Want To Take A Meaningful Trip? Try 'Gramping' For Your Next Vacation.

Even decades later, grandchildren and grandparents remember their beloved
Even decades later, grandchildren and grandparents remember their beloved "gramping" trips. Ali Abouzalam and Martha Webb (above) in Belize on their shared vacation. Illustration: Jianan Liu/HuffPost; Photos: Ali Abouzalam and Getty Images

Two summers ago, Ali Abouzalam invited his grandmother Martha Webb to vacation with him in Belize. Abouzalam, who is an MMA fighter based in St. Petersburg, Florida, said Webb, his “abuelita,” was his “number one biggest fan” growing up.

Taking her on a trip was always a goal in the back of his mind, but he was spurred to action after his grandmother’s health scare with a stroke.

“I was like, man, I need to stop talking about it and start being about it,” he said. Abouzalam “put some money aside and made it happen,” he said. The pair initially discussed Europe but decided on Belize because it was more accessible for Webb. Webb, who is from Mexico and lives in San Antonio, Texas, had never been to the Central American country and was curious.

“We had a lot of fun,” Webb said about the whole trip. “It was a dream of his to take me on a vacation.”

In Belize, they ate at good restaurants, saw wild monkeys and visited Caye Caulker island by boat. Abouzalam climbed pyramids while Webb, who uses a walker, watched from the ground. Abouzalam got a golf cart and a wheelchair to help her get around.

Webb said her favorite memories were the meals they shared, including ice cream and a delicious marrow soup that reminded her of Mexico. “He asked me about my childhood and my favorite memories. There were many things that he asked me, and I answered everything he asked.”

The pair relished this special trip ― a type of travel known as “gramping.” Also called “skip-generation travel,” gramping is a vacation that just includes grandparents and grandchildren. Without parents, significant others or other friends, the trip can be a rare time for two generations to bond.

And it’s on the rise. In the 2023 U.S. Family Travel Association survey of 2,100 grandparents, 20% said they had gone on a skip-generation trip in the past three years, and 1 in 4 said they are likely to take one in the next three years. Trips to museums and cultural attractions were the most common kind of vacation for a grandparent and grandchild, and the trips were usually done with just one grandkid at a time.

Even decades later, the memories are the gift you get to keep.

Elizabeth McInerney still remembers when her grandmother Colette Mitchell took her to Paris on her 16th birthday to show McInerney where she was from before she’d escaped the city during the Holocaust. Mitchell had taken her other grandchildren on similar trips, but this 2004 trip was the first time she and McInerney had spent extended time together alone.

“I was really excited because it was kind of a rite of passage with my cousins, but also nervous because my parents weren’t going to be there,” McInerney recalled.

McInerney, who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, had grown up seeing her grandmother in “caretaker mode,” a woman with seven kids and 12 grandchildren. On the trip, McInerney got to see her grandmother in her curious, outgoing “travel mode.”

“The one thing that she said is: Talk to everyone. You never know when you’re going to meet your next best friend,” McInerney said.

During their vacation, Mitchell purposefully had them eat meals with different people. She spoke French to get around. “I got to see where she lived in Paris, I got to see where her parents worked in Paris, I got to see where she went to school,” McInerney recalled.

McInerney said her grandmother is now 96 and her “memories are declining,” which makes the 10-day trip a treasured memory. It was the first and only vacation they took with just each other, and it fostered a love of travel that McInerney still has today. “My grandmother’s the reason I’m an interesting person, like she’s brought me to museums, plays, operas, like everything.”

McInerney said her grandmother is not a “warm and cozy” grandparent, and “I feel like her sharing this [vacation] with me, even though she probably didn’t say ‘I love you’ one time on the trip, was her ultimate show of love for me.”

Elizabeth McInerney with her grandmother Colette Mitchell at Claude Monet's house in Giverny, France, in 2004.
Elizabeth McInerney with her grandmother Colette Mitchell at Claude Monet's house in Giverny, France, in 2004. Courtesy Elizabeth McInerney; Getty Images

You do not need to book a flight to have a gramping trip, either.

When Krystal L. Clemons was a kid in the 1990s, she and her brother took RV trips with her grandparents Raleigh and Velma Freeman, from the Hampton Roads region of Virginia to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. On the weekend before school started, they would all visit the amusement park Dutch Wonderland and watch plays at Sight & Sound Theatres. The Freemans would also buy Clemons and her brother back-to-school clothes, shoes and backpacks at outlet stores on Lancaster County visits.

Even before the trip started, Clemons said her grandparents involved her and her brother in the planning of the long drive.

“They would go to the local AAA office, get maps, come back to the house,” Clemons recalled. “We’d get a highlighter or marker, and literally mark the routes that they were going to take. And they would sit my brother and I down and show us. So that’s how my brother and I can actually read maps now.”

On the drive there, Clemons would sometimes sit between them at the front of the RV. “Sometimes they would talk to me. But other times it was like they were just having their own conversations,” she explained. “I would just watch and observe.”

Clemons remembered one bantering argument in which her grandmother told her grandfather, “We’re not going to make it to 50 years [of marriage]. My grandfather said, ‘We don’t have to make it another 15 minutes,’” which caused  Clemons to start laughing hard, and in turn, so did her grandparents.

“I learned in that moment, like in marriage, you don’t have to take everything so serious,” Clemons said.

The summer road trips were just one of many outings Clemons had with just her grandparents, which included a cross-country drive from Virginia to Los Angeles: “They loved it, there was no twisting their arm to say, ‘Hey, can you take the kid?’” Clemons said.

Clemons’ grandfather died when she was 18, and, in her 20s and 30s, Clemons said she would still choose to vacation with her grandmother to places like Disney World: “Because of the trips as a kid, I was like, ‘I want to go to this place, I want to go with Grandma.’”

Krystal Clemons remembers traveling with her grandparents Raleigh and Velma Freeman to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County in the summer.
Krystal Clemons remembers traveling with her grandparents Raleigh and Velma Freeman to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County in the summer. Getty Images; Courtesy Krystal Clemons

How to plan your own ‘gramping’ trip with your family.

A gramping trip can be special, no matter where you go or what you do, but there are ways to make it a more positive experience with lasting memories for everyone.

If you’re a grandparent...

You’re likely taking the lead with planning the vacation, especially if the grandchild is young. In the Family Travel Association survey, 3 in 4 grandparents said that they planned and organized their gramping travel.

Alicia Velez, a licensed clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York, recommended consulting a child’s parent on the age-appropriate location of the vacation and the types of activities the child can enjoy and feel competent and mastery from.

And if the grandchild is a teen, Velez suggested going directly to the source, asking the teen for help planning the vacation, so it can help “facilitate the self-expression of the teen.”

Also, if an adult grandchild offers to take you on a trip, take them up on that offer. It can be a special opportunity for quality time that you may not get on a group family trip, Webb noted.

If you’re a grandchild...

Ask them questions about their life. Velez said these kind of trips can be an opportunity for grandparents to impart life lessons, help grandchildren reclaim their heritage and cement family legacies. As a grandchild, your gift is to listen to what you may learn.

“You’ll be surprised that a lot of the same questions, doubts or conundrums you may have, they have grappled with, too,” Velez said. “Whether you’re a grandparent or grandchild, we are all searching for connection, the opportunity to be seen, to be heard and to be loved. Going on a trip together is a great opportunity to make this happen.”

Abouzalam said he appreciates how he got to go a little bit deeper with his grandmother over dinners. “Having her reflect on her entire life and share that with me was pretty powerful,” he said.

And leave the attitude at home and stay present to what’s in front of you during the trip. As teens, “it’s easy for kids at that age to be nervous to travel with them, or to be too cool to do it or think their friends are going to make fun of them or something,” McInerney said. “But take the opportunity to get to know your grandparents as well as possible.”

“When we’re children, we don’t appreciate the moment. But now, looking back on it, I definitely appreciate it,” Clemons said. She recalled visiting Lancaster County last December for the first time since her grandmother had died. “I would always bring her back some cinnamon raisin bread [from Kitchen Kettle Village], that was like her favorite,” Clemons said. “Not being able to do that anymore was really jarring.”

Do record your memories. “I wish I had pictures. Because we didn’t really take pictures,” Clemons said of her trips with her late paternal grandparents. “Get video if you can.”

And be patient. “They move slower. You may not be able to do as many things, move as quickly, but there’s a lot of beauty in slowing down,” Abouzalam said.

Clemons still remembers her grandparents’ many fundamental lessons, which included teaching her how to tie shoes, ride a bike and how to drive. “It wasn’t just the trips, but just everyday life. I learned a lot from them,” Clemons said.

If you’re an adult who has a living grandparent, there is still time to do your own gramping trip. Don’t take the time you have for granted.

“It’s definitely one of those things that you will never regret,” but you might regret meaning to but not doing it. “If you have the means...absolutely just do it,” Abouzalam said. “I’ll never think about that money [to pay for the Belize trip] again. But I’ll always have this memory with my grandmother forever.”