Traveling with grandchildren and introducing them to more of the world is one of the real joys of being a grandparent. If you are interested in taking a trip with your grandchildren and not quite sure where to begin planning, we have seven tips that will help you start the process.
- Make most of the choices with the children in mind. Traveling with young children pretty much means that you plan the trip around their interests, schedules and needs. As a grandparent, some of those factors may not be common knowledge. When you making plans and setting up the itinerary, be sure to involve the children’s parents in the planning. They can help you schedule activities around nap and bed times, decide how much physical activity the child will be up for and show you what the child’s meals need to be. You’re going to enjoy your trip so much more when you take the child’s needs into account because there’s nothing decidedly less fun than a cranky, hungry child being dragged through an adult activity.
- Start small. If you haven’t traveled with your grandchildren or if they are very young, start with a short trip of one or two nights away from home. Don’t travel far and make it a car trip. You’ll be within an hour or two of their parents just in case the kids get too homesick or things don’t work out as planned. Once you have a few short trips under your belt, you can feel more secure in planning a more extensive—and expensive—vacation.
- Involve the child in planning. Give them choices and they are more likely to enjoy the activities they choose. Half the fun of travel is in the planning so start soliciting their opinions as early as possible. The bonus is that planning a trip together is a great way to bond—if you don’t live close by, emails and phone calls will keep everyone excited. If you do, the planning is a fun way to spend time together during the weeks or months leading up to the trip.
- Be willing to broaden the child’s interests. We just told you to make the child the focus of the trip, now we’re telling you to help them get out of their comfort zone. One doesn’t preclude the other—in other words, if you attend to their basic needs the chances that they’ll willingly try something new and different are vastly improved. For instance, a child with a good night’s sleep behind him and a full belly who has just spent the morning at an activity he really enjoys will likely be game for an hour or two spent wandering in a museum.
- Obtain the necessary paperwork. In addition to passports if traveling out of the country, you’ll also want to carry a notarized letter from the parents allowing you to authorize emergency medical care as well as a copy of the parent’s insurance card. In addition, each grandparent should take a current photo of the child as well as photos of the paperwork and have it available on each cell phone.
- Give each other space. Depending on the children’s ages, a suite or adjoining rooms instead of a single hotel room is usually the best arrangement. Being able to put the kids in the bedroom with a movie for an hour or to take an afternoon nap is a lifesaver. Plus, a child’s early bed time doesn’t mean you also have to turn out the light. Having an hour or two to read or watch TV after the children are tucked in can be a nice stress break for grandparents.
- Always have alternative plans. Be ready with activities and destinations in case of bad weather, an illness or downtime. If the scheduled activities for the day are outdoors and it rains, you don’t want to be scrambling for something to do. Do a little planning and research ahead of time so you can substitute easily.