As a senior traveller, I must admit that I often choose to take my holidays when children are at school. It’s normally cheaper to travel during school term times and I do like a bit of peace and quiet! I think it’s called the ‘Grumpy Grandad Syndrome’.
However, as a retired senior, I do also appreciate that sometimes taking the grandchildren on holiday can be very helpful for hard-working parents.
And, with a bit of planning beforehand, and some patience and understanding along the way, it can be very enjoyable for all concerned.
Here are my ten top tips for enjoyable travel with grandchildren, whether just for a day, a night or two, or for much longer.
1. Get the grandchildren involved in planning the holiday.
Ask the kids where they would like to go and what they would like to see. Getting them involved in the planning helps get them excited about a trip. Read books and watch films and television programmes that relate to your destination. Have you been before? Share your experiences with your grandchildren.
2. Don’t travel too far away on the first occasion
During the daytime, children can be quite brave and independent. But when it gets dark and near bedtime then mummies and daddies can be badly missed. Be ready to take them back home if necessary. They will be far more willing to come another time.
3. Choose places to visit that are new and different for them
Where do they normally go to on holidays? What are the usual places they visit for birthday treats? Try something different like maybe a heritage site. Sounds ‘boring’! Well that’s when you need to point out that most English Heritage and National Trust sites (and their equivalents in other countries) have children’s play areas and wild-life activities. It’s worth noting also that English Heritage don’t charge for children’s entry, so more to spend on drinks and sweets for your young charges!
4. Consider your grandchildren’s activity levels
Do you have a grandchild who has a daily nap? Fit activities around it. Even if they have grown out of that, you might want to build a little quiet time into each day. Reading or maybe playing on a tablet (yes, they probably will have one) will let everyone rest. If your day is full of quiet and calm activities, they might want to have a little time running around or swimming before bedtime.
5. Choose accommodation that is child-friendly
This is not the time for stuffy, posh accommodation. Look for hotels that have facilities like play areas and swimming pools and have a welcoming approach to younger guests. For example, many hotels in the Holiday Inns chain have a policy of kids eat free, and there is no extra charge for children staying in your room.
6. Think about travel insurance
This is vital for long holidays but should be considered even for short breaks. Things happen – kids get sick, people fall down, transport can be delayed. Consider travel insurance so when things go wrong it doesn’t ruin the whole trip. Sometimes grandchildren can be added to your insurance for very little extra.
7. Think about medical needs
Don’t forget to take medicines with you, both ones that are being taken regularly by your grandchildren, and extras their parents might suggest like Calpol.
If you are travelling far from home, then get a letter indicating you can decide about medication in an emergency.
8. Passports and permissions
If you are travelling to a different country, not only do you need the children’s passports, but also a letter from the parents giving permission to take your grandchild abroad. This is particularly important if a child’s surname is different to yours – as I learnt recently when trying to board a cross-channel ferry. Fortunately my daughter could be contacted by phone!
9. Get information from parents before setting off
Parenting is like riding a bike – you haven’t forgotten how, but no one knows your grandchild better than their parents.
So go ahead and ask for information. What is the bed time routine? Hated foods? Things that are scary? Food allergies? Favourite stuffed animal that needs to be guarded against loss?
10. Pack light
You’ll have your hands full watching kids so make sure you pack very light. Instead of lugging suitcases, you’ll be holding little hands to keep everyone safe. Pack lightly and wash clothes if necessary!
And finally, throw out some rules because it is a HOLIDAY!
Who says you can’t have icecream for breakfast? Holidays were meant for fun and grandparenting is the perfect excuse to spoil the kids.
Are the kids very tired at bath-time? Skip it! We all know a little dirt won’t hurt anyone. Pizza and chips instead of meat and two veg? Why not – let the parents deal with the healthy diet. Grandparents are for fun!
Posted 13th January 2016 by Steve Hanson. It is based, with permission, on an original article published on December 21st, 2015, by Natalie Tanner on her excellent Educational Tourist website.