For kids, a vacation with a grandparent (and without the kid’s parents) can be a wonderful multigenerational bonding opportunity. Grandparents and grandkids traveling together, without the middle generation, is a growing trend known as skip-gen travel. And while you don’t need to travel far from home or spend a fortune to enjoy popular skip-gen destinations that are fun for all ages, there are definitely some occasions when a truly bucket-list trip is in order.
If you’re looking for the ultimate grandparent-grandkid vacation, consider these trip ideas. From Yellowstone to Venice, here are the best places to bring the grandkids when you want to make vacation memories to last a lifetime.
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1. A Fairytale Vacation in Venice, Italy
With its gondolas and carnival masks, Venice may look like a dream, but traveling there can easily be a reality for grandparents and grandkids. One of the most surprisingly manageable family vacation spots in Europe, Venice was famously built on canals—and its aquatic public transportation system provides a truly scenic perch to soak in the city’s rich scenery and history.
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Fun grandparent-grandkid activities in Venice include catching a vaporetto (water bus) to Murano and watching the molten glass transformed into hand-blown glass objects; making your own mask at a family workshop at Ca’Macana; and of course nibbling on Venetian finger food, called Cicchetti, and treating yourselves to a refreshing gelato. With a water entrance and breathtaking views, Splendid Venice treats guests like royalty.
2. Fun in the Sun in Cancun, Mexico
Cancun’s sand and sea draw families like a magnet. One of the most popular family vacation spots in Mexico, it’s just a few minutes from the international airport, so you can be on the beach soon after you’ve cleared customs. The role of los abuelos (grandparents) is deeply respected in Mexican culture, so expect locals to warmly welcome your family.
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The sandy beaches are packed with hotels, making for a fun-in-the-sun vibe for grandkids and grandparents alike. If you can pull yourselves away from the party, the Maya Museum is an excellent way to deepen your understanding of the Mayan community. Stay at Royal Uno Resort and Spa, an all-inclusive beachfront resort with numerous swimming pools, including one with a waterpark. A supervised kid’s club and bedtime-friendly entertainment provide a needed break for grandparents.
3. Dive Into History in Washington, D.C.
A visit to Washington, D.C., is a great way to get your grandkids excited about American history. Explore the city’s famous monuments on a Segway tour, feast at Ben’s Chili Bowl (where messy chili dogs have been served since 1958), and watch giant pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, a gift from China to commemorate President Nixon’s seminal state visit in 1972.
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Time spent at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture can be a springboard for important conversations. Complex issues, from slavery to Black Lives Matter, are examined. Exhibits that highlight trailblazers like Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old Black child who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, feel deeply personal. Stay at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC in Penn Quarter, which is within walking distance of major attractions for mobile seniors.
4. Nature’s Finest in Yellowstone National Park
Sharing nature’s grandeur with your grandchildren never goes out of fashion, and Yellowstone National Park is a place where nature is truly at its finest. America’s first national park touches three states, presenting a rich and varied landscape of hydrothermal and geological features, including Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It’s also home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, with bison, moose, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves.
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For grandparents and grandchildren traveling together, Lake Yellowstone Hotel‘s stately white columns and live evening piano music add a touch of yesteryear grace to the vacation experience. No in-room televisions and limited Wi-Fi helps keep everyone’s screen time to a minimum.
5. Beach Vibes Near Disneyland in Huntington Beach, California
With endless sunshine and miles of sandy beach, Huntington Beach is a quintessential Southern California beach town. Active grandparents can join their grandkids in a family surf lesson, pedal bikes along the waterside path, or even charter a private boat in the calm waters of Huntington Harbour. Simple activities, like building sand castles and jumping waves, are an easy way to bond too. Let the kids play at the All-Inclusive Playground, designed to accommodate all learning styles and abilities.
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If Disneyland is in your plans, Huntington Beach is only 16 miles away, yet completely removed from the theme-park hustle. Stay at the well-located Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, which makes a car-free visit to Disneyland a breeze with a free seasonal shuttle.
6. Go Beyond the Theme Parks in Orlando, Florida
Beloved for its many theme parks and water parks, Orlando is one America’s most popular family vacation spots for good reason. But don’t mistake this kid-friendly Florida city for a one-trick pony; it’s home to an appealing array of active attractions that provide an elixir to the long lines and crowds found at Disney, Universal, and the other parks.
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Swing a club at Topgolf Orlando’s climate-controlled hitting bays. The Andretti Indoor Karting and Games has go-kart racing on a track with high-speed turns that will appeal to Evel Knievels of all ages. And all-inclusive Discovery Cove is a water-based day resort with opportunities for snorkeling and feeding stingrays. A complimentary shuttle to Disney and a swimming pool with a 75-foot water slide make the all-suite Caribe Royale Orlando a worthy base camp for grandparents and grandkids vacationing together.
7. Small Town, Big Thrills in Saratoga, New York
When it comes to vacationing with grandkids, particularly young children, bigger isn’t always better. Cities that are manageable-sized can hit the sweet spot. New York’s Saratoga is a small town with a big city cultural scene.
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The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is its artistic anchor. Kids 12 and under are admitted free to events on the lawn, for a low-stakes way to introduce them to live performances of prestigious companies like the New York City Ballet. It’s located in Saratoga Spa State Park, where hiking trails, tennis courts, and two vintage outdoor swimming pools add fresh-air fun. Bring a reusable bottle and sample mineral water from a variety of natural springs in the park and around town. Stay at Bluebird Spa City Motor Lodge for an iconic take on a vintage ’50s motor lodge vacation.
8. Chase Waterfalls in Hawaii
The Big Island’s Kohala Coast is a land of black lava fields, white sand beaches, and aquamarine waves so stunning that even hard-to-please teens will be awed. Spend an adventurous morning with the guides at Hawaii Forest and Trail and ramble in a four-wheel-drive, walk through a lush nature reserve, and swim under a cascading waterfall.
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Stay at Fairmont Orchid, where the sheltered beach is a sea turtle nesting spot. Borrow snorkel gear from the hotel and watch a rainbow assortment of tropical fish at play. Immersive experiences for kids and active seniors include hula lessons and flower lei workshops.