CHEVY CHASE, Md. -- Travelers who shy away from visiting Spain because of perceived problems with a language barrier might have interpreters right under their noses: their grandchildren.

Such is the logic of Helena Koenig, founder and owner of Grandtravel here, explaining why the company has just added Spain to its roster of European offerings.

After all, many children learn Spanish in school, according to Koenig, whose company specializes in tours for grandparents and grandchildren.

"We've had many people ask us for Spain," she said.

"It's such a wonderful destination, and if the grandchildren are able to say a few words in Spanish, so much the better."

Another attraction is Spain's history, which boasts icons that every schoolchild would know, such as Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand and Isabella.

"The children also are very familiar with Spain's great artists, such as Picasso, Miro and Goya," she said.

"They have all seen the more famous paintings in their textbooks."

Although the tour does include such cultural staples as the Prado Museum in Madrid and the Alhambra in Granada, Koenig has not forgotten that grandchildren are first and foremost children.

"All of our trips have built-in activities because just looking at scenery is not something children can appreciate," Koenig said.

"They need to go on a ride or get on a horse to really have fun."

The Spain tour includes a donkey ride in the village of Mijas, which looks out over the Mediterranean; a cable car ride from Barcelona's port to the mountain fortress of Montjuich, and a horse-drawn carriage ride in Seville.

"If there is one thing I would like to convince people of it is that we are not dealing with the stereotypical feeble grandparents," said Koenig, who is a member of the grandparent club herself.

"Our clients are in the best stage of their lives, and, as such, are great role models for their grandchildren."

"Of course, there isn't Level-Five rafting or anything like that, but the activities are suitable for anyone in average shape," she said.

Koenig added that none of the activities are mandatory, so any grandparent who wants to stay at the hotel or go shopping can do so, and the child still can enjoy the activity.

"I do want to stress that this is not a babysitting service, however," Koenig said.

"We encourage our clients to come with the grandchildren and share the moment. That's what it is all about."

In addition to the rides, participants will see a Spanish guitar being made and attend a flamenco dancing performance.

An advantage that Grandtravel programs has over independent transgenerational outings, according to Koenig, is that both age groups have peers with whom to share the fun.

In other words, family quality time is important but kids also need to be with other kids.

The configuration of the programs, which are divided into age groups by departure dates, provides that level of companionship.

Grandtravel boasts a high repeat rate, Koenig said, for the simple reason that most grandparents have more than one grandchild.

"If Grandma and Grandpa have a good time this year, they will take the next child next year," she said.

"We have some tours made up solely of former Grandtravelers. If agents make that sale the first time, it never ends."

And because the trips are upscale and inclusive, the commissions are significant, she said.

"The only thing we don't include in the European vacations is lunch because over there it tends to be an hourslong affair, and American children don't adapt well to that," Koenig said.

Instead, the tours include daily full American breakfasts, snacks, stops at midday for independent fast food refueling and large dinners.

"Any travel agent whose eyes aren't open to this market is behind the times," Koenig said.

"The market is growing tremendously. We have tours for next summer that are already sold out."

The company offers interested agents flyers that they can personalize and use for direct- mail marketing.

For additional information, call Grandtravel at (800) 247-7651 or (301) 986-0790.

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