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Tips for grandparent-grandkid travel

TODAY Travel Editor Peter Greenberg offers advice, so everyone can have a great experience.

Children traveling with grandparents, known widely as “grandtravel,” is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.

And often, these trips provide not just memorable getaways, but another gift as well: quality time. The key to the popularity of grandtravel may be that it offers something for everyone, even the parents who are not involved.

Grandparents and grandchildren are able to spend time without interference from the parents, and the parents are able to relax, knowing their children are with someone they know and trust. In fact, according to a University of Florida study, the phenomenon of grandtravel has increased 60 percent since 1996, and now accounts for at least one fifth of all trips taken with children.

Indeed, a national leisure study last year by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown, & Russell/Yankelovich, a marketing firm, found that 30 percent of grandparents traveled with their grandchildren in the last 12 months.

Children seem to like grandtravel because grandparents are often democratic with the kids. Though the grandparents are most likely to decide when and where to travel, how much money to spend and where to stay, they usually share the decision with their grandkids about what they'll do once they arrive at their destination.

Among the more popular two-generation trips: Traveling together on cruise ships.

But before dropping the kids off at grandma’s house with bags in tow, here are some tips:

Grandtravel tips
• Parents should set ground rules up front with grandparents and the kids. Grandparents tend to be more lenient with the grandkids so a set of limits is not a bad idea. Also, make sure grandparents understand your children's abilities. Are they good swimmers? Bike riders? What activities will everyone do together?

• Understand cruise ships are not floating day care centers. Grandparents will have adequate free time, but should know what activities onboard that grandparents and their grandkids can do together. Plus, find out what shore excursion activities they can do together that won't either bore or over exert the grandkids, the grandparents, or both.

• Don't insist on togetherness for the sake of togetherness. Plan grandparent/grandchildren time together for good reasons.

• Get the green light from your kids before talking to the grandparents.

• Remember this has to be fun for the grandparents, too. The suggested minimum age for kids: five.

• If you haven't done this before, you might try a grandtravel overnight or a weekend, before embarking on a longer trip.

• For parents: Provide a signed, notarized statement that grants permission to the grandparents to travel with your kids, and most importantly to make decisions in the event of a medical emergency.

Here are some recommendations for grandtravel:

A non-profit leader in educational travel for older adults, Elderhostel organizes all-inclusive trips specially designed for grandparents and their grandkids. These programs occur across the U.S. and in many countries. Elderhostel offers learning experiences for almost every interest and ability. Trips range from four to 10 nights. Prices start at around $300 per person for a four-night trip in the Poconos to almost $2,500 per person for a 10-night excursion in the Canadian Rockies. Some of the activities they offer include jet skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, archery, canoeing and even arts and crafts.

One of their popular programs called "Rowdies, Roughnecks, Rafting and Dinosaurs" offers wild, Wild West fun for grandparents and grandkids ages 8-12. Grandkids discover the area that was once home and hideout to outlaws, including Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch. Grandparents and grandkids explore historic and cultural heritage in and around Salt Lake City, Utah. Then they travel to Vernal where a geologic showcase spanning 3 billion-including nine Jurassic periods-years has occurred in the Uintah Basin. This program is in association with Utah Valley State College.

Generations Touring Company, an adventure-oriented program, offers many wonderful opportunities for grandparents and their grandkids, including volunteer vacations in New Orleans, forest adventures in British Columbia, baseball tours in the Northeast, as well as more intrepid trips to destinations like Vietnam, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, and Peru.

Peru offers exciting explorations of Machu Picchu. Spend time in a Quechuan community in the Andes Mountains. Learn about the ancient art of tapestry weaving. Listen to a Peruvian storyteller recount tales of the lost Incas. Enjoy the hot springs at Aguas Calientes. And tour Tipon with a shaman guide. On the first day, guests fly to Lima and stay in a guesthouse in the heart of Miraflores, near the Pacific Ocean. The morning breakfast the next day will help orient you with the upcoming events. Later in the trip, guests visit Machu Picchu with a private guide. Kids can explore the nearby jungles and caves

Club Med offers programs for grandparents and their grandkids. The Cancun resort offers a pool, beach, water sports, trapeze, a Mini Club Med (ages 4-10) and Junior Club Med (ages 11-17).

Seaport has a weekend package especially for grandparents and their grandchildren consisting of milk and cookies upon arrival. That’s before you settle down in deluxe overnight accommodations. The package also includes a Continental buffet breakfast for four, admission for four to The Children's Museum, located just blocks from Seaport, and an on-demand children's movie in the guestroom.

The Grandparents Great Getaway is offered for $269, plus tax and service charge ($3/room per night; Seaport is a service-inclusive property). Offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, based on availability. For reservations or more information, call 617-385-4000.