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Traveling with Grandchildren

Taking trips with your grandchildren can be both a joy and a challenge, but always a great opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. When the occasional visit leaves you longing for more quality time with your grandchildren, consider traveling with them. Spending an extended period of time together doing something as exciting as going on vacation will provide a great bonding experience filled with wonderful memories, but you must plan carefully! Here are some tips to help you cover all the bases in order to plan and execute a fun and exciting trip that both you and your grandchildren will enjoy.

Before you go...

  • Talk to their parents. In order to plan a successful trip, it is a good idea to talk to your own children about traveling with your grandchildren. Just like you did when your kids were young, your grandchildren's parents know their favorite things to do and what they'd rather not do, their sleeping and eating habits, their daily routines, as well as whether they are ready to travel without them. Discuss your plans with them and be sure they support your decision to take their children on a trip. This will set an easy and happy disposition from the get-go.

  • Plan your trip together. The first step to a great adventure is planning it together. Share your ideas and listen to those of your grandchildren to ensure the trip will include activities that everyone will enjoy. Encourage them to share their input regarding where they'd like to go and what they'd like to see while you're there. Even if you've already come up with a basic itinerary, incorporate their ideas where you can. Plan enough activities to keep your grandchildren happily occupied, but be careful not to wear yourself out. If you become unhappy, your grandchildren will soon follow. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas for activities that appeal to both generations, visit the library or use the Internet to research different activities and learn about possible destinations. Travel agents can be helpful in this area, as well. Leave an itinerary with your children when you go.

  • Look for deals. In doing your own research, you'll find that many activities, hotels and travel destinations that offer generous senior and child discounts. Keep your expenses down by taking advantage of these special bargains. You may also find that companies that offer senior and child discounts offer special savings on travel activity packages (theme parks, museums visits, etc.) you'll both enjoy. You may have plenty of money to cover the cost of the trip, but you'll have a more relaxing time if you aren't worried about pinching pennies.

  • Take a practice trip. Just to prevent getting in over your head, consider taking a few long day trips with your grandchildren or have them stay with you for a weekend. You'll get a feel for how they cope without their parents, as well as have a chance to fine tune the skill of being completely in charge of young children again. Spend time doing things similar to those you plan to do on your longer vacation to make sure your grandchildren show interest in doing them. And don't worry if these short trips start out more bitter than sweet. Your grandchildren may not be ready to go on a longer trip just yet, but don't give up. The more short trips you take together, the more comfortable your grandchildren will get.

  • Be prepared. When traveling with grandchildren, it is important to make safety your top priority. If your grandchild has any health, diet or activity restrictions, keep them in mind during the planning phase. Consider any medications you or the children might need and be sure to bring enough to last the whole trip. Also, make sure that all vaccinations are current, as some destinations may require additional shots before you are allowed in. It is also a good idea to obtain written permission from your grandchild's parents that allow you to travel with them and make medical decisions in case of an emergency. Prepare a list of emergency contacts to bring along, as well, in case any questions arise. Last, but certainly not least, make sure you have all proper identification, passports and any tickets you may have purchased in advance. Staying organized will ensure your trip runs smoothly.

  • Bring a friend. If you're bringing just one grandchild on the trip, consider letting him or her invite a friend. They will keep each other occupied and you will feel less pressure to entertain them by yourself. You may want to invite a friend of your own along, too, so you'll have company when the kids are busy. You love your grandchildren, but a little adult conversation is always nice!

On the tripů

  • Be flexible. This is something to remember whenever you travel, be it with family, friends or by yourself, but it is especially important when traveling with children. Things rarely go exactly as planned when traveling with young children, so make sure you leave plenty of room in your schedule for spontaneous activities and times when those activities take longer than expected. Try to incorporate as much of your grandchild's regular routine into your trip as possible, such as meal and bed times, but use spontaneity in other areas. If you find something you and your grandchild would rather do than your previously planned activity, for example, feel free to change it up a bit. This will make the trip more relaxing and enjoyable for you and your grandchildren.

  • Plan for downtime. As fun and exciting as traveling can be, there will always be times when you have to sit around and wait. You might consider reading a book to pass the time, but your grandchildren may need other things to keep them amused. Keep a portable CD or MP3 player with you so they can listen to their favorite music, plus books, games and any other activities they enjoy that are easy to carry. During a long car ride or flight, you'll be happy you brought something to keep the kids entertained.

  • Give yourself a break. Everyone gets tired when traveling, especially grandparents with grandchildren in tow! Kids have a lot of energy to burn, but they also get tired and need rest every few hours. Make sure they have plenty of opportunity to run around and engage in other physical activities to get their energy out, and then follow up with a quiet activity like enjoying a snack or watching a movie together. Don't forget that you need breaks, too. Many resorts and cruises offer supervised activities for kids. Take advantage of them and use the time to catch up on some rest.

  • Set boundaries. One of the best things about being a grandparent is spoiling your grandchildren in ways you never spoiled your own kids. On a trip, however, it is important to set rules and boundaries. You want your grandchildren to be happy, but no one will have a good time if there isn't at least a little respect. When you have a mutual respect for each other, you are more likely to have a fun and happy experience together.

  • Share yourselves with each other. Of all the tips for traveling with your grandchildren, this is one of the most important. Many years from now, they may not remember which rides they went on or which sites they saw, but they will remember spending time with you and relishing in your loving and undivided attention. Traveling together gives you the opportunity to bond with one another and get to know each other better. Share memories, stories and songs you know, and let your grandchildren share theirs with you.

  • Chronicle your memories. Traveling with grandchildren is an exciting adventure no matter where you go. Bring a camera and plenty of film (or several extra batteries, if you've gone digital) and take lots of pictures. You may also want to keep a journal to record the things you did together. Encourage your grandchildren to keep a journal, too, in which they can write or draw pictures about the adventure. When you get home, plan some time to put together a photo album or make a scrapbook together and reminisce about all the fun you had. Having something like this to look back on later will ensure the memories of your trip together last a lifetime.

 


 

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