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The rise of skip generation holidays

Rachel Carlyle / 23 July 2019

The big travel trend is the skip-gen holiday – AKA grandparents taking the grandchildren away without their parents – so what's the appeal?

Grandpa, grandma and two grandchildren playing on a beach
Holidaying with your grandchildren is becoming more popular, and has a host of benefits

Forget beach yoga and Insta-holidays (choosing your destination based on Instagram appeal). The big travel trend for 2019 is the skip-gen holiday.

We’ve found lots of you are already doing it. In one of our latest Populus polls1, one in five Saga readers have already taken their grandchildren away, and another 11% are considering it.

Skip-gen holidays – the benefits

A skip-gen holiday has benefits for all three generations, says psychologist Dr Kairen Cullen, and its magic is derived from the unique relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. As the American historian Lewis Mumford noted in 1931: ‘Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers’.

For grandchildren, the holiday can bring a sense of identity and belonging through shared stories, a greater empathy and patience, and an appreciation of the simpler things in life. ‘I remember the days spent with my maternal grandmother learning simple home skills such as foraging, cooking and gardening, because it was done in a very special and measured way,’ says Dr Cullen.

Keep your skip-gen holiday simple

That’s why a skip-gen holiday doesn’t need bells and whistles, she says. ‘It’s the time spent together doing ordinary things that children remember.’ According to our poll, you agree. UK holidays were the preferred option for skip-genners, and visiting historical sites and museums were the most popular activities.

Grandparents can benefit, too. Some research suggests looking after grandchildren for the day can boost cognitive powers and act as an anti-depressive. ‘There are a lot of benefits for the brain of doing something new and getting out of your comfort zone,’ says psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, author of Play.

And the Saga Populus research found four in five grandparents say holidaying with their grandchildren helps keep them active, and seven in ten grandparents believe holidays with their grandchildren improve their relationships. 

Free travel insurance for grandchildren from Saga

Saga are offering grandparents free travel insurance for grandchildren if they’re travelling together in 2019*. Call 0800 068 8558 to find out more

*Terms and conditions: The policy must be purchased before 31 October 2019 for travel within the next 12 months. The offer is only available exclusively through the Saga contact centre. It is not available online. Eligible for grandchildren aged under 16. Grandchildren must not have any medical conditions.Maximum of 4 Grandchildren can be added per policy. We reserve the right to remove the offer at any time.

How to keep up with the grandchildren

Of course, there are potential pitfalls. Dealing with the ‘energy gap’ is one. One survey showed a toddler’s daily antics burn the equivalent energy of an adult running a marathon. Pacing the day is key – schedule afternoon board games, reading or TV.

Pick your destination carefully, advise Jack and Jill Cowen, from Richmond, North Yorkshire, who took their two granddaughters, then aged ten and seven, on a two-week caravan holiday to Dorset. ‘Don’t go too far off the beaten track, so there’s plenty to do,’ says Jack. ‘Be prepared for extra exercise. We aren’t sedentary people but had to up our game to keep up with the children.’

But whose rules did they go by? ‘Ours. The girls had to ask to leave the table at mealtimes, which they don’t normally do. But it became normal for them within a day.’

Put the grandparents in charge

Parents should step back and let grandparents lead, says Dr Gummer. ‘Grandparents are likely to be stricter with table manners and more relaxed about having chips for tea. So unless there’s an absolute no-no for parents (check these in advance), it’s the grandparents’ call.’

Before you go, check the children’s habits and likes, especially at bedtime: do they have a nightlight? Door open or closed? The younger the child, the more you need a parental instruction manual. With older, primary-aged children, you can wing it more.

Those who have done it advise taking photocopies of the parents’ passports, plus a letter from them saying you have permission to travel with the children, especially if you have different surnames. But most of all, enjoy your time together.

‘Life is so much faster these days, so slowing down, collecting and painting pebbles and going crabbing was something they loved,’ says Jack Cowen. ‘Even though it was seven years ago, the girls said recently it was the best holiday they’d ever had.’

1Populus interviewed 12,308 UK adults between 22nd and 28th January 2019 on behalf of Saga. All findings are independent and nationally representative

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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