From day trips to road trips and family cruises, traveling with grandkids is a special kind of adventure. You'll be there as your grandchild forms new memories, takes their first ride on a rollercoaster or sees the ocean for the first time.
Travel also comes with a few challenges – kids and seniors have different, often opposing needs, and while the 10-year-old by your side may want to spend all day at the water park, that may not be your idea of a dream vacation. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to compromise while still having fun together. Here are a few tips for traveling with your grandkids:
Plan ahead of time
"Children – young children in particular – need structure, even on vacation."
Children – young children in particular – need structure, even on vacation. More than that, they likely need much more stimulation than you do. That's why, when you're considering a relaxing beach vacation where you'd be satisfied sitting under an umbrella reading by the water all day, your grandchild may soon become restless. Plan ahead by bringing games and including other activities such as trips to local nature preserves, tours or bike rides. If the kids are the right age, you could even strategize and look up indoor playgrounds or arcades.
It may not be your idea of fun, but a couple of hours at a playground followed by pizza for dinner can help kids burn up their extra energy without wearing you out.
Talk to your grandkids ahead of time about what they'd like to do. They may be too old to be interested in an indoor playground, or too young to have any interest in going to an art museum.
Let parents take the lead
Open up the planning conversation to include your grandkids' parents, even if the parents won't be accompanying you on the trip. Sure, you raised your own children, but they are now the experts when it comes to their child – listen when they tell you to plan for breaks, what situations tend to prompt emotional responses, and what snacks they love.
If your own children are coming along on the trip, relinquish a little control and be open to listening to their advice. Instead of worrying about the potential for conflict or the fact that you may have to take unscheduled breaks for a small child's nap, look at these times as an opportunity to unwind, explore your surroundings and help your children when they need a break, too.
Give in (a little) to technology
"Just make sure fighting over technology doesn't become the theme of the trip."
You may find your grandchild's tablet games baffling, their habit of watching TV shows with headphones on the plane – ignoring you along the way – somewhat rude, or their incessant texting out of control, but you're not going to change that during a week-long trip. Trying to do so will just make life harder for you and your grandchild.
Instead, take advantage of the quiet time in the car or on the plane and allow time for them to watch their favorite show on their tablet at night after dinner. That doesn't mean they should be able to use their electronic devices at all times, though. It's okay to set reasonable restrictions, such as refraining from playing games during dinner or encouraging the teen in your life to put down their phone when they're standing in front of the Grand Canyon.
Just make sure fighting over technology doesn't become the theme of the trip. Stay present and enjoy your trip, even if it involves regular tech sessions.
Schedule alone time
Unless you're a primary care provider, you may have forgotten just how much energy kids have. And while you're on vacation, there's no handing your grandchild back to their parents after a nice day together.
With that in mind, make sure you pencil in some alone time during your family trip. If you're traveling with other adults, it's okay for you to take an afternoon to yourself. Spend quiet time in a museum that would bore your 8-year-old grandchild, or go to a nice restaurant on your own or with another adult to have a relaxing meal with a glass of wine.