There’s not a family I can imagine that won’t appreciate tips for traveling with teens. From the whining about being bored, to the fractious nit-picking with siblings, to the general dragging their feet and looking glum getting on everyone else’s nerves – traveling teens can be difficult creatures. But we have to remember, one it’s their vacation too, and second, this is an exciting time in their life – so much is happening and the experience of being a teenager can be overwhelming. Putting them in new places, with strange and different cultures, away from their friends, PS4 and Facebook, just fuels the fire. Here’s some top tips for traveling with teens which means the whole family has an enjoyable vacation.
1. Involve Them in the Planning
One of the top tips for traveling with teens is all about heading them off at the pass when you’re on vacation and they’re complaining about your destination. If they had major input in the choice of destination, you have a bargaining chip. Don’t just let them have the final decision on destination – let other family members have their say. But, if you want to seemingly hand over “power” to your teen, ask that they research the destination and present to you why you should be going there. For one, it means you have the info you need for your destination, and for two, you can remind them of those reasons when they utter, “I’m bored” for the 300th time.
2. Treat Them like an Adult/Treat Them like a Teenager
No – they don’t know either! One minute they will be berating you for treating them like a kid, the next they’ll be seeking the comfort and succor only parents can give. The key is working out when it’s kid time and when it's adult time. If your teen wants to be a brat and stay in the hotel room listening to Ed Sheeran or One Direction all day, let them. Who’s missing out? Don’t punish the whole family and suffer tantrums or the silent treatment. If your teen meets some locals or vacationing friends and they want to spend some time with them – let them. Just set the ground rules. You can relax a few strictures because you’re on vacation but let your teen know this is the case and “normal” behavior will be resumed back home. Show your teen that you trust them, but that trust is often a privilege, not a right.
3. Give Them Space
This is not about leaving them to their own devices but recognizing their personal space needs. It is important to think about sleeping arrangements. Having a completely different set up to the one at home “because it’s only for 2 weeks dear, you’ll cope” doesn’t cut it. Your 15 year old daughter will not want to share a room with your 11 year old son if she is used to her own room at home. Another thing to consider is how things might change between the time of booking and time of going – teenagers have growth spurts! A pull out under bed cot in your hotel room might be right for Jimmy in January, but what if he grows 5 inches before you take your trip?
4. Don’t Force an Issue
As adults and parents, you know the huge benefits of travel and vacations. You can educate your teen as much as you like in these, but if your vacation coincides with an “I don’t care” phase in their life, go with the flow. Don’t continually bang on about how good the food is and if your precious one doesn’t want to try fried scorpion don’t try and make them. Be adventurous as you like, but also be conciliatory and find pizza places and hamburger joints. Don’t add hunger to the malaise of “I’m a teenager on vacation with my parents and I hate it”.
5. Be Travel Savvy
As well as knowing your tips for traveling with teens, you need to remember your general travel tips. Be organized and avoid as much hassle by having a well planned vacay. The last thing you want is to have hassles with luggage, hotels, transfers, and whatever else, if you’re also dealing with a difficult teen.
6. Don’t Embarrass Them
Parents have an unending capacity to embarrass their teenage kids. Everyone does it! It can also make you uptight and unable to relax if you feel you can’t let your hair down at the hotel disco, or the karaoke bar. But, don’t let fear of embarrassing your teen spoil your own vacation. Just pick your moments. This really depends on how much freedom you’re letting your teen have but for example, do you want to let your children see you down 2 jugs of sangria and dance on the tables? Essentially, don’t act like a teenager in front of yours.
7. Bonding Opportunity
This is a great opportunity to bond with your teen. A family vacation should be a positive experience and when you’re relaxed and stress free, you can allocate more time to affirming your relationship with your children (of any age). Like with other things mentioned here, don’t force things. Seek out things you can do together without making a big song and dance about it. Choose it because you think it is something you will both enjoy and if that means pushing your own boundaries and taking on some challenges, you can only win through doing them. Ok, so you never saw yourself whitewater rafting or learning how to boogie board, but doing it with your child can tap into some excitement seeking nerves you didn’t even know you had.
You might think you will never need these tips for traveling with teens and that your son/daughter would never turn into one of those sullen creatures you see other parents dealing with on vacation. The trouble is, you might just not know which teenager will turn up for your vacation. Be prepared! Have you ever suffered a family vacation with a difficult teen? How did you cope?