Multigenerational family vacations are on the rise, especially as families find themselves living farther and farther apart. Some families choose to travel with parents, grandparents, and all the children. Some grandparents want a shared experience with their grandchildren only, giving them bonding time while blessing the parents with a much-needed break.
Whatever path you choose, sharing time and experiences together develops closeness, fosters learning, and creates lasting memories. While there’s no magic wand to make all travel challenges disappear, there are some things you can do to prepare. Read on for tips to help you plan rewarding travel with your grandchildren.
1. Identify purpose and expectations
Do you want to explore and learn new things? Do you want to discover and share your heritage? Do you just want simple fun and sun at the beach or to sample interesting foods? Be honest about what you want and have the energy for, then craft an itinerary that caters to all. Consider the ages of your grandchildren as well, and what they (and you) can handle. Decide in advance what you are and are not willing to do, pay for, and negotiate on, including purchases.
Decide how much time grandkids can spend on the internet (and whether or not Wi-Fi will cost you or if it’s free). If you're traveling with older grandchildren, lay out these limits with them in advance. With younger grandchildren, choose several options for them to choose from so it’s not an open-ended buffet of choices.
2. Everyone gets a voice
Involve your grandchildren in the trip-planning process so they have some decision-making power and learn how to plan meaningful travel experiences. They'll remember these lessons long after the trip.
If you've already selected a tour or cruise, ask your grandchildren to help choose optional excursions and plan what to do during free time. Get a map and a guidebook, sit down with your grandchildren, and discuss the options. They'll love the feeling of being involved and you can hear their thoughts on what really interests them.
3. Consider limitations
Do you have limited mobility? Would you rather fly, drive, or take a train? Consider your limitations while you plan. Find activities you can enjoy as well as age-appropriate excursions for the grandkids. There’s a large gap between spending an afternoon whitewater rafting versus soaking in the sun at the beach. You have limitations and depending on the ages of your grandchildren, they may as well.
Schedule downtime and stay flexible. Everyone needs unscheduled time to relax — kids included. You’ll enjoy your time more if there's some built-in, unstructured quiet time. When the kids are cranky, it’s okay to pivot and adjust. The most important thing is that you are traveling together, so plan to have a sense of humor and embrace the impromptu fun. If you are flying with grandchildren without parents, check out Air Travel Tips for Grandparents for preparedness tips and reducing stress. If you are driving with your grandchildren, check out our 3 Road Trip Tips and Activities for Kids article.
4. Get travel documents in order
You’ll need to organize your own travel documents first, such as your personal ID, passport, insurance card, immunization record, a list of your prescription medications, and emergency contact information. Make copies to leave home with mom and dad if they're not traveling with you. Get all tickets and passes assembled.
If you're traveling internationally, be sure to arrange an international phone plan so the kiddos can call home, and keep the phone on you for security while out exploring.
Next, organize what essential documents you’ll need for your grandchildren, especially if you're traveling with them alone. Ask parents to give you their health insurance cards and a notarized medical release form (sometimes called a “consent to treat” form) for each grandchild.
If you're traveling out of the country, you'll also need your grandchildren’s passports and a letter from their parents giving you permission to take your grandchildren across international borders. This letter should include contact information for both parents and a brief summary of your travel itinerary. Have this letter notarized, if possible.
Depending on your destination, you may also need to carry a copy of each grandchild’s immunization records. When you head out each day, keep your written medical permission with you in case of an emergency. For more guidance on necessary travel documents for grandchildren, see the list and tips at Verywellfamily.com.
5. Narrow down your options
Traveling with your grandchildren can involve a wide variety of activities and locations. Activities can be a simple (and cheap) as a day at the beach, an afternoon at the zoo, or lake-side picnic. Or, they can be more involved like a tour of a major attraction or adventure excursions. A travel agent can be a great help when looking for travel options that'll accommodate everyone.
No matter what you choose to do, the most important thing is you’re doing it together.
- Book a travel tour designed to accommodate all family members.
- Craft a memory or heritage trip, sharing your history and tracing family roots with the grandkids.
- Rent a beach house or large home so there’s a central location for everyone.
- Plan a trip around a passion and share it with them.
- Take a cruise where your accommodations, activities, and meals are all set for you.
- Look for family packages that offer kid-friendly experiences.
- Before trying a long trip, test the waters with short day outings.
Traveling with your grandchildren can be very rewarding. They get to know you better while you enjoy the bonding of shared experiences and embracing the precious people they are becoming. With these tips and a bit of planning, you will laugh a lot, come home with some great stories and cherished memories that will last the rest of your lives.
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