Grandparents and Grandkids Hit the Road Together

Every summer Nancy Hassanein holds “Camp Nana” for her two grandsons. Last year the trio packed up the car — complete with tent, camping gear, bikes, and kayak — for a two-week road trip through the Pacific Northwest. It was a time for “Nana” and the boys to spend uninterrupted time together, without the demands–and interruptions–of parents, homework, and chores.

Today’s grandparents–like Hassanein–are often younger and more active than previous generations of grandparents. And while they love having the kids visit, they’re often equally as happy to take the kids on an adventure and share their interests with the younger crowd.

Whether you take your grandkids on a trip by yourself, or include their parents as well, multi-generational travel is on the rise for a number of reasons, reports AARP. Such trips bring the entire family together, help build special memories, and give grandparents the ability to spend time with grandkids that they might not otherwise get.

“For the right combination of grandparents and grandkids, traveling together can be an enjoyable, broadening experience,” says Judah Ronch, Dean of The Erickson School, Management of Aging Services, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

When planning a trip that spans the generations, Ronch advises that you take into consideration such factors as your own stamina (are you up, say, for long lines and amusement park rides?) and your grandchildren’s interests (will they be bored by an endless round of museum trips?). “Appreciate each other’s circumstances and preferences, and work collaboratively,” he advises, adding that a trial run for a weekend might be a good way to test the waters.

Here are a few other tips for traveling with grandchildren:

  • Include the grandchildren in the planning.
  • Make sure the activities will be interesting and age-appropriate.
  • Don’t overdo.
  • Give each other some alone time.
  • Pack light.

Traveling with grandchildren can be complicated–deciding where to go, when to go, and who’s interested in what. Hassanein, an experienced hiker/camper and outdoors enthusiast, planned her road trip herself, but a number of companies now offer family trips that take the hassle out of pre-trip planning and provide support along the way.

Adventures by Disney, for example, has been offering family trips since 2015. Yes, you can always go to Disneyland or Disney World (both popular destinations), but you can also choose group trips on every continent, with groups accompanied by experienced guides.

Smithsonian Journeys offers trips ranging from visits to European capitals to African river cruises to Alaskan adventures.

Road Scholar, originally known as Elderhostel, has been offering inter-generational trips for more than 30 years. Trips are offered in three categories: North America, International, and Adventures Afloat, and there are numerous options in both length of trip and locations.

Tauck Bridges is especially known for its river cruises, but also offers trips ranging from exploring Alaska to the jungles and rainforests of Costa Rica to the “dolce vita” of Italy.

Discover Corps focuses on volunteer travel and offers a number of inter-generational family volunteer vacations such as a Caribbean Manatee Adventure, South African Wildlife Conservation Experience, and Dominican Republic Global Health Initiative.

A number of organizations also sponsor grandparent camp where you and your grandchildren can enjoy the summer camp experience together. Sierra Club’s Just for Grandparents and Grandkids, for example, features hiking, swimming, and other activities (you’re invited to make your own itinerary as well), while Sagamore Summer Camps has been hosting its SagaGrands Camp since 1985, with children spending their days with camp counselors and evenings with their grandparents enjoying special activities such as campfires and barn dances.

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