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New Trend: Grandparents Vacationing With Grandchildren

‘Skip-gen’ travel gives them time to connect and make memories

Grandmother, Grandson in Jackson Hole
Josephine Gierer with her oldest grandson, Andrew.
Josephine Gierer

With so many grandparents living hundreds of miles from their grandchildren, some are turning to a fun way to bridge the distance: vacationing together. About 40 percent of grandparents say they travel with their grandchildren, according to a new "Grandparents Today” survey from AARP Research. They report spending an average $1,746 a year on these trips.

The survey found that three-quarters of grandparents had traveled with three or more generations in the past year, while others chose “skip-gen” travel — vacationing with the grandkids alone, minus the middle generation. About one-third of grandparents have taken their grandchildren on skip-gen trips.

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Josephine Gierer, 74, in Westport, Conn., is one fan of skip-gen travel: She took her oldest grandson, Andrew, who lives in Virginia, on a nearly two-week group trip through the Western U.S. two years ago, when he was 16. “It was a very special trip,” says Gierer. Their Insight Vacations adventure took them to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, up through Utah to Yellowstone, then South Dakota and home from Denver.

infographic about skip-generation travel

"We really bonded,” she says. “He opened up to me about a lot of things in his life, talking every night until like 12, 12:30, 1 o'clock. I'm a night person, but I thought, I'm going to collapse at the end of this. But it was just adorable, so I didn't mind.”

While that tour wasn't aimed specifically at multigenerational groups, Road Scholar's offerings include 155 trips just for grandparents and their grandkids — from a Tanzanian safari to a snorkeling adventure in Florida. Working to appeal to different interests, the group leaders will sometimes briefly separate the kids and adults for targeted activities: At a museum, for instance, the children might be led on a scavenger hunt while the grownups join a docent-led tour.

Donna L. Brock, 81, has taken her oldest granddaughter, Lilly, on seven intergenerational Road Scholar trips over the past seven years. Their first, when Lilly was 9, was a five-day program in Philadelphia — “close to home, in case it didn't work out,” explains Brock, who lives in Lincoln, Mass. She admits that they were both a little nervous about whether they'd enjoy the experience, “but I was thrilled with it. We got home and Lilly said to me, ‘I'm available to travel with you whenever you want to.'"

This summer they'll take their eighth trip together, this one to Lisbon, Portugal — their most distant adventure yet. “I know it's a big expense,” says Brock, “but these are the things that are worth it."

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