Years ago, I met a rather formidable older French woman who told me, in the course of our conversation, that she had offered all her grandchildren a trip away of their own choice, when they reached age 13.
She had five or six grandchildren, and they had all chosen very different places in France, other countries in Europe and beyond. One boy, to her disappointment, had chosen Disney World, but she had dutifully fulfilled her offer.
I always thought that was a very good thing to do. A chance to do something together and to really get to know each grandchild in turn.
I thought of her this week when I took my own grandson, age 12, to Paris for five days. We live in London, so this is not a difficult trip (two plus hours by Eurostar), but it is a fun one.
I have been to Paris many times for many reasons, but it is a long time since I have been a real tourist there, doing basic tourist activities.
And that is what we did.
We went to the Eiffel Tower, although due to pressures of time, we did not go up. We talked about going back another day to do so, but in the end we didn’t. He was, nonetheless, delighted to see it close up.
He wanted to see Notre Dame, as he remembered watching it on his father’s phone the day it was on fire. We duly went there and walked around. It is not open yet, but you can see a lot of work being done. Another enjoyable outing.
I urged him to try the bateau mouche, the famous boat ride on the Seine, both because it is a nice thing to do and because it would enable me to sit down. It turned out to be great success. He took loads of photos.
And we walked around several areas of Paris, including Montmartre where there is a good view.
Like those of all tourists everywhere, our feet got very tired.
Being a tourist is not only about seeing famous sites. It is about exposing oneself to all sorts of new experiences.
We were staying in a friend’s flat, and my grandson was thrilled to have the daily duty of buying croissants from the local patisserie for our breakfast. I thought he might be shy about doing so, as he knew no French at all, but I taught him the few words he needed, and he coped very well.
It seemed like a good way of giving him a small sense of independence in doing something on his own in a foreign country. He clearly loved it, even though sometimes the shop assistant replied to his carefully learned words with a torrent of French he could not understand.
We also went to a French friend’s house for lunch. My grandson learned about the inevitable cheese course between the main meal and dessert. He also learned the pungent smell of Camembert, but we did not require him to taste it.
Travelling with another person and spending a number of days together, as we all know, can be intense and difficult. When the other person is a child, you have the added pressure of 24/7 responsibility for him or her, when you are not accustomed to this at all.
I was worried about this aspect of the trip but need not have been. I guess it just depends on the person, but he was as good a travelling companion as I could ask for. Keen to learn, not anxious, not demanding, and coping well with the minor problems that inevitably arose.
I told him so. A day later he said, “You’re a very good travelling companion, too, Granny.” It does melt your heart. Grandchildren have a way of doing this, as I have written elsewhere.
And best of all, in the course of just walking around or waiting for a bus, you chat about so many things. What you are seeing and what it makes you think about. Perhaps school or friends or general worries. Perhaps your own past experiences, where they are relevant or crop up in the conversation.
It is such a good way to get to know anyone.
I am reluctant to give advice to anyone, but if you are in any way able to take a trip with a grandchild, I highly recommend it. It doesn’t have to be a place like Paris – just somewhere they haven’t been to before and where you can make a bit of a fuss over them.
I think it is easiest one child at a time. You will have the wonderful pleasure of getting to know him or her so much better.
And they will get to know you better, too. I don’t know which is more important.
It will provide a memory for that child for the rest of his or her life, that trip he took with granny (or ‘grandma’ or whatever they call you) so long ago.
And, I suspect, it is an event that you, too, will remember for the rest of your life, with pleasure.
Have you ever travelled with a grandchild? Where did you go? What did you do? Would you recommend such a trip to others?
My 13yo granddaughter and I traveled to London and Paris in August. The rewards were wonderful. We had fun and bonded.
She was in excellent spirits by and large. In London we shared a room. I’m Paris we had adjoining (or family) rooms. It was good for both of us to have privacy although she wandered into my room a lot.
Toward the end of the trip, she said , Grandma, next let’s go to Italy. Or a Disney cruise. That’s when I knew our trip was a success.
I want to take my soon to be 12 year old grandson to the Monterrey Bay. He want to be a marine biologist. I have a crippled back after surgery and must now use a walker. I will find out if the trips are handicap accessable.
Thank you for this lovely story. Although I have no children (or grandchildren), your article reminded me or when my Grandma took me on a trip to the Catskill mountains, where we stayed in a resort and had lots of fun together in the mountains. I stayed in her apartment the night before we left, as we did so very early in the morning. She covered me with the coziest of blankets and I told her how soft it was. The next time she came over to my home, she brought the blanket with her and gave it to me. I felt so loved by the beautiful gestures of taking me on a trip alone, without my sisters, traveling with her on a bus to a resort, and especially the gift of the soft, cuddly blanket. My beautiful grandmother died when I was 12, and this memory brings me to bittersweet tears as I type this to share.
I do a Gami Trip with each of my 7 grandchildren (8 and older) each year. There are some set trips depending on age but by the 3rd year they get to choose their own destination. They also have the choice of a solo trip with Gami or a RV trip that includes Grampy. My oldest seemed to lose interest in HS when so had so many other activities but I did get another trip in right after she graduated HS. The next 2 are only 3 weeks apart so I take them together. The next one who’s 12 is now on her 5th trip. Included the 8 year old this year and the last 2 won’t be eligible for another 2 years. The youngest is a boy so I think that needs to be a Grampy Trip–we’ll see.
I try To take my grand daughter on a trip each summer. Sometimes a big trip like Alaska and sometimes it has been a road trip a few hours from her home. Because of time constraints with her going to college this year we didn’t get to do a trip. I realized how much the trips meant to her when she mentioned she missed not going this year. I missed it too. We will remedy that with a trip some time this fall or winter.