Traveling with teens and tweens can present challenges, but it can also be loads of fun and great way to bond as a family. There are lots of ways to help make traveling with teens a lot less stressful. As the mom of a 15-year old, I’ve learned some tricks and tips! Here are 10 tips to help make your trip a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone in your family.
1. Include teens in the planning process. It’s a family vacation, so why not include the whole family when it comes to making the plans? Teens have definite likes and dislikes. If you engage them from the start of the vacation planning process – listen to their ideas, have them help research destinations and activities – they will feel empowered and get excited about the trip.
You can also enlist their help in planning the itinerary once you know where you are going. If they have a favorite type of food, let them research local restaurants. Have them look at the websites for the hotels you are considering, and let them give input on which one looks the best. The more your teen is involved in the planning process, the more vested they will be in having a good time on the trip!
2. Consider letting them bring a friend. If your teen is an only child or has siblings that are not close in age, consider allowing him to invite a friend! This will give your teen a buddy to talk and have fun with, and take the pressure off you (as the parents) being the only source of company for your teen while on vacation.
3. Visit a place they’ve read about. History comes alive when you visit the place something happened, and the same thing goes for literature. Kids read a lot of books in middle and high school. If you go to a place they’ve read about, that will bring a whole new appreciation for the book to your teen.
4. Make sure they get some free time. Traveling with teens is all about enjoying time together as a family, but too much of a good thing can get old for teens who are used to hanging with their friends. Make sure they have a little free time worked into every day so they can do their own thing. Whether it is going to the hotel gym on their own or having some downtime in the hotel room to text with friends or play games online, a little free time will go far.
5. Respect their privacy. Your kid may have had no problem running around a hotel room naked when they were little, but teenagers embarrass easily and are very private. Give them the respect they need. Don’t try to go into the bathroom to brush your teeth while they’re in the shower, and don’t say things that might make them self-conscious. In fact, the biggest favor you can do for a teen is leave the room for half an hour and let them take care of their business in peace!
6. Do a good deed on vacation. Vacations are a good opportunity to give back. Doing good for others is an awesome feeling, and a great value to instill upon your children. For this reason, I am a huge fan of volunteer vacations! But you don’t always have to plan your entire trip around volunteering; sometimes just a day or one activity on your itinerary can make a huge difference. If your goal is to leave a positive impact while setting out on new adventures, find a way to volunteer while you’re on your trip. It can be as simple as going to an animal sanctuary and leaving a small donation or participating in a charity event while visiting a new city.
7. Plan on some active activities. Even if your idea of a great vacation is lying on the beach 24/7, teens have energy to burn. Make sure you include some activities that will help everyone stay active and healthy on your vacation. Now, does that mean you have to go zip lining through the jungle or propel down a mountain? No, of course not! Active can mean taking a simple hike, renting bikes, or participating in some water sports at a nearby beach.
8. Let them pick the playlist. If your teen is into music, put them in charge of the road trip playlist. Or at least let them pick the radio station. My son and I made the five-hour drive to Vegas not too long ago and letting him stream the music he loved was actually a cool, unexpected bonding experience on the long trip. (Who knew he liked so many of the ’80s metal bands I listened to in high school?!)
9. Choose a hotel with free breakfast. Teens like to eat—a lot! When you’re away from home relying on eating out for every meal, the cost of food can add up quickly! Do your budget a favor and book a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast. Even if it’s just fruit and some waffles, filling up in the morning until lunchtime will save you a ton of money in the long run.
10. Be flexible. My final and possibly most important tip is to be flexible! As anyone with a teen likely knows, they can be a moody bunch. Don’t schedule out every minute of every day when you are traveling with teens. If you keep your plans flexible, everyone in your family will have a good time.
Time goes by quickly and your teens will soon be adults. You’ll always be a family, but family vacations may look very different in the future. Enjoy the time you have together and be flexible and understanding to make sure the memories you’re making will be good ones for everyone!