Multigenerational travel, that is, several generations—kids, parents and grandparents—on the same trip is still trending with no signs of slowing down. Many grandparents, though, are deciding to skip a generation and take just the grandkids, leaving the moms and dads to some quiet time of their own while they head out for some fun.
Being a “senior” no longer equals “early bird,” quite the contrary: baby boomers are leading the way in RTW travel and heading off the beaten path, so why not take the grandkids? Even in the summertime, many parents can barely take a couple of weeks off, while being retired on the one hand—and on summer vacay on the other—certainly has its perks. Europe, Alaska, cruises, extended road trips… The sky’s the limit; just make sure you take a few things into consideration before you pack your bags.
Talk to the parents first before making any plans or buying tickets
A river cruise down the Rhine with wine tasting in the evenings might sound fun to you, but you might end up with a revolution on your hands. Parents will know what makes their kids happy. Cruises are an excellent option as they’re essentially floating funhouses with something for everyone—think Disney, for sure. All-inclusive resorts on the beach are another favorite, as they cater to all ages and many even have kids’ and teenagers’ clubs, where the young ‘uns can mix with people their own age, too. There are also tour outfitters that can prepare guided specialty packages—a great option as the onus of entertainment isn’t always on the grandparents. You may also want to talk to your travel agent: they will have plenty of suggestions as well as packages that can help bring it all together.
Make a list
Not just of allergies, medications and all that fun stuff, but sit down with the parents as part of your planning activities and settle on a bedtime, if they need a nightlight, if they move around (in case you need to share a bed), any snacks they can’t live without…
Have the proper paperwork
Each child needs his or her identification, passport if necessary, copies of birth certificates, a recent photo (in case they get lost) and notarized authorization from the parents in case he or she needs medical attention (see above.)
Agree on a budget
While the trip will most likely be your gift, each grandkid should take some spending money and agree with the parents beforehand on what to spend it on. Some kids are good about budgeting and others will blow it on the first plastic souvenir they find. Guide them gently on their purchases so their money will go a long way—and you don’t become a bottomless wallet.
Get the kids excited!
They’ve already been part of the planning process but take it one step further by helping them do research on the destinations via books, stories, videos or coloring books, depending on their age. Paper maps are especially fun for road trips since you can follow the road with different colored markers (it will be an interesting departure from the table) and, using apps such as Roadtrippers.com, you can mark all the cool attractions along the way. Going abroad? Get off the Internet, get a globe and make it twirl!
Don’t overdo it
You might have all the time in the world, but both kids and grandparents can get pooped out after a certain amount of time. An overly planned itinerary might exhaust everyone and wear tempers down. Remember: a well-timed nap is a thing of beauty. It’s just what everyone needs to get a second wind! The “don’t overdo” also applies to packing: unless you’re on a cruise, you’ll have to do some carrying, so when you’re laying out your clothes, remember the old adage: take half the clothes and twice the money. Encourage the parents to do the same for their kids.
Keep electronics to a minimum
Phone calls home every other night or so to ensure busy parents that all is well are a definite yes, but unless everyone is a Facebook addict there’s no need to keep smartphones permanently attached to their hands. The point is having fun together—not with the screen. If a total ban is not going to happen, you can always set aside a specific hour every night to upload photos and share the fun with everyone. This brings us to the next point…
Make sure you have a SkyMed Membership in your back pocket
There are many things that can happen on a trip. They don’t always, but it’s good to know you’re covered, especially when traveling with children—the last thing you need is to find yourself away from home and responsible for a seriously ill child, never mind your suffering a critical illness or injury. No prophet of doom deal here, simply common sense: a SkyMed medevac membership that covers you and your grandchildren and will take you—and them—all the way home is key.