The growth of the 'grandtraveller'

TRACEY SPICER
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2013
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QUALITY TIME: The relationship between grandparents and grandkids is a marvellous, magical, mystical thing

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Some say the secret to a happy life is to skip having children and go straight to grandchildren.

Certainly, the relationship between grandparents and grandkids is a marvellous, magical, mystical thing to behold.

They share a similar sense of humour, mischief and fun.

Perhaps they get along so well because they have a common enemy: the parents.

Mum or dad is the rule maker; Nan or pop is the rule breaker.

"No, they didn't have any treats this afternoon," my mother-in-law Margaret will say, sweetly.

But the kids always give her up: "Nanna gave us two snakes, a packet of chips, and an ice-cream," my six-year-old daughter Grace will gloat, with a look that says, "And there's nothing you can do about it."

This explains the growth of the grandtraveller - baby boomers who take grandchildren away without the parents.

It gives working folk a break during the school holidays. But just imagine what they get up to.

I once caught my eight-year-old son and his 92-year-old great-grandfather giggling like Gerties while having a farting competition.

Later, my grandfather gently took a toy gun out of Taj's hands and talked to him about the horrors of World War II.

Military and genealogy tourism are popular with grandtravellers, to pass on family stories to the next generation. The website grandparents.com is full of fascinating ideas, such as visiting castles or cultural sites featured in the kids' favourite computer games.

For some, it's a coming of age.

One friend has a family tradition of taking each grandchild on a big trip once he or she reaches double digits.

But a word of warning. As comedian Gene Perret says: "An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that, and you start to age quickly."

Like Margaret, when we went on a week-long holiday to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

We spent our days swimming, snorkelling and hiking around this stunning coral cay.

The kids were aged three and five and - ahem - rather active.

They were like Energizer Bunnies, buzzing from dawn until dusk.

We only realised how tired nanna was when she fell asleep and slowly slipped off the couch - thump - onto the floor with a glass of wine in her hand.

She didn't spill a drop. Go, Marg!

Apparently, the golden age for travelling with grandkids is 6-12: old enough to negotiate with, and young enough to cuddle.

Some internet-savvy kids are filling out forms to apply to their grandparents for "travel grants". They describe themselves as "your oldest and longest-loved grandchild" or "a kid who has overcome the challenges of middle-child syndrome", then explain how the trip will strengthen their relationship.

The application also proposes a destination, budget and community partners, such as siblings or cousins, who could come along. Really, it doesn't matter where you go.

Through grandtravelling, you can see the world through the eyes of a child.

PARIS FOR KIDS

Paris in summer is a kids' playground, with puppet theatres, donkey and carousel rides, and duck feeding in the lake of the Tuileries Gardens. Stay nearby, at the luxe Hotel le Meurice, between July 14 and August 29 and pay half price on a deluxe or executive room for the children, including breakfast, room upgrade and $118 dining credit. Costs from €905 ($1286) a night, virtuoso.com.au.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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