How to Have a Fun Trip With Grandchildren

Grandfather and grandson amusement park fun


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Grandfather and grandson amusement park fun

Intergenerational Journey

As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, grandparents keen to make up for lost time are planning trips with their grandchildren for this summer and beyond. It’s a win-win-win: not only for the grandparents and grandchildren making memories but also those home-school-weary parents who get a breather. Read on for tips to keep in mind.

Related: 15 Unforgettable Trips for People Over 50

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Making Plans to Reconnect

As the country emerges from the pandemic, spending time with grandchildren is a priority, Terri Marshall, editor of, a sub-site of, tells us, “As a grandparent, I can attest to the struggles related to missing grandkids during the height of COVID. My three grandkids live in Florida, and I’m in New York City. Trips were canceled, plans ruined, it was ugly! Now that travel is somewhat reopening, traveling with the grandkids ranks at the top of my summer plans… and I’m not alone. Grandparents everywhere are looking forward to time with those precious grandkids.”


b>Related: 20 Ways for Older Relatives to Stay Connected With Loved Ones 

Summer Fun

A Trend Indeed

The numbers back up Marshall’s experience. A “Grandparents Today” survey from AARP research noted that about 40 percent of grandparents say they travel with their grandchildren who live far away to help bridge the distance gap. Many opt to take “skip-gen” trips, the term used for vacationing with grandchildren without the children’s parents. In May, the economy lodging brand Motel 6 noted that, as it becomes safe to travel again, more than half of grandparents surveyed said their first trip would be to see their grandchildren

I spy with my little eye

Recognize the Value

Terri Marshall, the editor of TravelingGrandparents, says these “skip-gen” trips offer “an opportunity to deepen your relationship” with your grandchildren. “I try to do this each year with my grandkids and also work toward giving them individual trips so it’s just the two of us. The memories are priceless.”    

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Senior woman with grandson travelling by boat near Amalfi coast, Italy

Everyone Benefits

It’s not just the grandchildren who gain from this type of journey. According to the not-for-profit group Road Scholar, which was founded in 1975 as Elderhostel and has been offering programs for grandparents and grandchildren since 1985, “One of the best parts of traveling and learning with your grandchild is seeing the wonder in their eyes as they learn or experience something new. There’s nothing like it. Having grandkids along helps you see the world through a different lens and, often, pushes you out of your comfort zone. You’re more likely to learn things you wouldn’t with other adults and maybe even try some different activities you never thought you’d try, like zip lining in Costa Rica, surfing in Hawaii or digging with paleontologists in Wyoming.”    


Related: 12 Tips for Smooth Travel With Kids

Boys playing with a pony at farm
Orbon Alija/istockphoto

Dive Right In

Marshall notes that while there’s really no right or wrong way to travel with a grandchild, you should certainly consider your time, finances and the age and interests of your grandchildren for an optimum experience. “Young children will need more hands-on supervision than older ones… Of course, if both grandpa and grandma will be on the trip, it’s easier to manage more than one child.” And, Road Scholar notes (and the pandemic reinforced), time is of the essence: “Your grandkids are only young once, so don’t wait to plan a travel and learning experience they’ll remember even when they’re all grown up.”       

Related: 25 Bucket-List Places to Take Your Kids

Smiling multi-generation family using wireless technology while relaxing in the living room.

Get the Travelers Involved

Marshall says that planning and anticipating the trip are part of the fun. “If the grandkids are old enough, ask them where they’d like to go. Find out what their current interests are and work from there. The more involved they are in the planning the more excited they’ll be about the trip.” Once you decide, she also suggests you further build the anticipation by sharing a book or movie set in your destination’s locale.

First, Talk Openly And Honestly

Seek Parental Input

Marshall notes it’s not all about you and the kids — consult with the parents. “While my adult children typically let me decide on the location, they know I can be pretty adventurous, so now and then they steer me in another direction.” Together, you can weigh the options whether it’s an education-oriented trip to tour the historic sites of Washington, D.C., for example, or an outdoor adventure to the Grand Canyon, complete with horseback riding.     


Related: Bike Season Begins: Is a Group Tour for You?  

My grandparents are the best!

Know Your Grandchild

Each child has his or her own preferences and abilities, which you’ll want to respect on the road. Think about their fitness level and also how they react to new surroundings, cuisine and routines. If it’s the first time traveling together, you might want to consider a “test run” closer to home, Marshall suggests.    


Related: Amazing Family Vacation Rentals That Are Tricked Out for Kids

Three generation family together at home

Know Thyself

Do not get swept up in the excitement of a potential trip to gloss over the realities. Marshall notes you must be realistic with yourself and know if you have the energy and patience to keep up with the grandchildren, especially if they are young and if you have any physical limitations. But, she adds, “Of course, if your energy knows no boundaries, go ahead and take that always-on-the-go 5-year-old away for a few days. Your son or daughter will thank you.”      

Children, traveling together, waiting at the airport to board the aircraft

Pack it Up

On the nuts-and-bolts front, be sure to create a packing list for the younger ones to avoid opening a suitcase filled with all toys and no pajamas. Emphasize the need to pack light. “You want the grandkids to be able to carry their own luggage if possible,” Marshall says.


Related: Your New Air Travel Checklist

Homemade frozen fruit pop, geladinho or chupchup

Food for Thought

Make sure you’ve gone over any dietary restrictions or issues with the parents before you leave home. “Even though we love to spoil the grandkids with all the goodies mom and dad don’t give them, respecting the parents’ wishes is the way to go,” Marshall says.   

kid with money
SbytovaMN / istockphoto

Set a Budget

To avoid kids begging for extra money or you constantly pulling out that credit card for extras, Marshall suggests setting a trip budget. “Before the trip, decide on an amount of money you can give to your grandchild to spend on the trip. Typically, I let them know how much they’re getting on the first day of the trip. Then it’s up to them to budget it for the week for souvenirs, etc.” This way they learn a life lesson, too.


Related: How to Put Your Kids to Work Around the House and Teach Them Financial Responsibility

embraced grandparents enjoying while looking at their family on a field in autumn day

Read the Fine Print

To save time and stress once you’re on the road, make sure your preparation includes any needed medical or legal paperwork. This should include gathering a medical consent form in case of an accident, health insurance details, a list of any medications (if applicable), contact information for their doctors and, depending on the destination, any legal documents such as birth certificates. A travel consent form is also a good idea. offers a rundown of what you’ll need ― and explains how to create a “Letter of Permission.”

Miami beach closed during Covid sign
Cliff Hawkins/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Remain Flexible

Another lesson from the pandemic: Pivoting is a necessity. Depending on the current health protocols, adjustments to your original ideas and plans may be necessary. An attraction may limit its hours or capacity, etc. “Teach your grandkids how to go with the flow. They’ll be better travelers for life!” says Marshall.

Grandmother Helping Little Boy Search

Avoid Nagging

No one wants to be scolded when on vacation. “Don’t even worry about keeping everything tidy. Let it go. Kids are messy, and although it’s fine to have them hang up those wet swimsuits and pick up after themselves, stressing about it isn’t fun for anyone,” says Marshall.

Group of diversity aged family playing soccer table game together happily. Grandmother playing game together with her children at home after retirement daily lifestyle. Happy healthy senior concept.

Expect Serendipity

Avoid the urge to stick to a rigid schedule. As Marshall notes, “It’s tempting to fill up the itinerary so that every moment is accounted for, but that leaves no time for extra exploration. Leave some open time in your plans. Your grandkids may surprise you with what direction they choose to go. It’s all about discovering new things together.”   

Grandparents Relaxing On Sofa At Home With Granddaughters

Spill That Tea

Time spent together offers time to bond, laugh and learn a bit of family history. “As the parents of our grandchildren’s parents, we hold the key to the past,” Marshall says. “We know all the good stories. Sharing those memories with our grandkids not only gives them something to tease their parents about, it also provides new insights into family relationships.”    

Little girl flying a kite with her grandmother

Give a Nod to Simple Pleasures

Sometimes simple pleasures, from a farmers market to flying a kite, can provide unexpected fun. As Marshall notes, “Even if you’re in Europe seeing a new city, taking time to relax and play an old-fashioned board game can be just as much fun as sightseeing.”    

Smiling Chinese Senior Couple Enjoying Hong Kong Views

Savor the True Benefits of Travel

Remember, it’s about having fun, learning and making memories ― not what souvenirs you buy. Marshall fondly recalls one memorable trip with her grandchildren that took them to Pennsylvania. Besides the horseback riding, an abundance of ice cream, and a night in a train-themed motel, the trip also offered a firsthand look at the Amish community. As she recalls, “Offering our grandkids insight into other cultures is a priceless gift. The truth is, while grandkids love to receive gifts, memories of the experiences we share last far longer than anything we buy.”    

Overjoyed kids watching funny video on computer with parents.

Keep the Memories Alive

Once everyone is back at home, the trip doesn’t have to end. Relive it all with your photographs and FaceTime calls to reinforce the memories. Marshall notes her grandchildren have more than once referred to past trips, especially loving to “tease me about an afternoon we spent canoeing when I repeatedly steered us into the shoreline.” Bet they’re ready for their next adventure. 


Related: 20 Ways to Bond With Your Adult Children