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Eight Tips for (Joyfully) Traveling with Grandchildren

grandparents on vacation with grandchildren
Allianz - grandparents on vacation with grandchildren

The best thing about being a grandparent, they say, is that you get to enjoy the kids and then hand them back to their parents at the end of the day. But that dynamic changes when you take the grandchildren on a vacation. Now you’re responsible for their wellbeing, from 6 a.m. cereal to 8 p.m. bedtime — and it’s a lot harder than you remember.

Nevertheless, planning a special adventure with your grandchildren can be one of the best experiences of your life. Use these tips for a smoother trip!

1. Buy travel insurance that covers grandchildren, too.

Travel insurance with trip cancellation benefits can protect your trip investment by reimbursing you for non-refundable trip costs (up to the limit in your plan) if you must cancel or reschedule your trip for a covered reason. But that’s not the only reason to buy insurance when you’re traveling with grandkids!

You also want to make sure that both you and your grandchildren are protected by emergency medical benefits and emergency transportation benefits, in case any of you suffer a serious covered illness or injury. Did you know that emergency transportation benefits can arrange and pay to transport your under-18 traveling companions back to your primary residence or a location of your choice in the U.S., if you have a covered illness and must stay in the hospital?

Our most popular travel insurance plans for family trips are the OneTrip Prime and OneTrip Premier plans. Not only do they include all the key benefits you need, but they also cover kids 17 and under for free when they’re traveling with a parent or grandparent (not available on policies issued to Pennsylvania residents). Compare travel insurance plans for your family trip.

Read more: When You’re Paying, What’s Covered?

2. Consider a group tour designed for grandparents and grandchildren.

Even the most active grandparents occasionally need a breather — but that’s tough to do when you’re on your own. Enter the guided group tours for grandparents offered by Road Scholar. Select your grandchild’s age (4 to 24), then choose an adventure that fits your interests and energy level. You might visit Oxford, England to see the Harry Potter filming sites and learn about medieval history; ride horses and paddle canoes in the foothills of the Ozarks; or sail the Maine coast together.

3. Choose a destination that interests you — not just the kids.

If you want to indulge your grandchildren’s every whim, then go ahead: Take them to Disney World, Legoland and Universal Orlando Resort for nonstop theme-park fun. Just plan to take a vacation from your vacation once you get home.

A less exhausting option is planning a vacation that offers something for everyone. That might be a Mediterranean cruise with a kids’ club for them and cultural excursions for you. For a weekend in Chicago, you might plan one afternoon at the Field Museum and spend another on an architecture boat tour.

Read more: How to Involve Kids in Family Vacation Planning

4. Make sure you bring all the required travel documents.

Children under 18 aren’t required to have identification for domestic trips.1 But to travel overseas, you’ll need passports for your grandchildren, no matter how old they are. It’s also wise to carry with you a notarized letter that grants you permission to travel with your grandchildren, signed by both parents.

5. Prepare your grandchildren for air travel.

Flying with children can be a challenge — and that’s especially true if they’ve never flown before. The experts advise laying the groundwork before you leave: explain the rules of airplane etiquette (no kicking seats!), tell them how to behave in the security line (no jokes!), and make sure they know what to do if they get separated from you.2 Flying non-stop and signing up for TSA PreCheck can make the experience smoother.

6. Consider a cruise.

Cruises can be the best multigenerational vacations, because they specialize in entertaining children and older travelers alike. Disney Cruise Line is the most kid-centric line, with magical character experiences for all ages. Royal Caribbean is known for its onboard adventures: water slides, rock-climbing walls, surfing and simulated skydiving. Norwegian Cruise Line offers upscale accommodations with creative kids’ activities.3 Just be aware that travel insurance is a must, because most cruise lines have inflexible cancellation policies that won’t refund your fares.

7. Set some boundaries on devices.

“Look!” you say to your 12-year-old grandson. “The Eiffel Tower!” But he’s hunched over his phone, playing Fortnite. Before you lose your cool, set some rules. Maybe you limit game-playing to hotel rooms and train rides. Maybe you require that the phone remain off during meals and activities. Forcing a total electronic fast, however, may backfire and leave you with resentful grandkids.

Read more: How to Survive -- and Enjoy -- Vacations with Teens

8. Know that not everything will go smoothly — and that’s okay.

Few trips with children go exactly according to plan. Flights get delayed. Luggage gets lost. Kids get sick — and sometimes grandparents do, too. Our advice: Roll with the punches, treasure the good moments, and let travel insurance handle the things that go wrong. Years from now, the travel hassles will be forgotten, but you’ll always remember your grandchildren’s smiles.

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