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Tips for travelling with grandchildren

Posted on June 23, 2016 by Kelly Johnstone
Travelling with grandchildren

There’s always a unique and special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, no matter how seldom they see each other. The last few years have seen a growing trend in grandparents taking their beloved grandchildren on holiday with them.

If you’re a grandparent, you will know how rewarding spending time with your grandkids can be. Little ones are a constant source of amusement but that doesn’t mean to say that times can’t get tough when balancing their wishes with yours.

You may have your own thoughts about what’s fun to do with your grandchildren, but it’s a sad fact that your ideas won’t always match theirs. As the saying goes: if they’re happy, you’re happy, so here are a few ideas on how to make this happen without suffering too much yourself!

Plan with them, not for them

Older children often like to be involved in decision making and may well be pleased to be included during the trip planning process. With age-appropriate decision-making powers, they could help you plan meaningful, fun travel experiences together. What’s more, they will remember the interest you showed in their opinions long after the trip has ended.

They could help you choose an overseas destination to suit you all and if you are organising your own holiday, there’s even more scope for them to get involved. Like the vast majority of grandkids, they will have been online since the year dot, so let them put their internet skills to constructive use – they’ll probably be quicker than you at accessing information on what to see and do at your chosen destination.

One last word about planning: It’s easy to be pushed into doing things and paying for things you never intended when it comes to your little darlings. Clarity and boundaries makes for a happier time all round. You might find a serious meeting beforehand will help, during which you decide together what you are willing to do, pay for and negotiate on. As all good grandparents know, finding two options you have already previously decided you are happy with, makes for a more peaceful time.

Get all travel documents together well in advance

To avoid any embarrassing oversights when you check in, you will need to be the “tour leader” who holds all the required travel documents for everyone in your group (including yourself!). These include:

  • Valid passports if travelling abroad, making sure the dates cover your period away. Some countries require an extended period of validity after your planned departure date. If in doubt, check beforehand with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Health insurance cards
  • Travel insurance documents
  • A notarised medical release form for each grandchild. Every healthcare provider requires the form before they can treat a minor
  • If you are going abroad, a letter from the parents granting permission for you to take your grandchildren across international borders. The letter should be notarised and give both parents’ contact information plus a summary of your travel itinerary
  • Depending on your destination, you may also need to bring a copy of each child’s vaccination records
  • Your driving license
  • Copies of prescriptions and a letter from your GP to enable easy replacement if they go astray. Take a look at our tips for travelling with a medical condition.

Don’t ban the internet

It’s hard to understand the younger generation’s obsession with smartphones, iPads and game consoles. But instead of tearing your grandchildren away from them, it may be better to consider permitting them – at least for part of the time. A good way to avoid arguments is to establish a limit beforehand so that they know their online time is restricted to an hour or two per day, after which they need to switch off or hand the devices back to you for safekeeping.

Questions to consider could be: will you allow them to use the devices at mealtimes and in bed at night? Will you be forbidding access to some inappropriate apps or sites? How do your rules differ from any back home?  These issues can be settled relatively easily, provided the rules are already set with them at the holiday planning stage when you decide what will and won’t be allowed on holiday.

If you are travelling out of the UK, don’t forget to find out whether yours and your grandchildren’s phones have international data included. It’s a good idea to book accommodation that has free WiFi so that you don’t risk running up tremendous roaming bills.

Grandparents enjoying quiet time with grandchildren

Have some quiet time

You might find travel tiring but so do your energetic grandchildren. There’s nothing worse than a cranky, over-tired child especially when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. But it’s easy to make your holiday less wearing simply by building in downtime to your schedule each day.

Rest while the young ones nap. The older grandchildren could read, watch television or catch up with their friends online at this quiet time. Bear in mind that playing video or online games may not qualify as good down time and may in fact make them even more energetic  which is not really the aim! It may be a good idea to discuss downtime activities with your grandchildren’s parents before you go.

Be flexible

If your grandchildren are tired, you might like to think about extending the day’s down-time and skipping a planned activity for the sake of everyone’s nerves. Even if you are on an organised tour, try to accommodate your grandchildren’s needs first. For young grandkids, this could mean asking for pasta with plain tomato sauce, even if it’s not actually on the official menu or allowing them to wear the outfit they choose, even if you don’t agree.

Older grandchildren might often ask to change your schedule. Give their requests careful consideration, keeping their safety and your wishes in mind. You definitely don’t have to say yes to everything, but they will appreciate your flexibility when it’s possible.

Have a laugh

As we all know, sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan. At our age, this can be particularly stressful, but remember: travel disasters often make great travel stories when you get back home. Keeping a sense of humour, will not only lighten the situation for all of you, it will help your grandchildren to see the humour in some of life’s trickier situations.

Simple, free activities often entail childlike fun for fun’s sake. Whether this means a walk and a picnic; a game of football; a bit of colouring; acting out a play or charades; an impromptu photo session, or playing travel games as you drive, your grandkids will love them as much, if not more than, any expensive theme park. The key element here is to take part in these activities yourself with them, even if that means making a bit of a fool of yourself – shared fun and laughter is one of the most precious gifts you can give your grandchildren.

by Kelly Johnstone

Kelly Johnstone is Staysure’s Head of Content. She’s known for a love of tea and shares data-driven and breaking travel news.