Hello fellow travelers -- writing a piece on grandparents / grandkids taking trips together and looking for stories and tips. Please post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks in advance!
The Los Angeles Times recently had an article on this very topic, and it was a featured topic at the international traveler convention. My experience is with very young children (2 - 6) traveling with their grandparents: I drop off and my folks take them for the weekend or 4 days. They have driven, flown, walked, sailed, you name it! In particular, I found it was best to prepare the kids for what to expect. Small children may like surprises in the form of presents, but not generally in their day-to-day. Going with Grandma & PopPop was always presented as a privilege (which I honestly believe it to be, as one set of grandparents died young and the other set lived across the country when I was growing up), and excitement was generated for weeks leading up to the trip. In this way, the drop off was always easy and very exciting. Little ones are especially fun to explore with because they love to notice the little details. Snack often rather than planning big meals - hungry toddlers are grumpy toddlers!
Usually my folks send a card before the trip with a map or a picture of where they plan to take the kids, but last time they sent a video. It was called Shae by Air (www.goodlittletraveler.com). The premise of the DVD - like your article - is that children, even small ones, have the capacity to understand what to expect and what is expected of them, and with that the ability to be respectful, good little travelers. Post-911 security restrictions have changed, and since in the last 30 years the space between the seats has shrunken to barely the width of one's legs! The kids love the video and put the packing list that comes with it up on the fridge, ready to pack for their trip at a moment's notice. My parents said they quoted the movie on the plane as well, and were excellent little travelers. Since so many other parents will give you the scoop on how to distract kids on planes, etc. I thought I'd recommend a little pre-trip prep instead!!
Please - please - get bulkhead seating for the kids (the first row in a section with no other seats directly in front). Kids want and need to play, but the folding trays are attached to the seatback of the person in front, and any movement on that tray is felt harshly as a jolt by the poor person in front. I find this much much worse than having to put up with kids' noises.
The bulkhead seats have foldout trays from within the seats' own armrests, so nobody gets harangued.
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