Family Travel: 5 tips for planning a 'skipgen' getaway with the grandkids

It’s that time of year when grandparents embark on travel adventures with the grandkids. Here are five ideas to consider if you’re planning a “skipgen” (leaving the parents home alone) getaway with the younger generation:

1. Where to go?  

It makes sense to include the kids in choosing a destination. But remember they don’t know what they don’t know. Begin by discussing big picture options. City or country? Beach or mountain? Neighboring states or beyond our borders? Would the kids like to see the Santa Monica Pier or to send selfies with the Liberty Bell as backdrop? Or is a sandy beach at a swanky resort more up their alley? Depending on the number and the ages of the grandkids who will be in tow, be sure the adventure is one you can handle without additional adult support. Check the weather forecast shortly before departure and be sure everyone is properly prepared for what’s on the horizon.


2. Pow wow with the parents before departure. 

Of course, you know your grandkids. But are you are up to speed on any food allergies and preferences, anxieties about travel, the need for a certain stuffed animal at bedtime or a teen’s recent breakup? Will the kids have their own money to spend and should it be monitored? Talk through family rules about everything from social media to wardrobe selections (Are you allowed to wear that?) so you’ll know how things operate on their home front. Walk through the final itinerary with the parents to uncover any additional insights they might have for making the trips as stellar as possible.

3. Set clear expectations. 

Consider discussing the itinerary and the rules of the road in a group phone or video chat. If the children are old enough, talk about topics such as bedtime, dining decisions and safety measures so it will be clear who is in charge once the trip is underway. If you’ll be traveling with older children get three-way clarity on guidelines regarding shopping, social media, phone and computer time and options for independent outings. Upfront discussion can help avoid conversations that include “but my mom always lets me!”

4. Planning for alone time. 

Depending on the length of your trip, a little alone time may be in everyone’s best interest. Many dude ranches, resorts and cruise ships have safe and compelling programs for children of every age group that make independent time possible and appealing. While the youngsters are in camp, on a ride or on a tour especially designed for teens, the grandparents can recharge their own batteries. Later, there will be even more to share over dinner or at bedtime.


5. Share stories. Preserve memories. 

Traveling with your grandkids provides an opportunity for you to know them and them you without the filter of their parents. Use the time to share your knowledge, interests and expertise and to learn more about their personal priorities. Your destination or adventures can serve as ideal conversation starters for longer discussions while driving, over dinner or during other down time. Be sure to take plenty of pictures and consider journaling during your time together, recording scraps of conversation and your own observations about the trip. Once you’ve returned home, keep the connection by sharing photos, a scrapbook from the trip or discussing aspects of the adventure that mattered most to you.


(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes ( is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via

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