Grandparents discovering new travel companions in their grandchildren

Vacations spent together are a chance to connect

July 21, 1999|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

"What did you do over the summer vacation?" is a question that more and more Carroll County children can't wait to answer. They have sailed from Baltimore to New York, fed dolphins in Bermuda and hiked in the Maryland mountains.

They have traveled with tour guides who knew all the best places to go and who, like parents, knew just when to pamper and prod.

They have traveled with their grandparents. And like many children, they have experienced the advantages of a growing trend in the travel business.

More grandparents are traveling with their grandchildren because "they have the time, the money and the interest in cultural enrichment," said Dave McCabe, who co-owns Westminster-based Carlson Wagonlit Travel with his wife, Lynn.

"In many cases, this coincides with the fact that both parents are working, and they find it difficult to get time off in the summer or to coordinate joint vacations," McCabe said. "When grandchildren are swept away by their grandparents, their parents often need and appreciate the break."

The phone doesn't ring as often, joked Finksburg resident O'Donnell Timchula, whose 16-year-old daughter Emily recently traveled to Bermuda with her grandparents, Susan White-Bowden and Jack Bowden.

"She got to bond with another generation and see more of the world than we can give her -- it was a great opportunity," said Timchula.

Emily was the first of six grandchildren to go on a Bermuda vacation with her grandparents, a custom that the Bowdens will enjoy with each grandchild when he or she turns 16.

"We wanted to show them that there is another world beyond Carroll County and soccer," said White-Bowden, author and former newscaster.

The three vacationers enjoyed riding mopeds, shopping, swimming with dolphins, and soaking in the beautiful scenery and lifestyle of Bermuda, she said.

"I learned more about Emily, even as close as we already are," White-Bowden said. "We had opportunities to talk intimately about hopes, goals and dreams. I saw her in a grown-up light."

While the dolphins made quite an impression on Emily, she said that she'll always cherish spending time with her grandparents beyond quick visits with the whole family.

2; "The neat thing about traveling with the grandchildren is that without the parents, you get to know them as real kids, not just children who are on their best, or sometimes worst, behavior because their parents are around." Carol Corey,grandmother "A lot of kids don't get the chance to spend time with their grandparents because they live in different states," said Emily, "By traveling with them, you get to see them not as grandparents or guardians, but as friends. You can be yourself and they will love you, no matter what."

"The neat thing about traveling with the grandchildren is that without the parents, you get to know them as real kids, not just children who are on their best, or sometimes worst, behavior because their parents are around," said Carol Corey, who, with her husband Scott, took their grandsons Jack Demarest, 12, and Hunt Demarest, 9, sailing from Maryland to New York last year.

"You don't interact the same. I didn't get breakfast down my throat before Hunt wanted to play and Jackson wanted to pull up anchor," Corey added. "If their mom had been there, they wouldn't have done that."

Intergenerational traveling has become so popular that several tours and even entire travel agencies have been founded on the concept.

Elderhostel, a nonprofit organization that offers short-term academic programs to people 55 years of age or older, advertises "Grand Winter Adventure for Grandparents and Grandchildren" in Minnesota's north woods.

Its fall 1999 catalog heralds another outdoor program that offers grandparents and their grandchildren a chance to explore such Native American and Colonial activities as candlemaking, papermaking, cooking with a Dutch oven and hiking trails.

Each of the approximately weeklong intergenerational programs costs about $400 for each grandparent, and between $290 and $390 a grandchild, not including airfare.

GRANDTRAVEL, based in Chevy Chase, offers upscale tours of places like Africa, Alaska, Alsace, Australia, New York, and the Pacific Northwest.

Each one- to two-week tour costs from $3,800 to $7,800 without airfare, and includes such luxuries as a tour guide and an escort, who helps with tasks from filling a prescription to finding a dentist for a grandchild's loose orthodontic wire, according to Helena T. Koenig, GRANDTRAVEL president.

"Traditionally, grandparents served as mentors and teachers to their grandchildren," said Koenig. "They were a link to the family's past with its future. With this in mind, we offer ways for grandparents to strengthen ties with their grandchildren."

"I enjoy letting my children spend time with my parents because they learn so much history from them," said Donna Shaeffer, mother of Laci Shaeffer, 11, and Nikki Pomeroy, 24. "Plus, it gives them a chance to show respect for their elders."

Shaeffer's parents, Leona and Bob Duvall of Westminster, have found that over the years, some of their most enjoyable trips with their grandchildren involved Bob Duvall's favorite hobby, trap shooting.

They have taken the girls to beaches, nature museums and the mountains. But the girls enjoy watching trap shoots, too.

"They are good company," said Leona Duvall. "It doesn't matter if it is a day trip, an overnight trip or a weeklong trip. They are the ones who get tired first."

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