Double-Digit Trips with Grandkids
BY CHERI FULLER
The bridges that grandparents build last for generations.
At a recent family gathering, our college granddaughter Caitlin said, “Nandy, one of my most treasured memories with you was when we flew together to Washington, D.C. and spent fall break sightseeing. I felt so special! I loved riding the subways and going to the National Zoo and to top of Washington Monument—and I still have the prairie dog and red panda you got me at Smithsonian.”
That was the first of the “Double Digit” trips that I took each of our 6 grandkids on, one by one when they turned 10 years old (double digits). Caitlin loved history, so she chose Washington, D.C. With a travel guide and the Internet, she made her wish list of sites. When we got there, she handled the subway tickets and map to find our way around town, which made her feel grown up. It was a great way for us to connect and explore a place she’d never been.
I just finished Lucy’s, the last and 6th grandchild’s trip in the fall. As I look back on each one’s journey, things didn’t necessarily go as we planned. When you’re traveling with kids, unexpected setbacks can occur, like when Noah was motion sick almost all the way to San Antonio. There can be lost luggage, bad moods or a deluge of rain on the day you planned to hike in Yosemite. If you have some Plan B ideas in case things go awry and are armed with a good sense of humor and flexibility (and maybe some Dramamine and a deck of cards), you can still enjoy the time together.
Here’s what I learned along the journeys:
Involve them in the planning process. Not all the grandkids wanted to go to D.C.; Noah wanted to go to San Antonio to Sea World and Texas history sites. Caleb wanted his Double-Digit trip to be at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, where there was a grand Harry Potter hands-on experience and a giant indoor swim park. I had them research what they wanted to do. Let them help you plan where to go (within your budget), budget) what activities they are interested in, and perhaps let them order the food for both of you at meals. If you give them choices, they’ll be more engaged and most of all, have more fun.
Each trip will be different because each grandchild is unique. While several of the grandchildren wanted to go to full steam on sightseeing until we got on the return flight, Josephine (12 at the time) asked to spend our last day shopping and going to a movie. Although she’d enjoyed the museums, especially riding in a rickshaw to visit the International Spy Museum, that shopping day turned out to be her favorite. One may want to go at a slower pace; another may go at a quicker pace like Lucy. My husband came along on that trip, and we had to race to keep up with her. You can include grandpa or not. You don’t even have to take the trip at 10; 11, 12 and 13 are also double digits also!
Capture the memory. Take photos and encourage your grandchild to snap photos too. When you’re back, you can make an album for your grandchild on Shutterfly, MacBook, or the old-fashioned way. One of Caitlin’s favorite things was collecting postcards and hearing stories from sites like Mt. Vernon and Clara Barton’s house, headquarters of the first American Red Cross. She jotted these down in the little journal she carried in her pocket. After the trip, we had a scrapbooking day and made an album of the printed-out photos, stickers, postcards, and cut-outs from printed guides with Caitlin’s stories.
You don’t have to be wealthy to take a memory-making trip with your grandchild. One woman set aside money from her income every month to take each grandchild on an adventure trip at a national park. I met a grandma and her thirteen-year-old granddaughter who’d just taken a seven-day coach tour through England and Scotland. She wasn’t a woman of means; she’d saved for many months to make this special trip. On two of the three D.C. trips with my grands, we stayed at a friend’s house in a nearby suburb, took the subway into the Washington Mall and explored on our own all day. Being with locals really enriched our experience and helped us afford the trip. The destinations don’t matter as much as that grandma cares enough to be involved in the life of her grandchild and take time to get to know her better. I’ve found that nothing beats traveling together to building a closer relationship!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – CHERI FULLER
Cheri Fuller, author of Connect With Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles and many other books, is a speaker and “Nandy” to 6 wonderful grandchildren who light up her life. To visit her website or order this book, go to www.cherifuller.com