Roads Scholar: Roadtripping with the littles can be a grand adventure


Many, many years ago, when I was a newly separated adult with a 3½-year-old daughter, Zoe, my mother and stepfather would spend two weeks a year traveling with the love of their lives.

At first, I was included, at least to Disney World, but was soon ditched in favour of their lavishing attention entirely on the “little one.” They bought a camper and toured their beloved Maritimes, Halifax being their home. As she grew older, they would shlep her across Canada … the Rockies, the west coast and cruise to Alaska.

My parents got it right.

Now, I’m the elder of the family, my folks are long gone, and my daughter is heading in the direction of middle age. Good memories last a lifetime. Zoe vividly remembers her grandparents during those long stretches of road, the love they bestowed on her and the values of generosity and closeness she adopted. She remembers their humour, forgot their squabbles, and recalls surrendering to their travelling rituals.

“I’m really grateful to have vacationed with my grandparents and really valued the time I shared with them. I feel it’s the most generous gift a grandparent could give and I will always be grateful to them,” she said.

What was once a holiday with Grandma and Grandpa is now called “multigenerational travel” and it’s big business. In the highly competitive travel market, this sector is one of the few that is actually growing.

For grandparents, the challenge is designing a stress-free vacation while infusing it with its most important objective: cheerful interaction. So, leave the grownup kids at home and blueprint a “grandcation” with the young ones. Allow yourself a glorious opportunity to acknowledge your lifetime achievement award.

There are two decisions that you have to make before collaborating with the kids, age being a key factor. The first decision is how to get to there. The conveyance is more important than the destination.

Exorcize grand attractions like Disney World and its multiple-day passes, crowds and waiting times. These humungous amusement parks simply do not contribute to cheerful interaction.

For getting-there options, the four basic choices are a recreational vehicle, cruise ship, car and plane. Like any group process, you have to secure each member’s commitment to the plan for it to succeed.

Let’s look at RVs first. Relative cost for a 10-metre-long, Class C motorhome that fits six people, kitchen’n’all, is about $1,400 per week plus campground fees at about $30 per day. This home on wheels is economical when you factor in accommodations and meals.

Also, an RV lets you lug around lots of clothes, toys, bikes and hiking boots.

Sightseeing local attractions, shopping for deals and supermarket meals are great ways to break up the day. A board game in the evening, sheltered in a safe camping ground, is good way to promote inter-generational affection.

By the way, you’ll have lots of senior company on your RV excusion. According to Canada’s RV organization, about one-third of all Canadians who own these vehicles are over the age of 55. Ninety per cent of all RV owners say it is the best way to travel with kids.

An RV affords you the mobility to plan an independent path. You can even suggest a trip around a theme. Say, for example the kids are following Canadian History at school. From coast-to-coast, history comes alive in many ways. Plan a year in advance (that popular!) and you can even sleep in an authentic wood cabin in Upper Canada Village, near Kingston. You would simply be amazed at the number of alluring nearby attractions in the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario.

A cruise or direct flight to a family-friendly resort is the next best way to enjoy a grandcation. What gratified me most about my cruise last December was observing extended families at play with table games, board games, dance games, team activities and meals.

Although not budget travel, you don’t have to sell the family jewels to pay for a trip. Reasonably priced and family-friendly resorts and cruises are available, giving you ample time for cheerful interaction.

Choose the cruise carefully, however. Some cruises are organized to free parents of their kids. Choose the wrong cruise and you could be spending your time—and your dime—watching other people’s kids cheer at Checkers. Balance sea time and land time. For most young people, land activities are a magnetic attraction.

“By car” is my least favourite way of getting there, but it does make sense if the kids are older, you favour a one-place destination and you want to get there as fast as possible.

Kids would find Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, or other comparable destinations, fun for shopping, beaches, kid-golf and other pop entertainments. Aimed for the budget traveler, about 90 per cent of the condo accommodations at Myrtle Beach come with kitchens.

Now, if you find Canada/U.S. travel humdrum, you could always cash in your reward miles and hop a plane to Switzerland. Accommodations are available at about half the winter price and your grandkids can boast of hiking in the Swiss Alps.

Switzerland’s “unlimited use of trains” is an attractive promotion at around $260 per person, half the regular price. Kids under 16 rail free. But travel light; the Swiss rail system is porter-free.

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