It was an experience I will never forget – my seven-year-old granddaughter wiggling in her seat on the plane exclaiming excitedly about the turquoise waters beneath us as we approached the airport in Aruba. I was taking Katherine on her first international trip and I was thrilled to be next to her when she received her first passport stamp. As a globetrotting grandmom, introducing travel to my young grandkids is a priority. I believe it is important for them to experience new places, meet people from other cultures and explore the world. Whether our travels take us to a theme park close to home, to the beach or to a foreign country, there are some keys to making the trip a success for everyone. Here are three things to consider when you decide to take along the grandkids.
Get those boring legal documents in order
Of course you love your grandkids and will take excellent care of them. But unless you are their legal guardian, you have no authority when it comes to decisions about their medical care. And although you would never take the grandkids out of the country without parental permission, the authorities don’t know that and they are going to need that permission slip. Always carry a signed and notarized Power of Attorney from their parents that grants you the authority to travel to the intended destination. The form should include the dates and places of travel. It should also state that you are authorized to seek medical care for the child should it be necessary while you are traveling. For international travel, be sure to check the destination’s laws and procedures for bringing minor children into the country and be certain you have all the necessary documents in hand.
Choose your destinations wisely
Choosing a destination and the activities you want to experience while visiting should take into consideration the ages, interests and personalities of your grandkids. Theme parks are always popular, but one of my goals for my grandkids is to introduce them to a world beyond the make-believe. On our trip to Aruba, Katherine and I took a cooking class with the resort’s chef. He introduced us to Keshi yena, a traditional Dutch entrée. She loved it, but my younger and significantly rowdier grandsons would have set the kitchen on fire. For them I made sure to allow plenty of outdoor time.
Hiking in national or state parks, canoeing or rafting in calm waters are all good options. A bike tour also works as long as the route is off busy city streets. For winter travel look for ski resorts that offer lessons and have other snow activities like tubing or sledding. And in warm weather, beaches always keep them entertained. One of my favorite places to travel with all three of my grandkids is Palm Island Resort on Florida’s gulf coast. There are plenty of playgrounds, pools, golf carts for exploring the island, shark teeth to collect along the beach, and even Pirate Red Beard with his talking parrot.
One way to introduce younger grandkids to local cultures is with a visit to an open air museum. A great example is the Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbaurernhof in Germany’s Black Forest where kids can learn ancient German handicrafts and interact with traditional breeds of farm animals – they can even feed the pigs.
Keep things casual, flexible and use ice cream to your advantage
Recently I took on all three of my grandkids for a slumber party at Disney’s Coronado Resort. The resort had several restaurants but the key to keeping dinner time enjoyable for little ones is to keep it casual. I chose the casual colorful environment of Pepper Market. The menu was simple and the restaurant was spacious enough to allow us to sit away from other patrons. This was infinitely more fun for the kids because I didn’t have to constantly tell them to be quiet. And since I was outnumbered three to one, I bribed them with ice cream for dessert to help keep things under control.
No matter how much you want to pack into your precious time with your grandkids and no matter how much you want to show them, always keep your plans flexible. There will be numerous unscheduled bathroom breaks, possibly a bit of whining, and you probably won’t get a lot of sleep. Always allow plenty of down time because sometimes kids just want to play. Remember the goal is to create special memories with your grandkids while you are introducing them to the world – and that is priceless.
Have you traveled with your grandkids? What worked best for you?
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