When I was a child my parents instilled a love of exploring the world. I never dreamed one day my children would be travelling with their grandparents and experiencing the same love of exploration.We are fortunate that my parents are still healthy and active enough to join us on some of our travels and, just as importantly, want to be part of our adventures.
Our kids were 3 and 6 years old when we did our first multi-generational trip to South-East Asia and over the years we have explored the wonders of Jordan, travelled through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, traversed West Timor, camped in Oman and the U.A.E, backpacked through Myanmar, taken in the wildlife and local culture of Zambia and experienced southern India together!
All these trips have given us experiences I suspect would only have come our way through travelling as an extended family unit. The first, and probably most important, is the amazing bond that develops between the kids and the grandparents.
The shared experiences between generations while travelling create a unique and strong relationship which carries through once home.
It also gives all the age groups a different perspective on what they are experiencing and seeing. The innocence of children and how they see a situation is often a refreshing reminder for us adults to look past our unconscious bias and see the simple pleasures in this life.
It’s also great for the kids to hear adults discussing events and viewpoints. Stories told by my mother, for example, whilst travelling through Vietnam about what her generation remember of the Vietnam war was a real eye-opener for our 6 year old son, especially, and really helped him to see the country differently.
Not only does it help the family who are travelling see things from differing standpoints, but it also lets the family be perceived in a different light by the locals themselves. They are often fascinated that three generations of the same family are sharing their adventure together and will frequently engage in conversation and invite you into their homes – a real privilege and one not experienced often on normal travel.
On one such lovely occasion we were in Oman and an old lady came out of her home and took my mother by the arm. With no English (and barely any Arabic from our side) she managed to convey, with a huge toothless grin, that she, too, was a grandmother, proudly bringing out her daughter and her granddaughter to show us. She then pressed a small packet of freshly picked dates into my mother’s hands before we made our way on through the village. A fleeting but memorable experience only able to be shared by a lucky few.
And, on a purely selfish level, having your parents in tow when your children are younger gives the opportunity for you to have some time out from them every so often – and gives your kids time apart from you too!
I know that in our case, my parents were more than happy to provide this brief window of freedom for us as they felt they would not have been able to do the type of holiday and have such amazing travel experiences if they had been on their own, so a bit of babysitting was a fair trade!
Our kids are now 14 and 17, and although we don’t need my parents as babysitters any longer, we are excited they are coming to Peru with us in a few weeks to discover the wilds of the Amazon Rainforest, as I research the destination for my travel business.
Another shared experience, more memories made, and an opportunity for all of us to learn more about each other…just some of the benefits of travelling with grandparents.
For more expert advice on travelling with kids (and grandparents!), check out our Grown ups: Family travel section.