By Patricia Doherty
January 12, 2020

Multigenerational travel is a growing trend, especially for grandparents and grandkids. While parents may not have the flexibility to get away from work, grandparents often have the time and funds for a vacation — not to mention they want to create memories and bond with their grandchildren.

An AARP study indicated that over 50 percent of grandparents have at least one grandchild who lives more than 200 miles away, and about 30 percent live more than 50 miles from their closest grandchild. Travel is a great way to get better acquainted and develop a relationship with the child.

For the children, travel can be a time of discovery, both of the world and themselves. It offers a healthy change in routine — a chance to try different foods, see how others live, and learn geography or history in a fun way. Plus, simply learning how to travel, including navigating airports, trains, roads, and international destinations, is a valuable life skill.

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A successful family trip requires planning and selecting the best destination for both the grandparents and children. Some things to consider: the ages and interests of the grandchildren, budget, health, and mobility of the grandparents. The type of vacation, whether a road trip, cruise, all-inclusive resort, theme park, big city, or a group tour, is another factor worth bearing in mind.

Road trips are flexible, and may be a solid option for a first vacation not too far from home. With a cruise or all-inclusive resort, all the arrangements for food, activities, and accommodations are covered. Group tours also make planning easier, and many, like Adventures by Disney, have age-appropriate activities with trained staff as well as time both together and separate, which could be welcome by everyone.

No matter the destination or type of trip you choose, here are some suggestions for a successful vacation experience:

  • Involve grandchildren in the planning process, giving them some choices of activities or destinations. Even younger children should be given some options, so they feel included from the beginning.
  • Prepare grandchildren for the destination by providing books, maps, websites, videos, or other materials that acquaint them with the plans and generate interest.
  • Discuss with parents the child’s likes, dislikes, health requirements, medications, bedtimes, use of electronics, and house rules that may need to continue on the trip. Grandparents might want to be a bit more flexible — it’s a vacation, after all — but should respect the parents’ guidelines.
  • As far as packing, be specific with the grandchildren and parents about what to bring and limitations. Make sure it's clear who will bring things like first-aid supplies, snacks, and vitamins.
  • Bring along sufficient chargers for phones, iPads, and other electronics. A portable charger would be a useful accessory, too.
  • Be sure your grandchildren have books, puzzles, games, electronics, or their preferred individual entertainment for lengthy travel hours as well as downtime.
  • Discuss spending money — who will provide it and how much. For international travel with older kids, using another currency is a good math lesson and learning experience.
  • Make some plans for activities, but don’t overdo it. Trying to do too much can be stressful and tiring. Some downtime each day is usually a good idea.
  • When glitches, delays, or problems arise, resolve them calmly and with good humor. Your grandkids will learn a valuable lesson about travel and life.
  • If the budget allows, take advantage of “front of the line” passes, especially with little ones who might become bored or restless with long waits.
  • Especially for international travel, carry copies of the child’s birth certificate, photos, and parents’ consent letter indicating their permission to travel with the children. Have health insurance information, policy details, and parents’ permission for medical treatment in the event of an emergency.
  • Younger children might want to have a favorite teddy bear or blanket for bedtime.
  • After the trip, share photos, encourage your grandkids to create a scrapbook or photo album, or have a few snapshots framed as reminders of the trip. During the trip, be sure to send a few photos to parents each day.
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