Thursday, July 9, 2015

Secrets to traveling with grandchildren -- no parents, snacks and an app or two

"Young children are wonderful tourists, if you gear the trip to their interests rather than yours," -  Deborah Jacobs, writing in Forbes magazine on Seven Tips for Traveling with Grandchildren, click here. 

Grandparents traveling with grandchildren --- it’s a big and growing travel trend.
And why not?!! Baby boomer retirees over 60 are more active than prior generations. We have the time and resources along with a sense of worldly adventure that has us looking for shared experiences with our grandkids.

That’s especially true if we don’t get to spend much time around them or interact one-on-one. Traveling without the “middle layer” of parents as one travel writer described it, creates a strong bond between grandparents and their grandchildren.

When I got the green light this spring to take my 10-year-old grandson, Jason, to Disney World, I booked the tickets without hesitating. Our six days together was a great experience. As a great first trip together, it was perfect.

We had some adventures…Typhoon Lagoon’sShark Reef,” for instance.
We screamed together on the Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
We shared meals, looked for restrooms and hurried together to catch planes and buses
We held hands in the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon where I got smacked in the eye by a body surfer. Only needed a small patch at the First Aid Station.
We raced together to get on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom and got out just in time for the fireworks.

Our day at Epcot had Jason designing his own virtual ride and going on a Mission to Space with simulated gravitational pull. The water park day was great. So was Disney’s Hollywood Studios, home of the Tower of Terror. Not to be missed.
In all, I believe we were on 12 roller coaster rides of one kind or another among many other experiences. All fun. "This is Disney, after all," said a parent sitting next to me at the Magic Kingdom when I mentioned that I was nervous about the Tower of Terror.

If I had any goals for this trip, they were to have fun and get closer to my only grandchild. That all happened for sure. We had time over meals to talk. We talked about grandma’s travel budget that included how much we’d spend a day on food.  We discussed how he wanted to spend his personal money on gifts and souvenirs. We talked about food and making wise menu choices. We made funny jokes. We relaxed at the pool and read at night in our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

We tried not to overdo but that’s a challenge at Disney World when there’s just one more ride to get on before heading to the room on the shuttle.

In the midst of all this, we had time apart. The lodge pool and the water park were the easiest with life guards posted at regular intervals. I think he liked the independence that came with playing with other kids. One night he stayed in the room with his iPad while I went in search of a martini.

On our return flight we talked about travel tips for grandparents and grandchildren (age 10) traveling together. Here’s what we came up with:

Jason’s tips:
- Carry a small backpack with extra socks, water bottles few snacks. Granola bars and pretzels worked for us.

- Be prepared for bad weather. We were caught in a thunder storm and downpour at Typhoon Lagoon. The next night out our newly purchased rain ponchos kept us from getting soaked, again.

- Go to the bathroom before you get on the airplane. Go to the bathroom as often as possible.
Buy the smart phone app “Heads Up” to play while standing in ride waiting lines. We played with another family in line. It was fun.

- Always have something to read. The iPad Star Wars game came in handy.

- Bring Band-Aids and mole skin for any blistered toes from all the walking.

- If you’re going to be at a pool be sure to bring a face mask (they didn’t let me use the snorkel) and/or swim goggles.

- Have plastic bags for the wet clothes if they have to go in a suit case.

Grandma's tips:

- If your grandchild is under age…bring along signed travel documents from the parents and a photo ID from his school. My documents included emergency medical permission from his parents, travel permission and his birth certificate.

- Meet with the parents before departure to explain the trip. Talk about any rules regarding TV, food or spending money. And how you will stay in touch. If an iPad will be along, set out rules for how and when it is turned on.

- Set clear expectations about behavior…no talking back for instance.

- Bring along a favorite stuffed animal or pillow. Good for sleeping on planes.

- Plan for some time apart….in the pool or in a supervised play area. A video game room came in handy on our last morning while we waited for our bus to the airport.

- Take a lot of photos for a trip scrapbook. Memories are important.

- If you are going to Disney World be sure to download the Disney World app onto your iPhone and use the app to sign up in advance for Fast Passes to the most popular rides. We may be waiting two hours in line, if you don't use the FP system. It's slick.

Our trip to Disney World was a grand opportunity to better get to know my grandson. I found out about his interests, about how his brain works and what he likes to do. I learned that swimming is at the top of his list and that designing his own robotic virtual ride was something he enjoyed. The same for the race car at Fast Track in Epcot.

Would I go on another adventure with him? Absolutely. I think I have something to contribute to his life and he to mine.
By some standards this was a quick trip but nevertheless we bonded. No one goes on the Tower of Terror without bonding.

As a grandparent, I’m not alone in this adventure with my grandson. According to recent research, some 37 percent of all grandparents who travel have traveled with the grandchildren. Road Scholar offers 100 multigenerational tours. Smithsonian Journeys is another family travel site I intend to pursue adventure travel into my "golden years" and hope to bring my grandson along.. Everyone is handing out advice on how to do it right.

For more:
Road Scholar's trips for kids and their grandparents provide a rare bonding experience, click here.
6 Essential Tips for Traveling with Grandchildren, click here. click here.
Documents Needed for Traveling with Grandchildren, click here
6 Tips for Traveling with Your Grandchildren, click here.
8 Tips for Playing with Grandchildren click here.
Intergenerational Adventures, Road Scholar click here.
Budget-friendly Vacation Ideas Grandchildren Love, click here.


1 comment:

  1. Our trip to Disney World was a grand opportunity to better get to know my grandson