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Travel With Grandkids Both With and Without Parents

Going It Alone Has Charms, But So Does Having Parents Along

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Travel with grandchildren can be great fun for grandparents.

Having three generations can give a vacation a special flavor.

Peter Mason / Getty Images

Many grandparents say that you haven't really seen a place until you've shared it with your grandchildren. Travel with grandchildren can be done with their parents or without. Both methods have some advantages. Here's what you need to know to make a good decision.

Advantages to Traveling With Both Kids and Grandkids

You’ll have the experts with you. The parents will be there to answer the many questions that will come up about your grandchildren, whom it turns out you don’t know as well as you thought. Your ignorance isn’t be too distressing when it involves a favored breakfast cereal, but in the case of a medical emergency, for example, you’ll be grateful for the parents’ presence.

You’ll have greater flexibility. You can share child care responsibilities. The younger generation can watch the children while the older generation naps, or vice versa. Alternatively, the women can watch the kids while the guys golf, or the guys can sit while the women hit the spa.

You can skip the paperwork. If you're traveling alone with grandchildren, you'll need a letter of permission to travel, copies of insurance cards and loads of contact numbers. If the parents are there, you can skip that step. But the paperwork really isn't complex enough that it should influence your decision one way or another.

Advantages to Traveling With Grandchildren Alone

You’ll bond better. When parents are there, it’s natural for the children to turn to them first. If the parents aren’t there, the grandparent-grandchild interactions take on a different quality. Some grandparents report that their grandchildren are better behaved when the parents are absent, but don’t count on it. The chances are you will have to deal with at least one meltdown on the trip, but working through it may actually make the relationship stronger.

You’ll simplify travel arrangements. Generally speaking, the more people in your group, the more complex the logistics become. By traveling with your grandchildren alone, you’ll reduce the number of rooms needed, the size of vehicle required, the dietary considerations and a myriad of other considerations.

Some Ways to Compromise

Try a half-and-half trip. Take the grandchildren for a four- or five- day trip, then meet up with the parents and continue the vacation. Since grandparents are often retired or at least have more vacation time than parents, this plan can work well for both generations.

Visit a destination with built-in babysitting. If you are panicky about having the care of your grandchildren 24/7, try a cruise, resort, or hotel with a kids’ program that will give you some time alone.

A Caveat

Keep the ratio reasonable. If traveling with grandchildren without their parents, pay attention to the adult-to-child ratio. Although there are grandparents who could take six grandchildren rafting on the Colorado and have a great time, most of us will do better with a one-adult-per-one-child ratio. If you are part of a couple, it works well to take two grandchildren. You can each be in charge of one child. If you are a single grandparent, you might want to take each grandchild for a special trip at a certain age. For example, you might treat each grandchild to Disneyland or Disney World at the age of eight. If you really want to take two grandchildren, consider taking a friend with you, if you have a friend who would enjoy such a trip. If you are a grandparent with disabilities, travel with grandchildren is still possible, but you may need an extra low number of kids per adult.

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