13 Tips for Planning An Awesome Vacation with Grandparents

Vacations with grandparents create opportunities for families to try new experiences and create one-of-a-kind memories together.

But grandparents, also known as our parents and our in-laws, all have unique quirks making our relationships wonderful and complex. Planning ahead before a multi-generational vacation can make traveling with grandparents a beautiful and memorable experience.


Choose the Destination

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If it is the first time traveling with grandparents, do most of the planning before you invite them. This creates excitement and shows that you really want the grandparents to join you on the family trip. Once a trip becomes a tradition then part of the fun will be planning the trip together.

Read More: Family Vacation Budget Helps You Make Memories

Choose the Right Lodging When Traveling with Grandparents

Of course, it is great to spend lots of time together on vacation, but sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. Having separate hotel rooms or a multi-bedroom condo, house or cabin allows for everyone to have some quiet space to retreat and regroup before the next adventure. Of course, grandparents love their grandchildren but crying babies or moody teenagers can be quite stressful for those out of the everyday practice of raising children. Be considerate of grandparents’ needs for quiet time.

Planning Vacation Activities When Traveling with Grandparents

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For a week vacation be sure to plan at least three key activities that everyone will enjoy from the youngest to the oldest. Suggested activities that nearly everyone will enjoy: a pontoon boat ride, trip to a natural history museum; a play, concert, or dinner show; or a theme park with activities for all ages. The planned activities will be the anchor points for the trip, which leaves time for spontaneous activities, as well as pool or beach time. Without planning the main events, a whole day of vacation quickly can be wasted planning, discussing, and debating what to do on what day.

Plan Time for Separate Activities

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It is okay to do separate activities on a multi-generational vacation. Perhaps, Granny and Granddad want to go to a casino one day or go antiquing; and you take the children to ride go-karts. If you have independent parents or in-laws, you do not want to make them feel like they are tag-along on your family vacation. It needs to be just as much their vacation as it is yours.

Plan for Downtime When Traveling with Grandparents

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Enjoy the little things. Plan for unscheduled time. Enjoy a quiet conversation with your mom, as your daughter plays dolls. Sip coffee and hot chocolate together on the balcony each morning. Make time for reading books and magazines or even playing video games together as a family.

Make Reservations

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Make reservations for meals ahead of time when possible. When your family unit gets a bit bigger, it is tough to walk up for a table at most restaurants. When possible, call ahead or use online resources to reserve a table so aging parents do not have to stand too long waiting and hungry children do not get cranky.

Meal Prep

If vacationing in a condo, rental home, or cabin, be sure to plan at least three of the meals ahead of time. If you drive to your destination, make a meal at home that can be heated up for the first night (lasagna, Italian beef, etc.). This makes jumping into vacation mode much easier. Have a meal plan for the week before you get to your vacation destination so shopping can be quick and easy. Take turns cooking and cleaning so no one person has to do it all.

Read More: Remaking The Greatest Of Your Grandma’s Family Recipes

Snacks and Drinks

Be prepared with favorite snacks and drinks. You know your parents/in-laws and your children better than anyone. Hungry travelers can lead to mood swings and bad behavior. Splurge on favorite snacks that you do not have very often but be sure to include protein-rich snacks for quick pick-me-ups between meals, too. Suggestions: granola bars, trail mix, jerky, etc… Snacks are good for the traveling portion of the vacation, as well as throughout the week. Bring a reusable water bottle for everyone. Even theme parks let you fill up water bottles.

Board Games

There is something about traveling and playing board games with multi-generations. If you are in a hotel, you can use the breakfast tables in the lobby for a game and pizza night. Enjoy traditional card games like rummy and poker or old stand byes like Monopoly, Clue, and Trivial Pursuit. It’s fun to teach the grandparents the new games like Catan and Ticket to Ride, too. Board games and card games are a great time for good-hearted competition and conversation.

Read More: Granny Pod: Everything You Need to Know

Be Considerate of Grandparents

Don’t invite the grandparents along to just be the babysitters. Of course, it’s great to sneak in one date night while vacationing with grandparents. It’s a great time to encourage the grandparents to have a special vacation night with the kiddos whether it is a wax museum, mini-golf, or dinner out. But, be respectful of your parents and in-laws. Enjoy each other’s company. Have fun. Be silly. Make memories with them, too.

Photos

Take lots of photographs, but be quick. Be in the moment. Not every photo needs to be posed for social media. Snapshots make great mementos, too. When traveling with grandparents, it’s a great time to hire a local photographer to capture family photos. Good photographers make group photography on location a fun memorable experience.

You can do an Internet search for a local photographer or you can use a website like Shoot My Travel or Snappr Photography to find a photographer to fit your needs. Family portraits at the beach or with the sunset against the mountains make perfect backdrops to capture a few photos with vacation smiles and everyone looking in the same direction.

Assess Everyone’s Needs

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If you are planning to travel with your parents or in-laws, clearly you have a good relationship. The trick to traveling with multi-generations is making sure the basic needs of everyone from the littlest granddaughter at age 2 to the oldest Pop-Pop in the group at age 74 are met. Traveling with teens can add a bit of drama, too.

As you plan your travel with grandparents, keep in mind that Granddad takes a nap every afternoon. And, that Granny cannot do stairs or walk far because of her severe arthritis. Balance those needs with your rambunctious toddlers and moody teens.

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Talk to your children, no matter what age they are, about how the vacation will be different with the grandparents coming. Set the expectations. Remind your children, whether they are very little or teens, about their grandparents’ needs. Encourage them to be patient and respectful toward their grandparents. Encourage everyone to pack patience, understanding, and love.

Tradition

Make your multi-generational trip an annual or bi-annual event. If you travel to the same place, be it the beach, mountains, a lake house, or Disney World, the trip becomes about traditions. The trip becomes more about traveling with grandparents, making memories, being in the moment, and less about sightseeing and activities. The focus becomes quality time.


Vacations with grandparents can be wonderful. By planning ahead and being prepared everyone, especially mom, can enjoy the sights, some downtime, and some family time. Cheers to multi-generational trips, dinners, photos, and more.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Daily Mom’s article Why Children Need Grandparents and Extended Family.

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Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew is a freelance writer, wife, and mom of two children who are nine years apart. She is a Scout leader with 15 years of experience in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She serves as a volunteer at school, church, and with the homeless population. She loves road trips, sightseeing, camping, and pilates. But, her new love is her 1-year-old black standard poodle puppy, Midnight Shadow.

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