Traveling companions

When we started exploring the idea of grandparents traveling with their grandkids, we thought we had hit upon a fun new niche. It turns out we may have found a full-blown trend. In addition to travel agents and tour companies specializing in intergenerational travel, we spoke to grandparents who have cherished memories of trips with their grandkids — and with parents who are thrilled that their kids have had a chance to build stronger relationships with Grandma and Grandpa.

Here’s some of what we heard:

– Opt for an organized tour, even if it means scaling back on your travel ambitions (like a shorter trip or staying stateside rather than flying overseas) to save money. All the time somebody else spends taking care of logistics and schlepping bags around is time grandparents and grandkids get to spend together.

– Look for that developmental sweet spot: A responsible child who’s, say, 9–13 years old can take care of their own things but hasn’t yet hit the too-cool-for-school teens. A younger child may require more hands-on care and energy than older grandparents can muster.

– Alternately: Start ’em young! Sleepovers at Grandma’s or weekend-long trips can be the beginning of a lifelong close relationship and can lead to tours of Europe in the future.

– Let kids get involved in the planning. Dragging a reluctant kid along to the great art museums of Europe won’t be fun for anyone. Maybe what he really wants is to see the world’s largest skate park (in China, of course) and will agree to see the Great Wall along the way.

– Keep them busy. Jeanne Cloud, who has planned trips with each of her nine grandchildren, says she packs a bag of amusements for long plane rides and includes a journal. Daily journaling is a requirement on all trips with this grandma!

– Spend time with them. Especially with older kids, it might be tempting to let them go off and do their own thing. Of course they need time on their own (and so do grandparents!) but the whole point of the trip is intergenerational togetherness, so make the most of it.

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