Grand Times Ahead With the Grandkids?

Some grandparents do it to be fair to all the siblings. Some grandparents do it so cousins get to know each other. Some grandparents simply love having all, or at least a group of their grandchildren together while on a vacation.

However, unless your grandkids are twins or same-age cousins, you should consider the challenges — and pleasures — that age differences create before planning that big trip with the grandkids.

Of course, potty trips always seem to happen at the same time.

But for those who find that a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old are as far apart on what they consider to be a "cool" time, here are some savvy tips for travel with multiple grandkids:

· Don't plan around only one child's needs or interests. Dining is a good example. Although it might be easier to feed a messy 6-year-old at a kid-friendly restaurant, if that's all you do, you'll miss out on local cuisine and the chance to give older grandchildren a new experience.

Aim to vary your dining experiences each day. Burgers for one meal; that kosher deli down the block for the next? Try to let each grandchild choose at least one restaurant during a trip. This way each will feel as if he or she had a hand in planning the activity.

· Give some freedom. Teenagers need some freedom. On days without scheduled plans, try giving teens the opportunity to sleep late while you enjoy breakfast with the younger kids. Before the trip, consult with the parents on what each child is and is not allowed to do. You may think you know about any allergies, but it's always good to ask.

· Don't expect babysitting services. While older grandchildren should be expected to help out with younger grandkids, don't forget that they, too, are on vacation. Try and balance your requests for help with little ones with this knowledge. Asking the older children to help supervise the younger kids at meal time or during fast-moving activities are reasonable requests, and they'll feel more special if you make a fuss about how grown-up they are for helping.

· Divide and conquer. Plan some activities suited for one grandparent to attend, so the other grandparent can rest. Or break into two groups and meet up later. Amusement and theme parks, where each grandparent may accompany a different age group to appropriate rides, are ideal. Pick a time and place to regroup over lunch. Then the kids can enjoy talking about their experiences, even if one took the "baby" ride and the other the "scary" adventure.

· Plan downtime into each day. Traveling can be exhausting, and even older grandkids need an opportunity to unwind. Try to plan some downtime into every vacation day. Encourage grandchildren to pack some items specifically geared toward a quiet break, like books and portable video games.

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