“I have an idea for our next road trip,” says six-year-old Mickey to his grandparents. “Let’s go to Legoland®!”
More and more grandparents are starting a tradition of taking their grandchildren on trips, sans the parents. In fact, 37% of grandparents with a household income greater than $50,000 who took a vacation last year did so with grandchildren, up from 28% in 2007.
A side comment: One grandmother, who wanted to start this new family tradition, made the mistake of calling the initial one the First Annual Road Trip. (Let the acronym settle in and you will see why her two young grandsons found it hilarious.)
A growing trend is for grandparents to celebrate various milestones in their lives by taking road trips with the grandchildren. For example, one grandfather, who is turning 70 next year, has already started planning a week-long road trip with his wife and two grandsons. The plan is to end up in Canada for an extended family reunion, so with this known destination in mind, the grandfather is researching and putting together a list of all the possible places they could visit while on the road. Each of them will get to pick one “for sure” place to visit; they will negotiate other stops along the way.
Examples of road trips: I know a grandmother who takes her grandchildren, two at a time, when they are around the ages 10 to 12, on a train trip to Washington, D.C. Prior to the trip, she helps them do some research on the places they will be visiting. So far, four of her eight grandchildren have taken this trip, and the other four are looking forward to it.
Other grandchildren-grandparents trips include: a variety of museums – sports, science, arts – depending on the grandchildren’s interests; water parks; special interest places such as Hershey Park or an Amish village; places that recreate earlier times, such as Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Rock, or Valley Forge.
More physically active grandparents take their grandchildren on biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, paddle boarding or white-water rafting road trips. The possibilities are endless. Sometimes the grandchildren pick the road trip destination, while other times the grandparents choose. Once the activity or destination is selected, usually there are other activities and places of interest in the same area.
For those grandparents taken with the idea of traveling with the grandchildren, but don’t want to be bothered with all the details of planning such a trip, options abound for them. There are many ways to enjoy traveling with the grandchildren where the only requirement is to show up. The prices range from expensive to reasonable. On the high end, and most places requiring air travel, a Wall Street Journal writer has compiled a list of her pick of the top ten places all over the world.
Also on the higher end, Journeys for Families will customize their trips because they appreciate that grandparents often want comforts and services that are not important to the grandchildren. They can provide a guide to help the younger members of the family do things that older members may not want to do or are unable to do.
Road Scholar, a division of Elderhostel, offers many trips in several states for grandparents and grandchildren; helpfully, they include recommended age ranges for the grandchildren.
For those more inclined to rough it, several, very reasonably priced camping experiences are available.
And finally, there is Disney, always a trusted resource, that features multi-generational, national and international trips and cruises.
For the budget minded, Kiplinger publishes “23 Best Travel Sites to Save You Money,” to help find the best deals online for plane tickets, hotel rooms, vacation packages and car rentals, domestic or abroad. In addition, road trip planners may want to check out various hotels that offer significant discounts to grandparents and grandchildren traveling together. Being an AARP member can provide numerous ways to save money while on the road
I close by sharing what four grandchildren had to say about traveling with their grandparents: they were all in agreement that they liked this special bonding time with their grandparents, they enjoyed choosing what they wanted to do, and they appreciated getting a break from their parents and usual routines.
So what about the parents who are left behind? Yes, the parents may miss their kids when they are on the road with the grandparents, but most admit to enjoying this child-free time, especially knowing their kids and the grandparents are having a great time together, sharing and building lifelong memories.
Taking road trips and traveling together is a wonderful legacy for grandparents to leave their grandchildren.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected]