The grandparent travel grant

Treat your grandkids to the ultimate gift: a trip of a lifetime (with you!) is something they'll remember forever

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An idea emerged from our Travel with Grandparents Group: Grandchildren applying to their grandparents for a travel grant, for the purpose of a shared trip. The concept gives children the opportunity to choose where they want to go, do research on their chosen destination, and write a proposal as to why they want to visit that specific place. We thought, What a terrific idea.

We looked for a grandparent who likes to travel, loves his or her grandkids, and knows how grants work — and we found her in St. Paul, Minn. Cecelia MacDonald, a grandmother of 12, is grant manager for Century College’s Continuing Education Division. If you add up the ages of her grandkids (from 19 years to 9 months), plus the five years she has written and managed grants, you could say she has more than 147 years of experience in the subject. Just as important, she has a sense of humor about the process as well as the results, knowing that the journey can be as important as the destination.

The foundation

The first step, MacDonald says, is to name your travel fund. “Have fun with this,” she says. Call it “The Nonny and Boppa Foundation,” she suggests, “or create an acronym like TRIP, for Travel Relief for Intergenerational Partners.”

Next, set some criteria for the trip. Is the goal visiting an ancestral homestead or fulfilling the child’s greatest wish? Is it to be a road trip close to home or an overseas adventure? Do you want the kids to learn about managing a budget or taking great photographs? Is it all about bonding time and fun, or do you want them to become better global citizens?

Another important consideration: how much you’re willing to spend. Make sure, MacDonald suggests, that grandkids realize “you are not a bottomless well.” Also, do you expect the kids to earn some of the money for the trip on their own, or find “funding partners” like their parents?

The grant process

Just applying for a grant has its benefits. Professional grant writers need to have organizational abilities, research skills, innovation, and patience, as well as a love for the power of words. The application process you establish may help grandkids hone these skills, with the ultimate reward of traveling with you.

The ages and skill sets of your grandchildren may help determine the form of their proposals. Maybe they’d rather produce a skit or a PowerPoint presentation than a written document. “Just about anything except whining or begging” could work, MacDonald suggests.

Grandma Cece, as MacDonald is known to her family, urges kids to be creative when applying to grandparents for a travel grant. For inspiration she advises youngsters to “use a quote you remember from your grandparents’ wise sayings.” Grandchildren, she suggests, should emphasize not only how they can benefit from the trip, but also how they can assist their fellow travelers, by pointing out, for example, that they can help carry a grandparent’s suitcases.

As in the real world of grant proposals, including letters of support could help an applicant’s cause. Grandkids may enlist friends to sign a petition, MacDonald says. “The kids could really wow you with what they come up with,” she says, “and it’s a pleasure as a grandparent to see the kids learning skills and getting really engaged before a trip.”

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