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Grandtravel is Grand for all Concerned

Grandtravel is becoming a hot trend in the travel business and why not? Parents, who are working double duty these days, do not receive the long, lingering summer vacations of yesteryear. But grandparents often have the time, the patience and the enthusiasm to take grandkids on traveling adventures. What's more, grandchildren will greatly benefit from some private time with their grandfathers and grandmothers and remember forever the almost conspiratorial shared experiences.

My own dad has taken three separate grandchildren to New York City (with their mothers along in case things got out of hand) to show them the city he loves. Not surprisingly for anyone who knows him, there was not a zoo or a toy store on his three-day itinerary itinerary. Instead, he raced them to the Guggenheim Museum at opening time to navigate the circular ramp (without the crowds) past the paintings, bargained for watches at the electronic discount stores on Fifth Avenue and introduced them to a magician friend, who showed them a few simple magic tricks. Yes, they did whiz up to the top of the Empire State Building. But once there, after quickly admiring the view, he and his 12-year-old grandson had their pictures taken to be affixed onto fake covers of Time and Sports Illustrated-a memorable souvenir indeed.

It doesn't really matter, however, where or how far away you go. A trip to a local fishing hole with an overnight in a tent can be as exciting to a five-year-old as a trip to the moon. For those grandparents leary about embarking on a first-time adventure, some organizations plan everything from the meals, transportation and activities to the grandkid's trip diary:

SIERRA CLUB OUTINGS: Some of the more than 300 outdoor adventure trips from the Sierra Club (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) are designed for grandchildren and grandkids. The "Lure of the Lakes" backpacking trip in California or their "Family Rafting Adventures" in Utah require minimum ages and perhaps some experience, but other outings offer more leisurely adventure for any age such as poking around in tidepools, hot-tubbing or picking wild blueberries in Maine. The Sierra trip to the San Juan Islands in northwest Washinton, July 12 to 18, particularly welcomes grandchildren with their grandparents for whale-watching, hiking and beach-combing. Cost for accommodation, meals and guided activities: $525 U.S. for adults, $410 U.S. for children.

One trip, called "Just for Grandparents and Grandchildren," features a week of picnics, hikes and fun in the forest at their ski-lodge type sleeping quarters in Tahoe National Forest, Aug 2 to 7. Cost: $395 U.S. for adults, $295 U.S. for kids. Call (415) 977-5522 or pick up a copy of the excellent Sierra magazine in the travel section at major newsstands. Web Site address: www.sierraclub.org/outings

ELDERHOSTEL: Last year, more than 18,000 Canadians participated in Elderhostel programs, some of which were devoted to grandparents age 50 and over and their grandkids. What about "Freckles and Pigtails" in Prince Edward Island for grandmothers/aunts and grandaughters/nieces ages 9 to 13? The unique Anne of Green Gables adventure, Aug. 16 to 22, costs $450. Or, a "Wilderness Adventure" for three generations (including grandkids ages 9 to 14) at the Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island? The $400 cost includes cedar chalet accommodation, healthy meals and an enlivening-sounding program of canoeing, ropes courses and flying through the trees on a zip-line. Find the current Elderhostel catalogue at the public library, write to ELDERHOSTEL Canada, 4 Cataraqui St., Kingston, ON K7K 1Z7 for upcoming programs, e-mail ecclaire@elderhostel.org or visit the Web Site elderhostel.org for a full listing of their well-planned scheduled activities.

GRANDTRAVEL: Grandmother Helena Koenig started her fun-filled, teacher-escorted trips 12 years ago. Today, she takes hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren on luxury motorcoach tours all over the world. Surrogate grandpeople, such as aunts, uncles and friends, can also join forays to the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, trips to Australia's Great Barrier Reef with a marine biologist or visits to a Tai Chi master in Beijing, China. The trips, starting at about $ 2995 US for 10 days of American canyons, are pricey but Koenig offers more than a bus tour. Escorts come equipped with games, puzzles and arts and crafts; each session includes peer activities for both groups; itineraries are designed to stimulate curiosity and to encourage exploration and discovery. Koenig was a grandtraveler herself last summer when she took her own somewhat anxious grandaughter to Paris and London. The outcome? She hopes that all her clients have as much fun as they did. For kids 7 to 17. Call 1-800-247-7651 or visit www.grandtrvl.com

If grandparents would like to embark on their own adventure, consult "Have Grandchild, Will Travel," by Virginia Smith Spurlock (Pilot Books) $9.95 US. To order the book, call 516-477-1094. Then grab the nearest grandchild and head for a memorable summer adventure.





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