Traveling as a family is a great way to strengthen bonds and make lifetime memories. When it comes to family vacations, skip-gen travel, also called “gramping” is a growing trend — grandparents and grandchildren taking a trip together while the parents stay home.

Here’s why. Today’s grandparents are a far cry from the stay-at-home, cookie-baking, sweater-knitting seniors we once knew them to be.

Did you know that there are more grandparents than ever? There are a whopping 69.5 million self-reported as such in the 2014 U.S. Census, marking a 24 percent jump from 2001. What’s more, this portion of the population — many of them Baby Boomers — are physically fit, financially stable and not limited by an eight-hour work day. Their get-up-and-go lifestyle lends itself perfectly to a travel trend that’s gaining traction within the multi-generational travel market: skipgen vacations.

According to the president and founder of the Family Travel Association (FTA), 52 percent of Americans didn’t use their allotted vacation time in 2017. Parents are the leading culprits of this trend: Fifty-eight percent opt to forgo their yearly time off. Parents are very caught up in their careers, and, as sad as it is to say, they don’t have time to plan travel. But the grandparents do have more vacation time, and they don’t have all the limitations.

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Whether grandparents live around the corner or across the country, travel is an opportunity to create deeper, closer relationships because you’re spending so much time together. Travel provides lots of chances for conversation that grandparents and grandchildren may not get to have on a regular basis. It’s a chance to find out the grandchildren’s interests, their likes and dislikes, what things are important to them, and what’s going on in their lives.

Grandparents and grandchildren can explore a new place together, or the older generation can introduce the younger to a cherished destination or a way of travel that they have long enjoyed, such as a cruise.

Planning the trip together is also a good way for grandparents and grandchildren to gather for quality time, as well as ensuring that both have a successful vacation. There are places that have organized activities for children, that give them and the grandparents some separate time to enjoy activities important to each generation.

When it comes to family history and lore, grandparents are a key source of information. Perhaps the grandparents grew up in a different state or part of the country — or outside the United States — and want to show their grandchildren where they’re from.

A trip is a way to share a part of that history, which the grandchildren can someday impart to their own children. If the destination is a foreign country, or another region of the United States, it’s a great way to help children learn about and develop respect for different cultures. If it’s a place where neither has ever been, grandparents and grandchildren have the excitement of exploring and learning together.

Of course, there are some things to keep in mind before traveling with grandchildren. Make sure all three generations — grandparents, parents and children — sit down and have a talk about travel rules and what is and isn’t allowed. Things to consider are bedtimes, texting at meals and attention to food allergies.

From a practical standpoint, grandparents often have more free time than their children. They may be retired or simply have a more flexible schedule, giving them the time to take their grandchildren on a trip during spring or fall break or a summer vacation. This helps parents because the children are safe and occupied while they’re out of school and their parents are at work. And it also gives parents a break, a chance to relax while knowing that their children are in good hands.

If mom and dad want to come along and make it a three-generation trip, that’s great, too. It’s easy to plan an activity that grandparents and grandchildren can do together while the parents are off doing something else.

Here are some suggestions of where we’ve had some of our clients take their grandchildren.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers two tours for visiting Mexican cultural destinations while staying at the hotel, specifically geared toward grandparents and grandchildren. One heads to Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan ruins, for a private tour, dining on regional cuisine and swimming in natural sink holes, while the other takes guests to the colonial city of Merida and ruins of Uxmal for an exploration of Mayan art and culture.

Costa Rica will delight kids of all ages. Whether you and the grandkids fancy exploring lush rain forests, getting up close to tropical wildlife or zip lining through the forest canopy, this Central America destination offers terrific eco-tourism options for multi-generational vacations and it’s a quick flight from many U.S. cities. For example, at Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio National Parks, you can take a guided tour, do a leisurely hike or boat along a canal. Enjoy a soak in the hot springs at Baldi or Kalambu, where the kids will love the waterslides. Explore the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which features short trails and animal exhibits. Or eat your way through the Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna, where you’ll also learn how cacao is grown and transformed into the sweet stuff.

Discover a Dude Ranch. Embark on an iconic American West vacation by corralling the kids and heading to a dude ranch. Dude ranches aren’t all just about horses. Many have mountain biking, fly fishing, and plenty of other activities as well. Depending on the time of year you want to travel, you can choose from multiple locations, such as British Columbia, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado or Montana. Winter activities can include dog sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Summer thrills can be had rock climbing, wagon rides, white water rafting and yes, horseback riding.

The Ultimate trip would be the Close Encounters in the Galapagos.

The renowned Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean encompass a great learning experience showcasing how and why to protect the environment, plus eco-adventures alongside penguins, giant tortoises and flamingos. Exploring this UNESCO World Heritage site can include boat tours, snorkeling excursions or surfing lessons. The Galapagos Islands are fabulous for kids because there is no fear on the part of the animals; you can get up close and personal.

Many cruise ships offer the perfect combination of children’s activities and adult-friendly offerings for something for everyone in one convenient package. Several cruises additionally provide children’s programming that allows grandparents to enjoy some alone time.

Similarly, many theme parks welcome these travelers, such as Disney World, a classic choice that likely many grandparents and grandchildren were already taking advantage of with or without the parents in tow.

Regardless of where you go or how you get there, the trend promises deeper bonds between grandparents and grandchildren, while giving mom and dad some potentially much-needed alone time to rest, recharge or go on a more adults-only trip of their own.

These skip-gen trips can be life-changing for the grandparents and grandchildren who experience them.

Barbara May is owner of Travel Leaders. For help planning a multi-generational trip, contact a Travel Leaders travel advisor at 901-377-6600 or 901-853-6200. Travel Leaders main location is at 2765 Wolf Creek Parkway, Ste. 104 (next door to David’s Bridal), Memphis, TN 38133 and in Collierville by appointment only.

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