A highlight of my summer and one of my favorite travel weeks ever was with a new travel companion - my seven year old granddaughter, Alyssa. We went to Anna Maria Island, Florida and had a blast doing all things beachy.
Any momentary doubts that I might not being able to keep her entertained or that she would get homesick after the first day were calmed right after we began our drive from Orlando to Anna Maria Island. This little lady is her mother's child; who is my child, and good Lordy Lou she can talk! By the time we arrived at our little cottage 2 hours later we had the entire week planned out and were destined to be perfect travel companions.
Here's a few tips that helped make our week such a success:
1. Involve the child in planning. (Whether it be location or activities at the destination.)
My granddaughter had several choices; Niagara Falls, NYC, Grand Canyon & a Florida beach. She looked at photos on the internet and options at each destination and chose the beach. Allowing a choice gave her something to anticipate and also to feel like this was "our" trip. She definitely had some ideas about what we could do at the beach such as build a sand castle and look for shells.
2. To the degree possible keep normal sleep schedules. Of course part of the fun of traveling with "Mama Bear" as opposed to parents is the fun stuff like staying up past bedtime. But the day can quickly turn sour if your grandchild is tired and grumpy.
We alternated - one night we stayed up later (even by thirty minutes was fun for her) and the next night we went to bed at normal bedtime. Fortunately, my granddaughter is not a super early riser, but even so, I pretty much kept her sleep schedule also in hopes of having enough energy to keep up each day.
A memory I know I will have for many years is how tickled Alyssa was to tell her mom that Mama Bear and her stayed up until 11:30 watching The Parent Trap movie. She was absolutely thrilled and since we had an easy day at the beach planned for the following day it worked out fine.
3. Don't forget your old "Mom" bag of tricks. Really. I kept in my tote all the things I used to carry around when mine were little - a snack, wet ones, something to write with and on, a mini first aid kit, an extra tee shirt, and a few items for distraction/entertainment.
A friend of mine came to visit us one day at the beach and while waiting for our dinner the three of us played Go Fish with a deck of cards that were in my bag. Not only did it keep Alyssa entertained we really had fun also. Subsequently, each time we went out to eat Alyssa asked to play cards. By the time the week was she was quite pleased that she could easily manage six cards in her hand as opposed to four. [Enter disclaimer in case granddaughter becomes professional poker player.]
It is much easier to have a distraction handy than to have a time to eat meltdown! (Only need to experience one of those in a restaurant to realize the value of adding yet another item or two to the already twenty pound 'just in case' bag. 😳}
4. Do things they like and that interest them. When you are traveling with grandkids center the agenda on them and things that they will enjoy and remember. My goal for this trip was to spend time with my granddaughter and to help foster in her a love for travel and new experiences. So focusing on activities she would like made sense.
Many moons ago when my children were young (ages 8 - 14) my sister-in-law and I took them on a 7 night trip to Spain. One evening I overheard them fussing in the connecting room. And it went something like this:
Sister to Brother: You need to stop it!
Brother: Or, what? You're gonna make me go to every cathedral and museum in Spain?!
Brother: Oh, right. We already did that!
All kids: Hysterical laughter.
Ouch. Lesson learned.
On this vacation, Alyssa and I spent quite a lot of time in the pool playing all sorts of water games; at the beach building sand castles & looking for shells; and riding around the island in a rented golf cart. One favorite was an outing to the Donut Experiment where you can get your donut made to order. Yum! Simple activities that provided real quality time together.
5. Don't overdo it & be flexible. We all remember our kids when they got tired and over stimulated. Just say no to that situation and keep things simple and age appropriate.
Be flexible for weather, someone not feeling 100% on any particular day, or your grandchild not being interested in a specific activity. If you have extra ideas and/or activities for a rainy day in your pocket it can save a vacation day.
I had a few things in mind to do with my granddaughter on our trip; go to the Ringling Museum, sunset/dolphin watching cruise, visit the botanical gardens, enjoy a German dinner at a cool restaurant on the island ... of those particular items, she was really only interested in the sunset/dolphin watching cruise. And, sure enough the sunset/dolphin cruise was a highlight of the trip for Alyssa.
6. Keep in touch with parents and other siblings. Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp - these applications are fantastic for staying connected. As the kids get older of course they can call or text on their own but at age 7 it worked out great to have at least one Facetime call a day to parents.
7. Discuss use of electronics with parents prior to vacation and abide by their rules. Most all kids today know their way around an iPad, laptop and smartphone. And most parents have pretty set house rules regarding the time the kids can spend on these devices.
Letting your grandchild know that these set rules will be followed on your vacation will hopefully eliminate the potential stress of the kids wanting to be on their devices way more than they are allowed.
8. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Spray it on those kids every time you go outside with them!
Whatever you do when traveling with your grandkids relish in the joy of being a grandparent! I'm so happy to have taken my first trip with one of my grandkids and that it was such a wonderful experience for both of us. Looking forward to traveling next with my grandson, Logan and bringing him to California!
Have you traveled with your grandchildren? If so, please share any additional tips you have for traveling with grandkids in the comments below!
Come along with this southern girl on my fun travel adventures! I’m taking the tours; seeing the sites; trying out the hotels; dining at the restaurants; cruising on the cruise ships; and sharing the experiences on this blog. I hope you enjoy reading about my travel escapades and that they will be inspiring and helpful when planning your own fabulous adventures.