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Why Sending Your Kids on Vacation With Grandparents is a Win-Win-Win — & Where to Go

The science is out: When older adults spend time with youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits in both directions. These relationships ensure that children receive positive attention and mentoring while mature adults gain opportunities to learn about trends and new technology — while also seeing a different perspective through younger eyes. Grandparents who offer unconditional love and support to young ones create security and strong bonds that will help youngsters as they develop. And those are just a few of the reasons to send your kids on vacation with their grandparents.

Solid connections between grandparents and grandchildren affect how kids view the elderly in general. A study published in Child Development analyzed children’s familial relationships and found that kids who spend quality time with their mature loved ones are more accepting of older people and less likely to hold ageists views 

Research from the University of Oxford that studied more than 1,500 children supports the idea that when grandparents are optimistically involved, the wellbeing of kids is boosted and fewer emotional and behavioral problems are exhibited.  

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The author’s son on vacation with his grandmother. Image: Courtesy of Wendy Altschuler. Courtesy of Wendy Altschuler.

Travel — for kids and honestly for everyone — provides an opportunity to leave the day-to-day schedule behind and set out on a newfangled adventure, creating lasting attachmentsMany benefits also exist for parents when grandparents join the vacation. For one, sharing expenses among more adults is a perk, especially if you’re on a tight travel budget. Plus, grandparents are extra sets of hands, ready to help with the kids (perhaps you might even score a parent date night with your spouse while the grandparents babysit?).

Beyond these reasons, and perhaps more importantly, when kids travel with grandparents, those bookend generations get to spend quality time together that they likely wouldn’t otherwise. For the grandparents, they’ll get to see a destination — maybe even a place they’ve been before — through a contrasting lens, getting to witness the wonder of the very young. Visiting a different city or country, or even learning and exploring near your own backyard, creates lasting memories. Material gifts get forgotten, but the trips you take together will be fodder for stories long into the future. After all, the best gift is the gift of time.  

Whether grandparents decide to take a triple-generational trip with their kids and grandkids in tow, or go on the adventure alone with grandkids and give the middle generation a much-needed break, here are some wanderlust-sparking vacation ideas kids and older folks will all adore.

Get soaked at Niagara Falls

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Image: Courtesy of Wendy Altschuler. Stephen Matera.

An easy but exciting trip to take is to Niagara Falls in New York State. Three waterfalls — Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls — bestride the international border of Ontario, Canada and the United States. Go at your own pace, and visit Niagara Falls State Park for hiking, museums and dining options for even the pickiest of eaters. See a concert or a kid-friendly festival at Old Falls Street USA, and check out Cave of the Winds. 

Children ages seven and up can fly over the falls on Mistrider Zipline — and everyone will enjoy a Maid of the Mist Tour. To add to the experience, visit Buffalo. The city’s waterfront has transformed into a cultural mecca in recent years. Kayak on the Buffalo River in Silo City, revel in seven Frank Lloyd Wright architectural marvels, see art created by Andy Warhol at the Albright-Knox Gallery, explore the Buffalo Museum of Science, visit the Buffalo Zoo or stroll through the Botanical Gardens. Grandparents and littles alike will find a plethora of things to do in this area, regardless of age or ability.  

Stay: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Niagara Falls. Located near Niagara Falls and about 30 minutes from Buffalo’s fun family-friendly scene, Microtel by Wyndham is the ideal place to spend the night, with accommodations that include free breakfast and WiFi 

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Image: Courtesy of Paragon Guides. Courtesy of Paragon Guides.

Hike with a llama in Colorado

Colorado experiences nearly 300 days of sunshine per year, and there are so many outdoor activities to enjoy as a family, kids and grandparents alike will have to be careful not to over-plan. Plan a trip to Glenwood Springs and stay at Glenwood Hot Springs Resortthe world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. A brand-new Aquatic Adventure Zone is slated to open this summer; you can also visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and ride the new Glenwood Gondola. Thrill-seekers will love a rafting adventure down the Colorado River with Blue Sky Adventures. And, if hiking is of interest, venture to Glenwood Canyon and hike up to the stunning short-but-steep Hanging Lake.  

Another great Colorado option for multigenerational families is Vail. Animal lovers will enjoy a scenic Bear Hollow trail ride with Vail Stables. And, if it’s been your dream to hike with a gentle llama, Paragon Guides will facilitate a “Take a Llama to Lunch Hike,” perfect for kids. Imagine all of the funny family photos you’ll get, with a camelid in the background.  

Stay: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. This property is great for families because it has a swimming pool, kitchenette, and lots of space. Order handmade pizzas and get them delivered to your room for an easy dinner.  

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Image: Courtesy of Visit Seattle. Brent Smith.

Hunt for trolls in Seattle

Seattle, located on Puget Sound in the lovely Pacific Northwest, has so much to offer for families of all ages. Explore Emerald City’s Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle Children’s Museum and more. You’ll of course want to get outside and see some of the parks — Magnuson Park, Washington Park Arboretum, Kubota Garden, Seward Park, Deadhorse Canyon — and smell the fish at Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market (the Seattle Waterfront is a short walk from Pike Place)Take a day trip to an island on a ferry (Washington State has the largest ferry system in the country). See panoramic views of the city from the top of the Space Needle. Snap group selfies with the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge. In a city that’s surrounded by water, with views of mountains and access to evergreen forests, kids will feel like grown-up adventurers and grandparents will feel young again.  

Stay: Hotel Theodore Seattle. Located in the heart of Seattle at 7th Avenue and Pine Street, this hotel is full of fun features like rain jackets on loan, an art collection throughout the hotel, record players and ice cream from Salt & Straw (originating out of a food truck) delivered right to your room.  

According to a Boston College study, happiness is increased when grandchildren have emotional ties to their grandparents, immunizing both parties against depressive symptoms. This study cites that the average person exhibits most symptoms in a U-shaped curve, with youth and old age being the most vulnerable stages, and the quality of social and familial relationships is an influence. Grandparents, then, serve as a mental health safety net for their grandchildren — and vice versa. Traveling together is a great way to nurture relationships and fill that joy bank.  

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