Family vacations with teenagers can be a real fun adventure...and for once, I'm not being sarcastic. It doesn't have to be the deep sighing, eye rolling, back sassing nightmare. With a bit of cooperation and planning, everyone can have the time of their lives. Whether you're traveling with a new 13 year old or planning that last family vacation together before your child heads off to college, here are a few tips to keep in mind with traveling with teens...
1. Ask the right questions - Ask the right questions, at the right time, and you'll get the right answers. Be specific otherwise, the conversation will go round and round. "What do you want to do...I dunno what do YOU want to do?"...sound familiar?
This usually means unpluging everyone from cell phones and the internet. I've found it best to all go to a neutral location like out for pizza and then asking vacation planning questions when everyone is focused. Ask your teen to describe their perfect vacation day. Another approach would be to ask if they could learn any new skill, what would it be? Their ideas may be totally different from your idea of a perfect adventure or vacation. Do your best to get your teen invested in the family's vacation as best you can. Whether it's choosing the type of family vacation you'll take, your vacation destination or scheduling one day's worth of activities or sight seeing during your trip, get your teens invested and involved. The more cooperation you have, the less attitude you'll get.
2. Make a plan -Vacations just don't happen, they take planning. Get your teens involved in this process from the very beginning. Teens can text, search and network their way thru online research often far better than their parents. Use these talents to your family's advantage. Ask for their help when it comes to researching destinations, finding new restaurants, activities, whatever. You may need to incentivize this process with rewards but get them involved. Travel can be the great equalizer. If both parents and teens are visiting a new destination or participating in a new adventure for the first time, then the playing field is equal. Teens and parents can really get to discover one another as unique individuals as they travel together. This can be very empowering for teens if parents know how to use this opportunity to build growth and responsibility in their children.
3. Good Behavior - My two favorite family vacation quotes are even more important when it comes to teens.... "Parents can always take a vacation, but you can never take a vacation from parenting" and "Never assume anything..." Have a talk with your teen BEFORE you leave home. Give them concrete guidelines regarding what types of behaviors you expect from them while away from home. Set the rules and put them in writing if you have to, along with any consequences that may be necessary. Have an honest, open discussion with your teens about safety, driving, spending, curfews, drinking, sex and any other necessary topics. If you are traveling to a foreign country remember customs, laws, drinking ages, etc. may be different so do your homework and be an informed. Set a good example for your teens to follow so they can learn to be good, respectfully world travelers.
4. Staying connected -Teens are very social creatures. It's important for them to stay connected with friends and events back home. Having text, phone or internet access to friends while away can be a big issue for traveling teens. Parents may want to double check with their cell phone plans prior to departure to avoid any huge roaming bills. Parents and teens discussions regarding usage and behavior are better when they happen prior to departure instead of after the cell phone bill arrives (see tip number 3).
5. Connect with Other Teens - Try to stay at hotels and resorts that offer teen programs. This will increase the chance that you teen will have other teens to connect with. If you family plans to travel off season to take advantage of better rates, consider bringing one of your child's friends along for company.
6. Make it challenging -Teens love challenges and competition can make life more fun. My teens used to enjoy setting challenges whenever we traveled. Whether this meant trying new foods, creating trivia questions, first to be ready in the morning, who could stay up all night...the list goes on and on. Just another simple way of staying engaged with our travels.
7. Celebrate Your Teen -There are so many blended families with both teens and toddlers. This makes vacation planning even more challenging. Yes families need together time but teens often need alone time too. Consider taking a separate vacation with just your teen. Give them some time alone with you to just be themselves and do activities that just they enjoy. Whether it's a week or a day-cation, give them some alone time with their parents before they head off to be grown ups by themselves. You'll be glad you did!