Traveling with the grandkids without their parents may seem like an overwhelming assignment. Amy Goyer, AARP home and family expert, checked in with us to provide the top five pointers for making sure you make the most of your trip.

1) PLAN AHEAD

One of the most important stages of any trip happens before it starts. More often than not, grandparents travel with grandchildren of varying ages. That’s why it’s important for grandparents to consider each grandchild’s particular life stage. Talk to the parents about the activities each child likes and develop a theme for the trip to accommodate their interests.

     Include some kind of physical activity and breaks for healthy eating in your plan, though we know this is also the time for some special treats. And be sure to get the kids on board and excited about the trip by involving them in the travel planning process.

2) INCLUDE PLACE-BASED ACTIVITIES

Plan activities that are specific to the place you are visiting. Each and every location celebrates its own character and has its own pockets of intrigue, personality and charm. Washington DC, for instance, is known for its museums so why not plan one or two days around museum excursions that offer a variety of content and things to do. Go west and walk across San Francisco’s legendary Golden Gate Bridge; visit the infamous Alcatraz Penitentiary.

 Large cities are also appealing because they offer shopping, entertainment, and activities for every generation.

Don’t forget that many young children don’t have the stamina for long day trips such as museum visits so it could be good to break some activities up into chunks, Goyer said.

3) FOCUS ON THEIR INTERESTS

While it’s natural to want to focus on your own hobbies, it’s more important to be realistic about how your interests align with theirs. Be mindful of a common tendency to only plan activities that reflect your pastimes.

     “One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to get too excited about sharing the things we like instead of putting the focus on what they (grandchildren) like,” Goyer said. “Too often that ends up being a huge disappointment for everyone … It’s important to put their interests first.”

4) BE PREPARED FOR DOWNTIME

Whether you’ll be traveling via plane, train, or automobile, plan for periods of downtime. While digital games are great, there is nothing wrong with getting back to the basics. Mad Libs, for example, are a good way to encourage conversation and creativity. Consider surprising them with a goodie bag of items: a classic Rubik’s cube, sketching pad with colored pencils, or a book. Nancy Kessler of Westchester’s MemoirsPlus recommends you bring an assortment of family photographs along; spend time telling the story behind them. Later, post them to a shared website for a digital family archive.

5) KEEP THE NEXT TRIP IN MIND

After you return home from your travels, plan time for you and your grandchildren to share some of the highlights of the trip. Ask them about their favorite activity, place, restaurant. What might you want to rethink for the next vacation?

Post-travel dialogue helps strengthen your bond and will make the next excursion that much more successful. Making a scrapbook of photographs and mementos is a great way to jumpstart the discussion. “Be sure to build excitement for the next time, the next trip,” ecourages Goyer.