Above: Five-year-old Donna with Doc Pardi • Donna atop Chubby
The first time I crossed a jet bridge, my grandmother was by my side. The year was 1977, I had never been on a plane. The airline was Hughes Airwest, the planes were banana yellow and the flight attendants were groovy. From that moment on I was hooked; travel was in my soul.
Our founding editor, Donna Moffly, also fell in love with fabulous hotels at the knee of her grandmother. In order to cure her sinuses, her grandmother whisked five-year-old Donna off to Arizona for a monthlong stay. They bunked at the Biltmore (natch), and a dashing gentleman named Doc Pardi delivered a pony to the door of the hotel for young Donna daily.
Perhaps it’s because of memories like these that today’s grandparents have created an entire category of travel all their own. Multi-generational travel has been a top trend for the past five years according to Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. Though some trips include grown children, many are what the industry has coined “Skip-Gen.” Mom and Dad are left at home while Grandma and Grandpa get a chance to make lifelong memories with the grandkids. Some grandparents set a certain age for the magical trip, giving kids (and parents) something to look forward to and plan. Others tie the trip to a milestone. And a few hardy souls make it an annual excursion.
Julia O’Brian of Tauck Tours, based in nearby Wilton, spoke with us about Bridges Tours, designed specifically to meet the unique needs of multi-generational travelers. She tells us that each Bridges journey is crafted around a philosophy of shared enrichment, where family members of different generations build bonds (or bridges) by experiencing the wonders of travel together. These trips don’t include a lot of kids-only or adults-only activities. Instead, adults and children share in sightseeing, activities and the discovery of each destination. She says that about two-thirds of these tours include grandparents, allowing them to hand over all of the planning to the experts and simply enjoy special time with the grandkids.
INSPIRED TO PLAN A GRAND TRIP OF YOUR OWN?
Tips from those who’ve been there
1 If you’re traveling internationally, get a notarized consent-to-travel letter signed by both parents. You won’t always be asked to show it, but you never want to be without it. Even for domestic travel, it’s best to have a notarized letter authorizing you to seek medical care for the child.
2 Be sure to have a copy of the insurance cards and the pediatrician’s phone number.
3 Don’t be outnumbered; multiple kids are harder to manage. Keep it one-on-one for optimal bonding.
4 Grandparent survey says that the best age for travel is between nine and fourteen. Old enough to appreciate it, young enough to not have completely mastered the eye roll.
5 Set a budget for souvenirs ahead of time. This will keep the negotiations at every shop along the way to a minimum.
6 Find out what bedtime rules are implemented at home and have the children stick to them on the trip.
7 Last but not least, agree with the child ahead of time about digital device usage and your willingness to be the subject of their daily SnapChat story.