A skip-generation trip, also known as a skip-gen trip, includes grandparents and grandkids while leaving the parents at home.
Our family loves to travel, and we instilled that love of travel in our daughter beginning at a young age. We told her it was in her DNA. After she married and started having children, we continued to travel, adding more people to the trip as our family grew. While our family travels together frequently, grandparents, parents, and grandkids, circumstances arose where it made it necessary for mom and dad to stay home. Usually, their jobs required them to stay behind, or my job provided the opportunity for the grandkids to tag along. Over the years, my two grandchildren, and sometimes their grandfather, have made memories through skip-gen travel.
Some popular skip-gen destinations are theme parks, national parks, Europe, or a cruise. The trips have enriched my relationships with my grandchildren wherever a skip-gen trip took us.
Here are seven reasons why I recommend that you take one with your grandkids.
1. See A Familiar Place Through Fresh Eyes
For my first solo skip-gen trip, with only my granddaughter and me, we left not only her parents behind but also her grandfather. I decided to go somewhere I had been before. It gave me a certain comfort level in knowing the lay of the land and how to get around. However, there was still a lot to see.
The journey was also straightforward, with a non-stop flight of about 1 hour and 15 minutes, so delayed flights and complications wouldn’t be an issue. It’s vital if you are the only adult, especially traveling with more than one child.
My granddaughter is interested in art, so I chose Washington, D.C. for the trip. I had been there several times before, primarily on business, and had visited some museums. But a lot remained to uncover.
Pro Tip: Provide a series of activity choices and let the grandkids choose from those. Be open to any additional ideas they may have, but leaving it open-ended might be overwhelming for them. If you know the destination, provide some starting options.
2. Increase Planning Flexibility
Grandparents are often retired while most parents work, making it challenging to plan a trip with three generations. When the kids have a school break, grandparents are more likely to have time to take a trip. Parents have limited vacation time and often constraints on planning around co-workers’ time off. When grandparents and their grandchildren travel together, you only need to consider two generations’ schedules, making getting away easier.
A bonus for the parents is that they will enjoy some time away from the kiddos. Without the kids, it will allow the skipped generation to have some one-on-one time.
Pro Tip: Get the kids involved in the planning and be sure to plan activities that both generations will enjoy.
3. Share Your History Or Heritage
One of my first skip-gen trips with my granddaughter was an overnight trip to my alma mater so that she could experience a collegiate football game at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her grandfather, a major Michigan fan, also came along.
It was only an hour’s drive, and we stayed overnight in a hotel. I shared what a football game was like in my college days on this trip. We toured the campus, where I described the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with my years on campus. Since her grandfather and I dated in college, we had a meal at one of our old favorite date-night restaurants discussing how times have changed and what remained the same. She had the experience of a Big Ten football game at the football stadium with the largest crowd in the United States. She also learned some of her grandmother’s history and how it made me who I am.
Pro Tip: If significant events occur in the town while you are there, make hotel reservations ahead of time. I’ve found on football weekends, hotels may not have a room for only one night, but if you ask for two nights, rooms are available and require a two-night minimum stay.
4. Mark A Milestone
Milestone travel is already part of many cultures with honeymoons and babymoons. Celebrations that mark a significant birthday, like double digits, sweet sixteens, or high school and college graduations, are another reason for a skip-gen trip. These types of trips build memories that will last a lifetime. For example, we decided to take our granddaughter to Disney World for her fifth birthday, and it brought back fantastic memories of when we took her mother. Because it was her birthday trip and her parents weren’t along, we could spoil her a bit with no complaints.
My husband and granddaughter found they shared a love of all things space during the trip. At Epcot, she had a chance to sample other cultures while we talked about where she might like her first international trip to take her.
An excellent graduation skip-gen trip would be one to a country representing the family heritage. That trip would allow the young adults to better understand their family history in a meaningful way.
Pro Tip: Start with a close-to-home overnight or weekend trip to try it so that if there are significant issues, you can resolve them more easily.
5. Learn New Skills
My 16-year-old granddaughter and I went to a photography workshop in St. Louis, Missouri. We both enjoy photography and creating images, so we went to a multi-day, skill-building seminar that helped beginners and advanced photographers augment their talents. For my granddaughter, it was her first adult-type training. She was the youngest attendee, but she held her own.
Perhaps, both you and your grandchild are foodies. Build an itinerary around a food destination. For example, my trip to Nova Scotia’s South Shore provided an opportunity to get a fresh catch from a lobster boat, go to a lobster pound to weigh and sort the lobster, and watch a chef demonstrate deconstructing a lobster in a restaurant. A cooking class and a similar trip would be the perfect foodie skip-gen trip for pre-teen or teenage grandchildren who love food.
Pro Tip: Check out the age or experience level of the program on offer. Check-in with the event organizer if you believe that your grandchild might be too young. In our case, when I did this, we discussed maturity level and experience, and it turned out to be a perfect fit.
6. Get To Know The Grandkids Better While Making Memories
One of the top reasons for a skip-gen trip is to get to know your grandkids better while making memories that both of you will cherish in the years to come. In turn, this will create a stronger bond between generations. Start by doing your research ahead of time with mom and dad. Then have a series of conversations with the young one and find out their interests.
You might have a place in mind. While working in San Francisco, I had to be there over some holidays, so my husband brought our granddaughter to California. While the general destination was pre-determined, we had many options for activities. As we discussed choices, I was surprised to discover this 7-year-old wanted to hug a tree. She’d heard the expression and knew of the redwoods in Muir Woods. So, while the actual destination might be set, working on tuning into the grandkid’s interests, you may be surprised at what you discover. I know I was.
Pro Tip: Don’t just research interests, but also find out any allergies or issues concerning motion sickness to be sure you’re prepared to manage those situations.
7. Expand Experiences Among Cousins
Since I only had one child, both of my grandchildren have the same parent; however, I see the skip-gen trip as an opportunity for cousins to travel with the grands and get to know each other better in new environments. While cousins have different parents, they have grandparents in common. A trip together can help them see the things they all have in common with the help of those grandparents. The journey can help the extended family grow closer together.
National Parks are popular skip-gen trips, especially in the summer. The parks offer a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to activities on the water. Of course, as a grandparent with knee issues, activities on the water are easier than hiking, but national parks are places where all ages can find things that interest them. So sharing these destinations among cousins makes an excellent adventure.
Pro Tip: Be sure to plan the trip with everyone’s interests in mind.
If you’re looking for the perfect skip-gen trip, consider these destinations: