Many grandparents are bonding with their grandchildren by taking them along on vacation – without their parents. It’s one of today’s fastest growing travel trends. If you are contemplating taking a cruise alone with your grandchildren, here are ten tips to help make your vacation with the grandkids an "awesome" success:
1. Do a test run. Start with a short trip together before traveling alone with your grandchildren for an extended vacation. Take an excursion to the zoo, a day trip to a nearby lake or beach, or invite them to stay at your house for the weekend. This will let you see how you interact together and find out if your grandchildren are ready to go with you on a longer journey away from home.
2. Talk with the parents. Creating successful vacations with grandchildren depends on developing a good understanding of their interests, preferences, habits and personalities. Talk with your children about your travel plans and ask for their advice on the length of the cruise and suggested activities.
3. Brainstorm and plan your trip together. Travel experts have found that the most successful family vacations are those that involve everyone in choosing destinations and planning for their trip. Talk with your grandchildren about their interests, activities, favorite sports and dream destinations. Through these conversations, you will learn more about each other and find cruise activities that all of you can enjoy.
4. Look for travel agents with experience in cruising and intergenerational vacations. Travel agents have a wealth of travel insights and knowledge. Using the information gleaned from your discussions with your children and grandchildren, a knowledgeable travel specialist can direct you to the cruise line and itinerary that will best meet your needs.
5. Set a budget and shop for savings. Decide on a comfortable budget for your trip and make sure to include such items as souvenirs, tips, and a few unexpected activities or necessities. To help stretch your vacation dollars, make sure to look for discounts provided by membership organizations like AAA and AARP as well as special travel promotions offered by cruise lines.
6. Build in private time together as well as "down" or "apart" time. While the goal of your trip is to create shared memories, it is also important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age. Likewise, grandparents need quiet periods for rest and some adult company as well. Cruises are popular for this reason. They offer supervised activities and programs for children and teens, allowing grandparents to enjoy some time on their own.
7. Keep up the excitement. Travel plans are often made far in advance of the trip, but out of sight doesn't have to mean out of mind. Pick up some travel brochures and a guidebook and share them with your grandchildren. The Internet contains a variety of websites with pictures of your destination and information on activities that can be easily shared via e-mail. As the date draws closer, send along a suggested packing list for the trip.
8. Be prepared and expect the unexpected. Make a list of items that you and your grandchildren will need to bring on your trip. These include identification, contact and health insurance information, a notarized letter empowering you to act in case of medical emergencies, recent photos, and medicines. In addition, check the latest federal requirements well in advance and bring the proper travel documents with you. If your grandchildren have any dietary needs or medication requirements, make sure to be aware of those and have a written record as well. In addition, check with the cruise line for documentation requirements and bring along a notarized letter from the parents authorizing travel with your grandchildren on your cruise. Take a few additional items in your carry on luggage along with medicines and travel documents, such as a cell phone for emergencies, a change of clothes and bathing suit in case luggage is lost, and travel games and snacks for the trip. If unforeseen events happen, stay positive. Your grandchildren will learn important life lessons from watching you on this trip.
9. Make space for a few favorite items. Allow your grandchildren to bring along a few comfort items on the trip, such as a stuffed animal or blanket, books or a portable music source and headphones. If your grandchildren usually sleep with a night light, make sure to pack one for your room. Travel backpacks and activity kits can be a lifesaver on plane and car rides.
10. Capture and preserve your vacation memories. Consider giving each grandchild a journal and a disposable camera to bring along on your journey. In addition, be sure to bring along plenty of digital memory cards or film to capture every moment of your trip.