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Traveling with grandchildren

Alabama, Birmingham, Zoo. lorikeet, feeding, woman, boy, bird,
Birmingham Zoo is a great destination for children. Photo by Jeff Greenberg

A new generation, a new experience

By Marilyn Jones

I became a grandmother Jan. 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 have 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.

Road trips

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 and 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.

Alabama: The Kid-Friendly State!
By Marilyn Jones
The Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Suess characters are on hand to entertain children on Carnival cruises. Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
The Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Suess characters are on hand to entertain children on Carnival cruises. Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Alabama has so much to offer vacationers traveling with children from the mountains in northern Alabama to the beaches on the Gulf coast. Hike, bike, fish, kayak or swim if you and your grandkids are the outdoor types.Alabama has several award-winning zoos, state parks, historic destinations, and water parks and boat tours.

Museums often underline lessons children have learned in school including natural science, art, music, folklore and world history.

Many grandparents I talked to say they like to cruise with their grandchildren because cruise lines often offer special programs for the younger set. Beginning this November, Carnival Cruise Lines will be offering four- and five-day cruises from Mobile to Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso, Yucatan.

In addition to a full schedule of activities – all complimentary – catering to kids in three age groups, babysitting is an option when grandparents need some “me” time as well.