There are more than 70 million grandparents in the United States, and many have a passion for travel, providing an incredible opportunity to share this love with the kinder.
Traveling with grandkids offers a unique bonding activity that can't be experienced during a family get-together or a short visit.
Travel-and-lifestyle expert Nan Zimmerman has partnered with BoomerTowne.com — an informational Web site for baby-boomers — to offer advice for any adult traveling with younger children, including grandparents who might not do it frequently.
Whether taking the grandson or granddaughter along as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift or as a special "Sweet 16" perk, there are some definite things to do ahead of time.
· Test the waters. While hitting the road with the grandchildren might seem like fun, younger ones might not be ready to travel without a parent. Test out the waters first by visiting a nearby museum or zoo together. This can help determine whether a grandparent can handle a situation without Mom or Dad around. Or consider traveling with only one grandchild at a time, which allows for one-on-one bonding and saves grandparents from being sibling referees.
· Planning the trip. One of the first obstacles when traveling with a grandchild is picking a location. The destination should be kid-friendly, but also provide entertainment for the grandparents. All-inclusive resorts are great, as they provide activities to do together, as well as some entertaining kid-only activities. Planning the trip can be very exciting, so make sure to involve the grandchildren. Once a location is selected, share pictures of the destination, brochures and maps with them. Go online to learn more about the trip together.
· Getting ready. While grandchildren may have traveled with parents before, be sure to go over rules for the trip before embarking on the journey. Outline the consequences if the children's behavior doesn't measure up to expectations. If flying, explain airport security so that a grandchild doesn't get scared. It might also be a good idea to go over what it feels like to fly and how people behave on an airplane. Also learn about any medications a child takes, both prescription and over-the-counter, and be sure to take them along. A notarized permission letter signed by parents will authorize a grandparent to have limited power of attorney over a grandchild in case of an emergency. This is especially important when leaving the United States.
· Traveling to another country. Visiting the Western Wall for the first time? Prepare the kids for placing notes in the crevices. But also make sure your paperwork is in order. Children of all ages are required to have a passport when traveling outside of the United States. Plan ahead and apply for a passport well in advance, as a long processing time exists. Children under the age of 14 must apply for a passport in person. Also, be sure to check with the U.S. embassy of the country you're visiting and make sure you have everything you need to travel with your grandchild. Some countries may require a notarized letter authorizing grandparents to accompany grandchildren in place of a legal guardian.
· Emergency plans. In case of an emergency, such as a lost child, be sure to have a plan in place. Share it with the grandchildren upon arrival. At the hotel, show him or her how to get to the front desk, and have it be a meeting place. Tell grandchildren to go to the nearest uniformed employee if they should get lost. Give them a slip of paper with important cell-phone numbers, the hotel name, its location and phone number so that authorities can contact the appropriate person as soon as the child is found.