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The Christmas holidays are on the horizon. Maybe this is the year you swoop up the grandkids for a quick mini-vacation. While it’s great fun to get together with the entire family, there are times that a quieter, more intimate time with the grandkids is just the ticket and you’ll be giving their parents a mini-vacation too.

If you’re fortunate enough to have tons of money, you can just have your agent schedule a fantastic hotel, chateau or lodge and away you go. But if you’re like many grandparents, you might rather plan a simpler and less expensive time with the grandchildren, always remembering that children enjoy the simple things—a good meal, telling stories, making music together or taking a dip in a hotel pool.

Here are some ideas for a mini-vacation somewhere near you:

Day Trip to Snow

Depending on where you live, this could also be an overnighter. Bundle up the grandkids, take along all the necessary protective snow clothes and gear and enjoy a day in the white stuff. Maybe you’d like to treat the grands to a ski or snowboarding lesson, or spend several hours enjoying a sledding or inner tubing snowy time. Build an old-fashioned snowman or take a snowy trail hike. Be sure to add in some hot chocolate in a cozy, warm place. Snow brings out the kid in all of us.

Winter Beach Fun

Winter storms at the beach are fantastic events. Be prepared for the cold and the wind, but be sure to spend some time on or near the beach to take in the wild waves, the clouds, the spray and all the wonder of the ocean. Visit a nearby aquarium and study some of the ocean life. Eat at a seafood restaurant and try something new. Gather up some driftwood, shells or agates. If weather permits, build a beach fire and stay toasty warm while you roast hot dogs or make s’mores. Children will remember these special times together.

The Zoo in Winter

We most often visit zoos when the weather is fine, but the truth is the best weather for animal-watching is when it’s cooler and cloudy. A winter visit might afford you more up close and personal views of the animals. Many zoos add lights and festive activities to go along with the holidays. Another great animal visit choice is any local bird or animal sanctuaries which protect and house wild animals. Even the local animal shelter may be a fun visit for the grandchildren. Kids love to observe and interact with animals. If you ask questions, allow time for sketching pictures, and make the most of the resources provided by the zoo or sanctuary, you’ll provide your grandkids a time to treasure.

Hole up in a Hotel

Find an affordable hotel or other lodging site and just stay. Be sure there’s a heated indoor pool, provide board games, movies, story times, music and hunker down together for a fun time. You might make small excursions in the neighborhood for special meals or fun activities. If you live in the U.S., all Candlewood Hotels offer one free night’s stay when you stay with your grandkids. This offer is good over nine major holidays, so check ahead of time to cash in on it. Remember kids like to go bowling, play video games, visit libraries, take walks on nature trails. Staying somewhere away from home will make even mundane activities seem more special.

Local Attractions

Wherever you live there will be historical sites and other local attractions that your grandkids may not be familiar with. Perhaps you live near the birthplace of a person famous in history. Or maybe your area is rich in natural resources or agriculture. Visit some of the sites that pop up when you google your area. You may be surprised that you haven’t learned about these historical places yourself. Check out children’s museums, historical museums, art museums, local markets, festivals and the like. Most communities have more activities than you’ll be able to take in on any given day.


Search your local area for camps and retreat centers offering Grandcamps—those special camping times for grandparents and their grandchildren. The camp will go all out to make your time there memorable. They’ll keep everyone busy and well-fed and there will be time to bond with your grandchildren without having to come up with all the activities yourself.

The truth is, we love time with our grandkids and they enjoy those special visits whether you plan special fun events or not. Perhaps you’ll bake cookies together or make popcorn and watch a movie. Maybe you’ll play Monopoly or charades. Maybe Grandpa can tell some stories of when he was a boy or you can tell what school used to be like when you were a child. Enjoy your holiday mini-vacations with the grandkids.