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As you hit the road for your next family vacation, if your plans include traveling with your grandchildren, plan ahead to make it a pleasant and memorable trip for everyone. Whether you are traveling alone with your grandchildren, without their parents, or you are traveling with the entire family, here are some suggestions to make your trip enjoyable for all:

Planning Your Trip

Always keep your grandchildren in mind while planning your trip. The activities you enjoy may not be the activities your grandchildren enjoy. Involve your children (your grandchildren’s parents) in the planning and make sure all activities are parent-approved. Plan a good balance of activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, depending on their age and interests, your grandchildren may not enjoy spending hours at a museum or art gallery. Plan to visit museums that cater to children or spend a little time at the museum and a little time at the swimming pool.

Be sure to involve your grandchildren in the planning. Have them help you map out your route or explore the Internet to find fun things to do along the way or at your final destination. This way, you can see what most interests them, and they will (hopefully) eagerly anticipate seeing the sights.

One important note, especially if you’re traveling alone with grandchildren: Be prepared with the appropriate documents for all the travel you intend to do, including passports, birth certificates, insurance cards, parental permission slips, etc.

Food for Your Trip

As you plan for travel, also plan for meals and snacks along the way. A hungry or thirsty child is a grumpy child, and travel interrupts regular meals, so it’s important to always have snacks and drinks handy. Do your research ahead of time to know your grandchildren’s favorite meals and treats. Depending on their preferences, this may not be the time to try every exclusive, five-star restaurant along the way or to spend each evening trying the unique local cuisine. Yes, children need to experience new things, including new foods, but balance some new food experiences with some tried and true favorites. Plan to stop at fun, kid-friendly restaurants along the way, too.

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Be aware of whether or not your grandchildren have food allergies or special dietary needs. Advance preparation can help you avoid any allergic reactions.  Make sure you know exactly which foods are dangerous, and be prepared in case they react to something they’ve eaten. Always carry plenty of snacks that are allergy-free and carefully monitor any foods they come in contact with. Don’t be afraid to speak up at restaurants and ask about allergens in certain foods. Most restaurants are used to serving patrons with allergies, and some restaurants will even take extra precautions to safely handle and prepare food in order to avoid contact with allergens.

On the Road

A day on the road or in the airport can be frustrating for everyone—especially for children. But if you are prepared, you can avoid some of the frustration. Make sure you pack plenty of things for your grandchildren to do. Children can be involved in this, packing their own small backpack of games, toys, electronics, snacks, etc. to use in the car or on the plane. (Just make sure to double-check that children haven’t packed items that will cause a problem going through airport security, like toy guns, liquids, etc.!)

Electronics can be a life-saver while traveling with children, especially on a crowded airplane. You may want to download some child-friendly games onto your tablet or mobile device. Children can plug in headphones and quietly play games for hours.

But plan to help children put the electronics away for part of the day, so they can spend some time enjoying the sights and sounds. I recently asked a friend how she survived driving cross country with five children this summer. She said they watched movies in the car sometimes, but she doesn’t like them to always be plugged into a TV or electronic device. She said, “I want them to look out the car windows and see the sights. I want them to see the beautiful country we’re driving through. Like tonight, we saw a gorgeous sunset as we drove. I wanted them to take time to enjoy it.”

One way to help children enjoy the sights along the way is to help them know the history of the areas you’re visiting. Do your research ahead of time, and be armed with stories to tell about the places you visit. Take time to stop along the way to visit historical sights. And for children (and grandparents), this is a great way to stretch the legs after sitting for a long period of time.

One way to keep children entertained in the car, while also giving them an opportunity to watch the countryside pass by outside their window, is to listen to audio books. Stop by your library and check out some books on CD or download electronic versions to play in the car. There are plenty of family-friendly audio books that are equally entertaining for the adults in the car. This is how my family has survived long road trips! Even when my children were young, they were mesmerized for hours. It’s funny now that my children are teenagers, they complain when I start an audio book at the beginning of our trips, but they are quickly drawn in to the story—and then they complain when we reach our day’s destination just when the story was getting good!

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

girl-and-family-enjoying-RV-[669x469]It’s a fact of life when spending time with children—the unexpected will happen! Children will get wet and/or dirty. They will cry, yell, and maybe even scream. They will throw temper tantrums. They will have to go to the bathroom at the least convenient times. They will change their minds. They may shut down and stop talking. They may sleep through all the exciting things you had planned. They may hate something you thought they’d love or love something you thought they’d hate. That’s life with a child.

Be prepared with plenty of spare clothing, snacks and fun distractions, and always have a Plan B! It’s important for grandparents to remain calm, patient and flexible. If everyone, including adults, has a meltdown at the same time, you won’t accomplish much. Stay in control and always keep children safe, but if necessary, change your plans for the day! Sometimes children (and adults) just need a break, a change of pace. If children need a day at the hotel, swimming in the pool, instead of visiting another museum, then change your plans and have a fun day at the pool. After all, your vacation is more about the time you spend together than the number of sights you see or places you visit.

Make Memories

Help your grandchildren document the trip. Take pictures or create a fun video. Have the children come up with a story line or theme for video footage along the way, then put it all together after the trip. Put together a travel journal or blog of all the exciting places you’ve been and things you’ve done together. Each evening, before bed, draw pictures of your day. If your grandchildren are too small to write down their memories, make a video of them telling about their day or write, in their words, what they say about their day.

grandfather-fishing-with-grandson-[669x469]Remember, it’s all about making memories and enjoying time together. If you don’t get the opportunity to spend much time with your grandchildren throughout the year, this vacation will give you the opportunity to get to know them. Take time to learn about their interests. Talk about what they love. Listen to them.

Make your trip an enjoyable chance to get to know your grandchildren better, especially if you don’t get to see them very often throughout the year. Your grandchildren will remember the sights and the experiences, but they will mostly remember how much you love them and how much fun they had spending time with you.