IN YOUR PRIME: Vacationing together creates memories, bonds with grandchildren

Debbie Sullivan with grandchildren Mac Steidel, Jackson Steidel, Camryn Steidel and Sullivan Steidel.

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Debbie Sullivan with grandchildren Mac Steidel, Jackson Steidel, Camryn Steidel and Sullivan Steidel.

Grandparents must consider habits, expectations when traveling with youngsters.

No matter whether the destination is an amusement park or the beach, Debbie Sullivan loves vacationing with her grandchildren.

“I feel like when you travel with them, it solidifies your relationship with them more,” said Sullivan, 65, a real estate agent who lives in Jamestown.

Sullivan, who has seven grandchildren and another on the way, has vacationed with both her kids and grandkids since her oldest grandchild was born nine years ago. In the process, she is building memories not only for them, but also for herself – snuggling, watching the kids build sandcastles, and tightly holding hands with her grandson as they rode a rollercoaster together at Walt Disney World.

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“I just love having all of the one-on-one time with them and hanging out with them,” she said.

Sullivan isn’t alone. Grandparents enjoy the focused time together that vacation provides, said Maria Snizik, a travel adviser and owner of Gem City Travel in Dayton. Grandparents often plan these trips around a specific occasion, like a milestone anniversary or a graduation, she said.

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Debbie Sullivan with grandchildren Mac Steidel, Jackson Steidel, Camryn Steidel and Sullivan Steidel.

Debbie Sullivan with grandchildren Mac Steidel, Jackson Steidel, Camryn Steidel and Sullivan Steidel.

Combined ShapeCaption
Debbie Sullivan with grandchildren Mac Steidel, Jackson Steidel, Camryn Steidel and Sullivan Steidel.

Whatever the reason or group size, Snizik first asks what they have in mind. Is the vacation for relaxation or adventure? A quick escape or a special event?

“What are we trying to do? How much time do we have? Where do we want to go?” she said.

Price is an important consideration, but so too are the habits and expectations of the travelers. Bedtimes, mealtimes and activities can vary depending on the ages of the grandchildren, and Snizik noted that babysitters or nannies may need to be arranged for the youngest vacationers.

“Every family is different,” she said.

Grandparents do plan trips with grandchildren to Disney parks, Universal Studios or other amusement parks, but Snizik sees those types of multigenerational trips dwindling. They can be hard for grandparents, she said.

“They’re looking for something that’s more relaxing and on their bucket list,” she said.

National parks are popular destinations, especially since the pandemic began, she said. Cruises, Hawaii, Europe and all-inclusive spots in Mexico and the Caribbean also are common.

When designing a trip for different ages and personalities, grandparents shouldn’t feel obliged to plan “that perfect trip,” Snizik said. Travel advisers know the questions to ask and can act as the middleman.

“It’s really hard to coordinate a group, and families are extra hard,” she said.

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Vacationing when there is a large spread of ages among travelers has its challenges, and Sullivan said it can be important to adjust one’s thinking to account for a range of needs and preferences. Planning is required, but the end result “makes my heart happy,” she said.

Sullivan is looking forward to making even more memories with her grandkids next year, during a planned Disney vacation, as well as a trip with her husband and all of her children and grandchildren to Topsail Beach in North Carolina.

“It’s a whole different experience than traveling with your own children or as a husband and wife,” Sullivan said. “It’s probably my favorite way to travel.”

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