Traveling with Grandchildren
Intergenerational Vacation Adventures Offer Unique Bonding Opportunity

By Carol Band

Get the most from your time together!

  • Tips for a Grand Trip

  • Advice for the Ages:
    Tips for tailoring your trip to your grandchildren's ages and interests.
  • Forget jigsaw puzzles by the fire and homemade sugar cookies on the front porch. Today, visiting with Grandma or Grandpa can mean hiking through the Serengeti, cruising in the
    Caribbean or cooking over a campfire in a national park. Grandparents are traveling more than ever and, quite often, they are taking their grandchildren with them.

    In fact, according to Amy Goyer, coordinator of the AARP’s Grandparent Information Center, intergenerational vacations are one of the hottest trends in travel.

    “Grandparents are looking for ways to connect with their grandchildren and become a part of their lives,” Goyer says. “Traveling together – even a day trip – provides an opportunity to really connect and get to know each other.” 

    Are You Crazy?

    Taking your grandchildren on a full-fledged vacation may sound like a daunting undertaking, but plenty of grandparents have already paved the way and shown that not only can it work, it can be a delightful opportunity to connect, bond and grow together. In fact, today there are travel companies, like GrandTravel, Rascals in Paradise and Elderhostel to name a few, that specialize in creating memorable trips especially for grandparents and kids.

    “There’s a whole population of young, aerobically fit, nutritionally sound grandparents who are well-traveled and want to share those experiences with their grandchildren,” says Helena Koenig, founder and president of GrandTravel, a Maryland-based travel agency that offers educational trips for grandparents and kids. “They are interested in not only maintaining a close relationship with their grandchildren – which is possible long-distance through e-mail and videos – but they want to enrich their grandchildren’s lives. Travel is just the thing.”

    GrandTravel offers trips that range from cultural excursions to cities like Washington, D.C., and Paris, to exotic adventures like Kenyan safaris and cruises along the Alaskan coast.

    “So many families live far away from each other now,” Koenig says. “Traveling together gives both of them a chance to develop a relationship that otherwise might not be possible.”

    No Parents Allowed

    Can parents go along on these exciting adventures?

    “No!” Koenig says emphatically. “Definitely not. There is a special bond that happens when the parents aren’t there.”

    Phyllis and Charlie Hersch concur. They have taken their 12-year-old grandson, Cory, on vacation with them for the past five summers.

    “We own him for a week every year,” Charlie says with delight. “It’s an extraordinary experience to have that time with him alone. We are able to forge a bond that wouldn’t be possible if his parents were around. We talk about all sorts of things.”

    Part of what makes their time together so precious, the Hersch’s conclude, is the special relationship between grandchildren and grandparents.

    “We tend to be pretty critical of our children,” Phyllis notes, “but our grandchildren are always perfect.”

    The Herschs favorite destination is Sagamore’s Grands Camp in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Sponsored in conjunction with Elderhostel and The Foundation for Grandparenting, the camp combines typical camp activities like canoeing and hiking with clinician-led discussions for grandparents.

    “It’s great for the kids, because there are other kids for them to play with and good for us to have time to talk with other adults,” Charlie points out.

    Ease Into It

    The Herschs are returning to Grands Camp again this summer, this time with their 7- and 8-year-old granddaughters. But this won’t be the girls’ first time away from home.

    “We always have the kids spend a night or two with us months before we take them for a week,” Phyllis says.

    Travel experts recommend doing just that. If you are contemplating a vacation with grandchildren, try a shorter excursion first. An overnight at your house and a visit to the local zoo or science museum can be a good introduction to each other’s patterns and needs.

    Keep in mind that even with meticulous planning, things can and do go wrong on a vacation. Travelers should always be prepared for the unexpected. Rain, lost luggage and stomach aches are all real possibilities, but they’re not reasons for canceling a much anticipated trip. Travel, as veteran globe-trotters will confess, requires flexibility and a willingness to compromise. That goes double for travel with children.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“I had planned to take my 11-year-old granddaughter on a trip to Paris,” says Helen Foster, a grandmother from Southern California. “When the trip was cancelled (after Sept. 11) we had to change our plans. Instead of going to France, we went to a dude ranch just a few hours away. The money I saved on airfare, we blew on a shopping spree.”

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Knowing what interests and excites your grandchildren can be the key to a successful trip.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">You wouldn’t want to take on a week at a dude ranch without first knowing if your grandchild enjoyed horseback riding or plan a week at the ocean if the child disliked saltwater.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Before planning your adventure with a grandchild, be sure to:

    Clear the idea with the child’s parents. They will be able to clue you in to the child’s favorite foods, possible fears and details that might save the day or the whole vacation.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Hart and Millie Anway invited their grandson to spend a weekend with them in New York before embarking on a week-long trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“He said that he wanted frozen peas for dinner,” Millie recalls. “So I got them out of the freezer, cooked them and served them with dinner. What I didn’t know is that he wanted them cold, hard and frosty – right out of the bag. His mother would have known that.”

    Clear your travel itinerary with the child’s parents too. They need to feel comfortable with the plans in order to be able to let go and let you assume full responsibility for their children’s care and well-being.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Anne Quaadgras’ parents come from Holland every summer and take her two daughters camping.

    style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“Ompa and Oma are really nice,” says 9-year-old Tina. “Sometimes we have Dutch pancakes for dinner and they let me have dessert after every meal – even breakfast!”

    Anne wouldn’t serve ice cream in the morning at her house, but she knows that building a relationship between her parents and her children is more important than always having perfectly balanced meals. “Besides,” she says, “they raised their own three kids, and we all turned out OK. I guess they can handle two grandchildren for a week.”


    Intergenerational Travel

    AARP – Check out for some great travel ideas.

    Disney – Deals on special packages from cruises to theme park vacations are available for grandparents traveling with their grandkids. For more information, visit

    Elderhostel – Offers many trips for grandparents and grandchildren ranging from spelunking to exploring behind the scenes at a zoo. 877-426-8056,

    The Foundation for Grandparenting – For information about GrandsCamp and other resources for grandparents, see

    GrandTravel – Specializes in educational and cultural trips for grandparents and grandchildren. No parents allowed! 800-247-7651,

    Thomson Family Adventures – Designs worldwide adventures for families, including African safaris, excursions to the Australian outback, and explorations in the Andes, China, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. 800-262-6255,

    Traveling with Your Grandkids, by Virginia Smith Spurlock, available at AAA offices, by calling 877-AAA-BOOK or online at


    When vacationing together, grandparents and kids can reap the benefits of discounted fares for seniors and children’s prices on tours, lodging and food. Here are some favorite destinations that work for travelers of all ages:

    All-inclusive resorts – Relax by the pool, snorkel and don’t worry about the price of lunch. Everything is included and organized activities for kids means that everyone is having a ball. Check for off-season rates. Some favorite resorts include those operated by:

    – ClubMed: 800-CLUBMED,

    The Franklyn D. Resort and FDR Pebbles, Jamaica: 1-800-654-1FDR,

    Almond Village Resorts, Barbados: 1-800-ALMOND,

    Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Florida: 1-888-261-6161,

    – Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas: 888-528-7155,

    CruisesIf you like the idea of an all-inclusive resort, but get itchy staying in one place, consider a cruise. Like the all-inclusive resorts, cruises let you forget about picking up the tab for meals and activities. There are plenty of activities for kids and opportunities for adults to relax if they want. For general information about some of the well-known cruise lines, call Cruises Only at 888-278-4737 or check out

    You can also contact the major cruise lines directly:

    – Carnival Cruises: 888-CARNIVAL,

    – Disney Cruise Line: 800-951-3532,

    Holland America: 800-932-4259,

    – Princess Cruises: 800-774-6237,

    – Royal Caribbean: 800-398-9819,

    – Norwegian Cruise Line: 800-327-7030,

    Ski resorts in summer – In an effort to lure families to the slopes off-season, ski resorts from California to Maine have created affordable packages for family vacations. These resorts offer a variety of activities for children and adults.


  • Tips for a Grand Trip

  • Advice for the Ages: Tips for tailoring your trip to your grandchildren's ages and interests.

    Carol Band is a savvy traveler with or without children in tow.

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