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Grandma's more fun now abroad with the grandkids

School will be out soon and most students are looking forward to a fun-filled summer. For some of the luckiest, this may mean taking a trip, perhaps to some exotic destination, with a grandparent or two.

''Grandtripping" is a growing phenomenon, reflecting the fact that seniors today are healthier, wealthier, and far more traveled than previous generations. According to one survey, 20 percent of US grandparents have traveled at least once with their grandchildren and such intergenerational trips now constitute about 15 percent of all travel with children.

''We do a lot of grandparent trips," says Jim Kackley, general manager of Thompson Family Adventures (, a Watertown-based tour company specializing in family travel. More often than not, according to Kackley, the grandparent is a grandmother.

''Sometimes, they're working through their grandchildren," he says, ''taking one or two at a time until they've traveled with all of them."

His company's most popular grandparent trips, Kackley says, are to Costa Rica, Tanzania, the Galapagos, and China.

''The age limits for children are 6 to 16 for most trips," he says, ''but because of the distance involved for China, kids have to be at least 10 years old."

A nine-day ''Multi-Sport Adventure" to Costa Rica, which includes a rafting trip and visits to both rain and mountain cloud forests starts at $2,890, not including air fare, for adults and $2,590 for children under 12. The 15-day China trip includes visits to the famous ''Terra Cotta Army" of Xi'an and the Yangtse gorges and is priced from $3,790 for adults and $3,490 for children.

Not so long go, going somewhere with your grandparents probably meant a day at the zoo. Helena Koenig, president and founder of Grandtravel (, the oldest and largest company specializing exclusively in grandparent travel, started in 1986 with that formula as a model: The company's first trip was a one-day outing to a Baltimore railroad museum.

Grandtravel soon widened its horizons and now offers deluxe escorted tours to destinations in this country and around the world, including Western Europe, Australia, China, Russia, and Kenya.

Itineraries are designed to appeal to both generations. For instance, a 12-day tour called ''Scotland & England: Castles, Highlands, and Heather" includes visits to four castles (one with a ghost), Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard, and an excursion into the Scottish Highlands in search of red deer and golden eagles. The price, which does not include air fare, is $7,690 for adults and children 12-17, and $7,590 for children under 12.

Koenig, who has traveled extensively with her own nine grandchildren, says the trips are meant to foster the bond between grandparents and grandchildren exclusively, which means no parents getting in the way.

''We take no parents, period," she says. ''It's a law."

Elderhostel (, best known for its educational travel programs for adults 50 and older, also has an extensive intergenerational program that includes a number of trips just for grandparents and grandchildren.

One such program, July 10-15, explores the White Mountains of New Hampshire using the Appalachian Mountain Club's Zeeland Falls hut as a base. Accommodation is in double occupancy rooms with shared bath. The package includes all meals, which are served family style. Only grandchildren or ''grandfriends" ages 9 to 11 may participate and only one child per adult. The activity level is appropriate for both young children and active older adults. The cost is $548 per person.

Another five-night Elderhostel program, this one at Great Camp Sagamore, a National Historic Landmark in the heart of the Adirondacks in upstate New York, focuses on the special relationship between grandmothers and their granddaughters with activities that foster the bond, such as music, hand crafts, and special outdoor activities. There are actually two versions of the program, one beginning July 3 tailored to granddaughters ages 6-11 and another starting July 17 for those 9-14. Meals are served buffet style in the camp's wood-paneled dining hall overlooking Raquette Lake. Cost is $575 per person.

Most people associate the Sierra Club with fairly strenuous hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities, but this summer the club is offering two five-day, low-impact trips July 17-22 and July 31-Aug.5 just for grandparents and grandkids. Both are to Clair Tappaan Lodge in Tahoe National Forest in California. Activities include hiking portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, swimming in mountain lakes, and exploring passes used by emigrant wagon trains in the 19th century.

Accommodations are bunk beds in rooms with shared baths. In the Sierra Club tradition, trip members help with daily kitchen and housekeeping chores and also fix their own brown bag lunches to take with them on the day's activities. The lodge's cooks prepare lunch and dinner.

Trips are limited to 30 people, and children must be at least 6 years old. Adults are $445, children $345.

Contact William A. Davis, a freelance writer in Cambridge, at His column on senior travel appears the first Sunday of the month.

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