With cheap air tickets and more youthful and healthy baby boomers, travelling with your children’s grandparents is becoming a common phenomenon. But whether it’s a simple weekend beach getaway or a once-in-a-lifetime intrepid tour of a developing country, there is definitely a knack to surviving a holiday with the stresses of small kids and their grandparents. Here is the suitcases&strollers travel advisor for travelling with grandparents.

Don’t be too ambitious

A vacation with the extended family is nice in theory, but be realistic about what you plan. If your father-in-law is an outright xenophobe, a foreign country might be disastrous. If your mother-in-law hates to walk, don’t book a hiking holiday. If your parents drive you mad, don’t plan to go away with them for more than just a few days. You can fantasise as much as you like about your kids spending time with their grandparents, but if even one of you is unhappy on the trip, no one is going to have a good time.

Prebook and preplan

Older travellers don’t tend to cope well with a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude to tourism. The more things can be preplanned and agreed upon, the less room there is for arguments. Take the time to explain your needs, your kids’ needs and then find out the grandparents’ needs. That way they won’t feel put out when junior needs to go back to the hotel for his afternoon nap. In fact, you can encourage them to use that time to visit those trinket shops that your mother loves and that you loathe.

Make use of grandpa’s luggage

Kids seem to need to travel with a  disproportionate amount of stuff so use the extra kilos across the multiple adults’ allocations. That will save you those inevitable meltdowns because giant teddy couldn’t fit into mummy’s already crammed suitcase. Or it means you can pack extra nappies just in case.

Tours are your friend

While the independent traveller in you might want to rebel against a tour of any sort, when you are in a non-English-speaking country that is far removed from home, this is often the simplest and most effective way for grandparents to connect with a new culture. If the tour guide is doing his or her job right, grandparents will feel an instant kinship to a local. Plus private tours (if you can afford them) can be designed with the entire family in mind – so they can cater for everyone’s needs (such as nanna’s constant toilet breaks or bubba’s midday sleep).

Choose central accommodation

Just like kids, older people get tired easily, especially in foreign environments. It is particularly important when you take grandparents and kids out of their comfort zone that you choose accommodation that is central and easy to get to. A one hour commute from the centre of town back to the hotel will not be appreciated by anyone – but a place to pitstop for a quick rest in the afternoon between touring will be a welcome respite.

Or, even better, choose to holiday at an all inclusive family resort so there is no pressure to venture anywhere beyond the resort boundaries. 

Pick communal living areas

Part of the point of a family holiday with the grandparents is the novelty of just being together for a prolonged period of time. So where possible, opt for a serviced apartment, a rented house or a large suite that comes with communal living areas. That way when kids are napping or grandpa is tired, you still have the option to all be together, without necessarily having to sightsee.

Get a kitchen

Accommodation with a kitchen (or at least a dining table with a good room service menu) can solve a lot of problems. If your kids can’t cope with restaurant eating, then you can avoid the disapproving tut-tuts. If the grandparents are fussy, then they can prepare something they are more comfortable with. Having a full kitchen means that after one simple grocery shop, no one’s stomach is held hostage to anyone else’s timetable.

Prearrange at least one night with a babysitter

If the children aren’t old enough to go out for late dinners, make sure to book a babysitter for at least one night so that all the adults can go out and enjoy themselves. Otherwise inevitably one person will end up staying home while the others are out on the town – and if you are the primary caregiver, that someone will probably be you.

When you return home, create a photo album

A family holiday with the grandparents is a particularly special experience for them and for your children. Take the time to put together some images of the holiday – the grandparents will treasure it and it’s a great keepsake for the kids. [For more ideas on how to create family holiday keepsakes, see the suitcases&strollers story Capturing Travel Memories.]