I became a grandmother January 12, 2015 when Ainsley Hazel Moore arrived. One of my dreams for this sweet little girl is for her to enjoy the excitement and adventure of travel like I do and I think she has a pretty good start. She visited eight states her first year!
As a travel writer, for the better part of three decades, my own children certainly saw the world; great practice for this time in my life. I also talk to other grandparents and travel experts, taking note of some of the ways I can make vacations with my granddaughter into wonderful and positive multi-generational experiences.
This is what I learned.
Talk to the Parents
Who else knows their children better? What they like to do, their current interests, and sleeping and eating habits. Parents will also know if their child is ready to be away from home without them.
To make sure children are ready, many grandparents take their grandchildren on a close-by weekend adventure. Nancy Humphrey, a grandmother of five – ages five to 17 – started by having each child spend the night at her house followed by long weekends at attractions and hotels to see how it went. “I took them places they had never been before making sure I stayed within 100 miles of their home,” she says. “After the test runs I knew when each child was ready for a longer trip away.”
Humphrey also says each child is different. Some are ready at a much younger age.
This “trial run” also helps grandparents find out about their own limitations. Children have seemingly endless energy. If you have trouble keeping up on a short trip – even if everything else goes well – you may want to wait until the child is older for a longer vacation.
Your road trip experience doesn’t have to be all “are we there yet,” if you plan right. In the planning stage of a vacation, order road maps (yes they still make them), brochures and area guides. They are free and easy to order online from city convention and visitors bureaus or from state tourism boards.
Show where you’re going on the map, ask where the child might want to stop. When traveling with grandchildren it will end up being more about them than you anyway, so plan accordingly.
If you have a portable DVD player, bring it and ask your grandchildren to bring along their favorite movies. Or other activities — even the old standby coloring books and crayons are all some children need to pass the time.
Bring food that they like, but that won’t make a mess. And search on the internet for games to play in the car. Of course, this all depends on the child’s age. Older children seem to adapt better to long trips than smaller children.
Stop often. It’s good for children and adults.
You’re the Guardian – Be Prepared
During a vacation, you are responsible. Always have the children’s proper identification—photocopies of birth certificates should be fine for all needs if staying in the United States, medical histories, and health insurance cards including prescription cards, dental insurance cards and secondary insurance cards. Carry contact information, recent photos and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention.
Some countries do not allow entry of minors not accompanied by both parents unless the children have written notarized permission from the absent parents. The rules vary from country to country, so it’s best to always be prepared.
Passports are essential for any international travel. And, it is always a good idea to purchase travel insurance.
So plan, prepare and have a great time.
For more information: http://www.enjoyillinois.com/.
Want the big city experience? Take in Chicago, the nation’s third largest city. Stroll along Michigan Avenue; soar to the top of the 1,450-foot high Willis Tower for an unprecedented view of the city and surrounding area, enjoy a Chicago River cruise and a Chicago White Sox baseball game, or take in Navy Pier with its amusement rides, museums and gardens.
If your grandchildren are interested in history, introduce a few new history lessons. In addition to the many Abraham Lincoln-related sites, make the trip to Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewiston that offers the opportunity to explore the world of Native Americans and 12,000 years of human experience in the Illinois River Valley. Or visit Chaplin Creek Village. The living history museum depicts a mid-19th century community.
Round out the week with a day at Six Flags Great America, one of the state’s many water parks, or a day of outdoor fun hiking, canoeing or biking.