. If that's the case, don't give up. Simply take more and more day trips until the group learns to have fun together.
An effective way to alleviate homesickness is to make periodic phone calls to the parents and let the kids gush about the day's exciting adventures. The parents will feel better knowing their children are in good hands, and you'll feel better listening to the kids rave about the activities you planned.
You Need Downtime, Too
Many places provide supervised activities for kids. If the resort or cruise offers these, take them up on that offer and get some much-needed rest.
Music to Their Ears
If you're traveling by car, especially with teens, let them enjoy their portable CD and MP3 players. Trust us - you won't like what they're listening to. And don't try and force Sinatra on a teen either. They will lean to appreciate Old Blue Eyes later in life; everyone does.
Plan B? Call Your Agent
When life serves you lemons, your travel agent has a lemon squeezer, clean glasses and a bucket of ice. Many unforeseen factors - an illness, hurricanes, unscheduled closings - can dampen a vacation, no matter how thoroughly it was planned. When one of these occasions arises, stay positive, pull your travel agent's card out of your purse and give her a call. A travel agent has Plans B-through-Z at her fingertips.
A travel agent can set up a fun-filled itinerary that will stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration and, most importantly, let you and your grandchild bond like never before. Using a world of experience, travel agents know which cruise lines, safaris or theme parks are the most family friendly, for your travel agent has most likely taken her own children there. Ask your grandchildren if they want to see the world with you - the experience is simply priceless.