- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Grandparents who are considering traveling with their grandchildren should keep in mind the length of travel, ages of the children and suitable destinations when they plan their trip.

Margaret Hollidge, a spokeswoman for AARP who has traveled with her 8-year-old grandson, says her organization's Web site (www.aarp.org) offers valuable tips for traveling with grandchildren. AARP's site recommends that for preschool children ages 3 to 5, short day trips or weekend trips would be appropriate. Youngsters in grade school can handle up to a week, and high-school students can go for as long as two weeks if they have plenty of activities they enjoy.

"It's important to have a lot of lead time, to have excitement and read brochures and watch videotapes," says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, president and founder of the Foundation for Grandparenting, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the importance of grandparenting.

"Make it a very happy kind of thing and use it for geography about where they are going," he says. "Make a big deal about it. Kids love to get excited and look forward to it. Have a lot of fun with it that is very important."

Before you go, Dr. Kornhaber says, it's important to obtain a temporary power of attorney and medical permission form for each grandchild.

"If anything happens, they would need that," he says.

These documents do not require an attorney, but they do need a Notary Public's seal and signature to be binding. If a child is going to miss school, it also will be necessary to make sure the child knows homework assignments for the period of time being missed.

"Don't overprogram, and understand that you are going to get tired. You want plenty of time to relax and do some quiet stuff," Dr. Kornhaber says.

The next question to deal with is where to go and what to do. This again will be determined by the ages of the children.

If this is a first trip, it might be wise to take a planned trip, such as those provided through Elderhostel, a nonprofit organization that offers educational trips for senior citizens ages 55 and older. It also has a number of trips dedicated to grandparents traveling with their grandchildren.

The Foundation for Grandparenting, a nonprofit organization dedicated to grandparenting issues, also sponsors a Grandparent/Grandchild Summer Camp every year at Sagamore in the Adironack Mountains of New York.

Disney World can be a good choice for grandparents, as it has a variety of activities to keep any youngster satisfied.

Grandtravel, a Bethesda travel agency, specializes in trips designed for grandparents and their grandchildren.

These trips eliminate the need for planning activities, and there is enough variety that both generations will be able to find something they will enjoy.

Other ideas from the AARP Web site:

• Consider a volunteering vacation for older grandchildren.

• Include hands-on activities that actively engage children.

• Allow time for spontaneous activities and quiet time together.

• Let the grandchildren be involved with the itinerary, and be flexible.

• Have backup activities such as books, games, a CD player with familiar music, coloring books for young children, washable markers and a favorite toy.

• Pack plenty of healthful snacks for good energy levels.

• Discuss rules so children know what is expected.

• Give each child a spending allotment and be clear about any limits on what he or she buys.

• Keep a trip journal and encourage the children to do the same if they are old enough. Younger children can draw pictures of their adventures.

• Be sure to leave a detailed itinerary with phone numbers for parents.

Steve Barsh, chief executive officer of Igrandparents.com, recommends the following tips, which can be found at its Web site (www.igrandparents.com). Igrandparents.com is a privately held, venture-backed organization that debuted in the fall of 2000.

• Start with short trips to nearby museums or zoos, along with a restaurant lunch.

• Remember that youngsters need time to let off steam.

• Know whether the child is a free agent or likes a more structured environment.

• If visiting a theme park, stay on site to allow for in-room naps or provide a chance for a swim in the hotel pool.

• If the parents are divorced, be sure to have a letter authorizing travel with the child.

• Carry a cell phone for emergencies.

• To avoid homesickness, have youngsters send postcards home.

Dr. Kornhaber adds this caveat: "No friends and no Gameboys." This is a time to be alone with grandchildren and have fun and bond with them, he says.

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