Grandparents have been scooping up the little ones for brief vacations at least since we stopped having to work six days a week. But what was a travel trickle may be cresting toward a flood.
"Grandparents continue to grow as a leisure-travel market segment,'' stated the National Leisure Travel Monitor, the research report for the travel industry, last week.
"Nearly three in 10 have traveled with their grandchildren in the past 12 months . . . a significant increase from levels recorded last year.''
Rod Caborn, spokesman for the Ypartnership, author of the Travel Monitor, interprets the trend: "This is the first wave of the boomers, who now possess the time, money and grandchildren to turn what has been a grandtravel boomlet into a grandtravel tsunami.
"They are taking their grandkids, spoiling 'em rotten, then turning them back in.''
Ready to provide organized adventures, tour companies market trips focused on everything from biking and rafting to safaris and soft adventures out West.
Beyond the desire to create special memories at special locations, both young and old may be hoping just to negotiate another of life's mazes.
"I've noticed an increase'' in young people "taking vacations with their grandparents,'' says Carolyn Hallenbeck, a Clearwater licensed mental health counselor who has worked with teenagers for more than 20 years.
"Some of these families are spread out all over the country, and that's one of the reasons why (grandparents) do plan these specific experiences with the young folks — so they can have some one-on-one time with them.''
For the grandparents, "It could stem from a sense of loss in terms of not having had the time to spend this way with their own kids, (while) having the means now to do it with the grandkids . . .
"It would be an opportunity to explore the relationships with these kids — and without that layer of parenting there.''
And what might the youngsters be looking for?
"Sometimes there can be a little bit of family issues going on, you know?'' suggests Hallenbeck. "Especially if it's an out-of-town situation, it gives the kids an opportunity to find out who their grandparents really are.
“And for the grandparents, it's (an opportunity) to explore relationships with these young folks, which is so important these days — oh my gracious, yes — so important . . .''
But there is a less momentous aspect to these trips, especially for the children, she adds:
"To them, it's almost a nice relief to spend some time with somebody besides the nuclear family.
"And the nuclear family feels pretty much the same way, too,'' Hallenbeck adds, laughing. "It gives them a chance to breathe as well.''
Hallenbeck, 64, provides outpatient treatment, mostly for children 13 to 17, for BayCare Life Management, a division of Morton Plant Mease. Her patients are "regular kids in regular schools doing regular things and they hit a bump in the road.''
Her sessions "tend to give them a good kick-start on getting back into making the best choices for themselves.''
Hallenbeck, herself a grandmother, believes some of the patients hope being with grandparents can help them adjust to their home life.
"You (have) many of these blended families — oh, my gracious! Mom has her new family and Dad has his new family, and then there's six sets of grandparents.''
Hallenbeck laughed but turned serious as she continued:
"And these kids are kind of trying to sort out their allegiances here and there, and 'Where do I belong? Where do I belong?' That's a big question: 'Who am I and where do I belong?' ''
At the same time, "I think that's what these grandparents are reaching down for. They want the (youngsters) to have that bridge to where they came from, and many of these kids are anxious (and) they want that information because it helps make (them) complete.''
As for the travel experience, "That's the thing about these young folks, the adolescents: They're willing to reach out, they're willing to do what I call 'legitimate risks.'
"They'll put themselves out there a little bit, and actually make the older generation stretch a little bit, which is good, too.''
Robert N. Jenkins can be reached at (727) 893-8496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.