Memories last longer than the newest, “coolest” toys or gadgets. So the next time you want to spoil your grandchildren, consider giving them a special getaway that they’ll treasure for years to come.  It doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair.  Even a weekend road trip or a night away will give them quality time with grandma and grandpa – and it doubles as a gift to their parents, who will surely appreciate some alone time!

If you’d like to plan a trip that every generation will enjoy, consider the following ideas for a fabulous getaway with the grandkids.

Choosing Your Grand Adventure
The first step in planning an unforgettable journey is choosing the destination.  Below are seven ideas to inspire your grand-travel adventure.

Show them what you know and love.  If you’re passionate about hiking, birding, photography, or fishing, you may want to incorporate your passion into your getaway. You can be sure that your grandkids will never forget hiking by your side in Colorado; sharing a pair of binoculars with you as you watch for seabirds on the coast of Washington; learning how to capture a breathtaking photo of the Grand Canyon; or reeling in their first floundering fish with a little help from grandpa or grandma. You’ll be doing what you love while passing on your passion to another generation.

Bring your family history to life.  Your grandkids know where they were born and raised, and they may even know where their parents grew up. But do your grandchildren know where you lived as a child, or perhaps where your parents or grandparents emigrated from in years past? Let your rich family history inspire your grand-travel. This can be as simple as bringing your grandkids to your hometown for a long weekend to show them your favorite spots from your childhood days. Or, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the land of your ancestors across the seas. (Note: Your budget and the ages of your grandchildren should both determine the complexity of your trip.)

Give each grandchild a separate trip.  When each grandchild turns 10 (or whatever age you feel is appropriate), let him or her decide where to travel with grandma and grandpa. Ask your grandson if there’s a certain place that he’s always wanted to see in person, such as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. Show your granddaughter a map of the United States and let her decide your destination.  Children see the world in special ways, and through them you can rediscover the joy of travel.

Read all about it.  Perhaps you’ve been hearing about the 13 original colonies from your granddaughter, who’s particularly enjoying her fifth-grade history class. Why not make history come to life with a trip to New England?  Plan your own tour that incorporates famous historic landmarks and local, kid-friendly fun (i.e. the Duck Tours in Boston).  Any number of amazing trips can be inspired by what your grandchild is excited about at school – and if she helps you plan the itinerary, she’ll feel even more invested in the adventure.

Take a grand-travel tour.  Road Scholar offers intergenerational travel for grandparents who wish to take their grandchildren on an adventure either in the United States or abroad. For example, in 2012 you can choose from safaris, trips to Europe, an adventure in Yellowstone National Park, or sightseeing tours in Washington D.C. Search by date, location, activity, age range, and more.

Try an all-inclusive beach resort.  If you’re worried about entertaining your grandchildren for a full week, consider an all-inclusive beach resort. Most will have children’s programs, planned water activities, and plenty of DVDs to borrow. Whether they’re tots or teens, your grandchildren won’t be bored if there’s a beach or pool nearby.  Just don’t forget the sun block!

Hit the high seas.  For a more structured getaway with your grandkids, try a cruise. Most ships have day programs geared toward children, game rooms, and a wide variety of foods to please even the pickiest eaters in your group. Shore excursions cost extra, but you can relax and leave the planning and details to your ship’s crew.

Preparing for Your Grand Adventure
Traveling with children can be a joy and a challenge.   To get the most out of your grand adventure, consider the following tips and tricks before you hit the road.

  • To build excitement about the trip, read travel books and do some online research with your grandkids so that they have a sense of what to expect. Allow each child to pick at least one activity at or near your destination.
  • Sit down with your grandchildren and their parents in advance and lay out the ground rules for the trip. For example, you might want to make it clear that they must go to sleep at their normal bedtimes, eat their dinner before they get dessert, and stick to one hour per day using their portable video game player.  You’ll have less potential pouting later on if your grandchildren know the rules in advance.
  • Pack plenty of healthy snacks and drinks so that you’re prepared when you hear, “I’m hungry, Grandma!” at an inconvenient time.  Having a bag of delicious and (mostly) nutritious trail mix handy will keep the kids in good spirits without throwing off your travel schedule.
  • Bring portable entertainment with you if you may be spending long periods of time in the car, at an airport, or in a hotel room.  Invite each grandchild to take along his or her favorite toy and travel game. Bring books, DVDs, and a portable DVD player. Make a list of group games that you can play in the car or on the airplane, such as “I Spy” or “20 Questions.”  Click here for ten board-less, piece-less road trip games that everyone will enjoy.
  • If your ears are up for it, allow each grandchild to control the radio for a certain period of time. If you’re traveling with more than one grandchild, you might want to make a rule that no one can complain about the music that is chosen, within reason.
  • Give your grandchildren journals in which they can record their memories. Offer them crayons or colored pencils to draw what they see, especially if they’re too young to write well. A journal will keep them entertained during travel time, and will serve as a priceless souvenir for years to come.
  • Pack a small first-aid kit for emergencies, and be sure to obtain a signed statement from their parents giving you the power to authorize emergency medical care for your grandchildren. Carry insurance cards with you, along with the names and phone numbers of pediatricians, lists of allergies, and notes on their medications.
  • Take advantage of all discounts offered to groups with children. For example, many hotels let children stay free with adults, and some attractions offer free admission for children with the purchase of an adult ticket.
  • You can also save money on entry fees to national parks by purchasing a Golden Age Passport (if you are over 61 years). For $10, it offers a lifetime entrance permit to parks, monuments, and recreation areas maintained by the federal government.
  • When mapping out your travel schedule, allow for frequent stops so that your grandkids have a chance to expend some energy. Plan a picnic at a rest stop, encourage bathroom breaks when you stop for fuel, and try to pick one or two roadside sites to visit along the way.

If you’ve traveled with your grandkids and have some great advice to share, feel free to leave a comment below!