School break is the best time for families to get together, especially the two-month academic calendar break. For some, it is the time when family members working abroad come home to visit, and for others, they take advantage of this break to visit other countries. If you are a retiree like me, you have more flexibility (time-wise) in your hands. The first thing I did upon retirement was explore the possibility of having my 9-month old granddaughter as my future travel buddy. So I took her to Tbilisi. I am happy to say that she passed with flying colors. As a result, I did not hesitate to take her to Japan a year later. No doubt we have become #lifetimetravelbuddies, and I can’t wait to wander through more of this beautiful world with her. Did you know that a grandma/grandchild “grand” holiday tour is achievable? My list is not perfect, but let us count the ways.
1. Plan the trip with your grandchild and his/her parents
Obviously, you can’t take your grandchild anywhere without his/her parents agreeing to it. Consider discussing the places to go and the activities that your grandchild will enjoy doing. If it involves air travel, know in advance the flight duration. Is your grandchild up to a long-haul flight? Are you? Remember, you are in-charge of your grandchild from airport drop-off till you come back home from the trip.
2. Child-friendly destination
Agree with the parents where to go. This decision is very important especially if you do not know anybody in your country of destination. I am happy to note that aside from the United Arab Emirates, there are countries like Japan and Georgia that I can say are safe for elder women and their grandchildren to travel to. I am sure there are other places as safe as these countries, but I need to personally experience that to make a valid recommendation.
3. Keep complete travel documents at hand
If you need an entry visa to your country of destination, compile your travel documents at least three months prior to your scheduled trip. You might think this is too early, but if you are traveling with a minor, you will be relieved to know you’ve completed this requirement as early as possible. You need to consider the visa processing time frame also. Know the Immigration requirements both at departure and destination, because sometimes the requirements are not the same. I am talking about the parent’s written consent allowing you to take their child on this trip. Is a notarized document enough? Would the airport immigration officers ask for an affidavit of consent authenticated by the Higher Office like Department of Foreign Affairs, together with the child’s birth certificate? Securing these documents needs time. The last thing you want is being refused entry by the Immigration Officer due to incomplete documents.
4. Medical records
Expect the unexpected. Our natural tendency is to imagine all the good things that will happen on our trip. After all, you are traveling with your grandchild. Surely, this trip is one of the best in your bucket list. Much as we wish everything about our grandma/grandchild bonding to be perfect, it is always good to be prepared for any eventualities. What I’m trying to say here is, be sure to keep in your carry-on luggage your grandchild’s medical record and parental consent for medical treatment. This document will come in handy should a need for your grandchild’s medical care arise during your holidays.
If you are close to your grandchild, you are familiar with what he/she loves to do. So long as the place is child-friendly and the activities are age-appropriate, it might be worth trying something new. Have a blast at the roller-coaster, and discover how both of you will enjoy the new experience. An exciting grandma/grandchild adventure is a memory worth to treasure in the years to come. Like feeding herd of deer in the park, riding a Ferris wheel or a Choo-Choo train, or enjoying the cool breeze near the lake while your grandchild runs around chasing the birds. So go for it!
6. Matchy-Matchy costume photo shoot
When in Japan, do as the Japanese do even just for an hour or two. Book a costume photo shoot and see how interesting you both look in your “matchy-matchy” outfit. Your grandchild may not fully understand what is going on during the entire shoot as a toddler, but will surely cherish your photos together as a beautiful memento when he/she is much older.
7. #Groupies and #Selfies
Aside from the scenic spots and historic places, take lots and lots of #groupies and #selfies! Travel is incomplete without them, so why not? You didn’t take your iPhone and camera with you for nothing, did you? You will also notice that people are more tolerant when you are traveling with a child, and would sometimes offer to take your photos, or be happy to be in the same photo with you.
8. Instagram-Worthy #ootd
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to indulge on expensive shopping spree to achieve this goal. Just be creative with how you mix and match and accessorize your existing wardrobe to look stylish with your grandchild in tow. You will be surprised to know that some of my head-to-toe outfits are hand-me downs from shopaholic family and friends. Although, I must admit, once upon a time, I was guilty of being a shopaholic also. Well, not anymore. Before preparing your shopping list, make a mental list of your family and friends who are keen in clearing their dressers to make room for new stuff. I’m not joking! Because why would you spend money on a new winter jacket that you will not use anywhere except during your one-off holiday in the Swiss alps? Speaking of accessories, unleash that creativity in you by remodeling your old jewelry and giving it a fresh look to complete your ensemble. Yes, I do that as well. Now, you know!
9. Be flexible
You might need to consider changing a planned activity on the last minute. As the adult, be flexible to what pleases your grandchild. I am not saying that you spoil him/her unnecessarily. But remind yourself that this holiday is not about the activities. It is about you and your grandchild creating happy memories together. I don’t think you will be happy seeing your grandchild grumpy anyway, so be flexible as much as you can. As good as you apply your creativity in fixing your wardrobe, you can use the same skill in being a fun grandma when your grandchild’s cheerless mood start to trigger. It can be as simple as counting the birds together, or the cars passing by, singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, or reading a book just to divert your grandchild’s attention. Before you know it, he/she is back to the ‘happy’ mood, starts giggling again, and ready for the next adventure.
10. Electronic Gadgets
Whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that children nowadays cannot live without touching their iPad, or Tablet at least for an hour or so a day. Unless you are prepared to buy a new one, pack your grandchild’s electronic gadget in your carry-on luggage, along with the battery charger, and multi-socket plug adapter. Believe me, you will need them.
11. Rest time
You should be aware of your grandchild’s nap time. Rest is very important for anyone’s well being, children included. Lack of proper sleep also affects their mood. So be aware of when your grandchild’s nap time is before scheduling outdoor activities. It will save you a lot of unnecessary tantrums and crankiness. Usually, nap time coincides with their milk time.
12. Make a “happy moments” diary
Encourage your grandchild to make a “happy moments” diary with you. If he/she is too young to write, just ask him/her, all the things that entertained him/her, like favorite place, unforgettable rides, food that he/she enjoyed the most, etc. Write them yourself, and read them back to your grandchild to ensure that no “happy moments” are missed. This is a beautiful journal that you can read together when your grandchild grows up. A keepsake of your grandma/grandchild bonding trip which I’m sure even mommy and daddy would love to read when you come home.
How about you? Any grandma/grandchild travel experiences and tips that you would like to share? “Grand” doesn’t have to be perfect.