Traveling with Grandparents Creates Special Memories
Jeremy Bradford cherishes the time he spent traveling with his grandfather throughout his childhood and early adulthood. He vividly remembers the time his grandfather took him on a car trip to Chicago in search of Wrigley Field. “This was before the days of Google Maps and a GPS built into your Blackberry.” Though they never quite made it to their destination, Bradford said he enjoyed his grandfather’s stories about surviving The Great Depression and World War II.
Years later for his 85th birthday, Bradford took his grandfather to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial. A group of journalism students had been waiting at the Memorial for hours hoping to talk to a WWII veteran.
“It brought tears to my eyes listening to him tell those same stories he told me as a kid – only this time, it was in the shadows of the memorial dedicated to him and those of the Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much to make America what it is today,” Bradford said. “That was our last trip together, and I’m so glad he got to see that before he passed away.”
Traveling with grandkids is a special way to spend time with them, while building lasting memories such as Bradford experienced with his grandfather. Even when the travel turns out in unexpected ways, the time spent together, away from the stresses and distractions of home, can give both generations more freedom and more fun.
Before planning a trip, experts recommend taking grandchildren on a day trip close to home such as the zoo or a museum. Get a feel for the kids’ most energetic and least cooperative times of day. See what keeps their interests for longer periods of time and what bores them quickly. For young grandchildren, talk with their parents to get a better feel for their daily routines.
Once you’re ready to go, there are several options to consider, from individually planned trips to exotic all-inclusive safaris.
To some, a special trip may mean a relaxing weekend at a hotel or resort such as Great Wolf Lodge or themed hotels that cater specifically to families. To others, it may mean a weeklong road trip to the beach with adventure-filled stops along the way, or even experiencing a new culture together.
For independent trips, the Internet makes it possible to map out a path, secure lodging, find restaurants and learn about the area being visited. With a little planning, grandparents can find books, movies and websites about their destination to share with their grandchildren before the trip. And, if grandchildren are old enough, plan the trip together. Planning and learning together enhances the experience and helps ensure success.
If planning the trip seems overwhelming, try Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, a not-for-profit organization known for its affordability and educational programs for seniors. The Grandparent Travel section of their website has U.S., Canadian and international programs available. With all-inclusive packages, Road Scholar offers independent programs and group programs. In a group program, a knowledgeable instructor accompanies the group on the adventure and provides educational information about the destination. It’s a great opportunity to meet other intergenerational families and experience the adventure together. An independent program offers more flexibility with your itinerary, though the group adventure aspect is lost. Road Scholar makes it a snap to plan an educational, adventure-filled trip with your grandchildren. All you have to do is show up! Visit www.roadscholar.org for itineraries and more information.
Another organization, similar to Road Scholar, is GRANDTRAVEL, a division of Academic Travel Abroad. GRANDTRAVEL provides luxurious, stress-free international travel plans for grandparents and their grandchildren. Activity Directors, all certified teachers, lead small groups on these educational adventures while a professional local tour manager handles the logistics to create a worry-free trip. GRANDTRAVEL’s trips generally depart during summer break so as not to disturb the school year. These trips, generally higher-priced than Road Scholar, are a better option for grandchildren ages 7 to 17 because of the high-end accommodations. Visit www.grandtrvl.com for itineraries and more information.
Planning a trip should be fun, not overwhelming. If you are not sure how to plan a trip or need some help getting started, many travel organizations exist to specifically serve grandparents and their grandchildren. Whether you’re looking for an all-inclusive trip with a full itinerary or just a little help renting a car and finding a nice hotel, using a reputable travel organization will help your preparations and trip go more smoothly.
Tips for intergenerational Travel:
- Consider age, comfort level and health (both yours and your grandchildren’s) when determining what trip to take. Be realistic with your budget and energy level.
- Don’t forget to schedule some down time. Be aware of your grandchildren’s schedules.
- Ask for senior and child discounts. Memberships to AAA and AARP also offer some discounts.
- For grandchildren with special needs, carefully follow their parents’ instructions, even if you think you have a better alternative.
- Have a list of what your grandchild is allergic to and keep written instructions of how to handle an allergic reaction.
- Have notarized, written permission to act in case of medical emergencies.
- Know emergency contact information for your destination.
- Keep a cell phone with you at all times in case of emergency.
- Be flexible, without being a pushover.
- Be patient with your grandchildren. New people and places can be scary or over-stimulating.
- Send postcards instead of calling home often. Schedule one long call in the middle of the trip.
- Pack one or two familiar toys and books.
- Pack a canister of anti-bacterial moist wipes and small trash bags