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Traveling with a gang of grandkids

2. Give your grandkids some freedom.

Younger children will need a lot more supervision than older children, but your teenage grandchildren might be allowed a little more freedom. Before the trip, consult with the parents on what each child is — and is not — allowed to do.

A lot of grandparents find it hard to give their grandkids freedom because they aren’t around them daily and don’t realize that the kids are growing up. Older grandchildren like to sleep later than younger grandchildren, for example. On days without scheduled plans, try giving those teenagers the opportunity to sleep in while you enjoy breakfast with the younger kids.

3. Don’t expect babysitting services.

One of the nicest things about taking grandchildren of different ages on vacation is that the older grandchildren can help you keep an eye on the younger ones. If an active grandchild wears you out, it’s easier to ask your older grandchild to be in charge while you rest, or to ask the older children to help supervise the younger kids at meal time or during various activities. While the older grandchildren should be expected to help out, don’t forget that they, too, are on vacation and want to enjoy themselves.

When Dave Kelly’s sons travel with their grandparents, they are given responsibilities. “Tell them it’s important to help the grandparents,” he advises. For older children, that might mean occasionally watching the younger children, but also give the younger grandchildren responsibilities to even things out.

4. Divide and conquer.

Travel expert Nan Zimmerman recommends splitting grandparent duties.

“Locate your trip in an area where you can do multiple activities,” she says. “One grandparent can take one grandchild or more for one activity, while the other grandparent takes the rest of the grandchildren to do something else.” This works well at amusement and theme parks, where older children might want to explore the thrill rides but aren’t old enough to go off by themselves, while the younger children stick to the kiddie rides. “You can then meet for lunch,” Zimmerman adds, “and switch groups of kids. That way you get better bonding time.”

5. Plan down time into each day.

Traveling can be exhausting. Though they might not want to admit it, even older grandkids need an opportunity to unwind each day. Try to plan some downtime into every vacation day. Encourage your grandchildren to pack some items specifically for a quiet break from the breakneck fun. This might be the time when they are allowed to play with their video games, text message or call friends, read a book, or watch a movie. Choose a time that is the best compromise for everyone. Tip: Right before dinner is usually a good time.

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