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The Worst Mistakes Parents Make When Traveling with Teens

Written by Chris Osburn

This blog post was updated on August 30, 2023.

Have you recently suffered from TWT syndrome? Traveling with Teens can be tough and result in undo anguish. But it certainly doesn’t have to turn out that way. Odds are things could have gone a lot more smoothly if you’d been a bit more proactive and aware of what could go wrong.

Here’s our look at a few mistakes you might have made last time you traveled with a young adult with tips on how to avoid these pitfalls next time around.

Not Setting Guidelines Before the Trip

Friends in a convertible with arms in the air

Before setting off on your trip, did you let your teen know the rules of the road? If you didn’t, was it because you weren’t up for the confrontation? Did some sort of confrontation occur anyway but as a clash over something unexpected during the trip? Laying down the law (in a kind and fair way) can ease tensions, align expectations, and keep molehills from metastasizing into mountains.

Not Making Your Goals Clear

One step better than setting guidelines before a trip is to include young people in the conversation about what those guidelines should be and why such rules ought to be set. Letting a teenager know that it’s important for you to have plenty of family time when traveling should send a signal that they can appreciate and be mindful of. Having such a conversation also presents an opportunity for teens to express their goals as well.

Leaving Them Out of the Planning

mother and daughter looking at map

Setting guidelines and establishing goals are important parts of planning for any trip – whether there are teens involved or not. No matter how well-intentioned, surprises can sometimes backfire. More so, informing someone (from whatever age group) that they’ve got to go away for several days can lead to feelings of resentment. This is especially the case when it comes to young adults – particularly during school breaks and when it might mean not getting to be with their friends. If spending quality time with the teens in your life is so important to you, why not involve them in the planning stage of your trip and encourage them to offer input.

Asking the Wrong Questions

Questions that merely require “yes” or “no” as an answer probably won’t get you far if you’re traveling with a teen who doesn’t open up easily. But maybe a question like, “What was the weirdest thing you saw today?” might do the trick. Engage with your younger traveling companion, speak to their interests and on their level and you may find they start sharing all sorts of revelations with you.

Not Paying Attention

teenager looking at mother

Is your teenage child into a particular TV series, game or type of music? They might be sending you clues all the time about where they’d like to travel without ever explicitly saying so. For example, if your kid is really into Game of Thrones, maybe a vacation in one of the show’s locations – such as in Northern Ireland or Croatia – would be a dream trip for them. If they’re hardcore fans of hip-hop, a history of rap walking tour of New York might be just thing to fuel a few days of fun.

You Might Also Enjoy: Tired of the Constant Eye-Rolling? Read These Tips for Traveling With Teenagers! 

Forgetting What It’s like to be a Teenager

parents talking to teen

Obviously, you were once a teenager too. Even if it was longer ago than you care to remember, you should be able to get back into that frame of mind and sympathize with the cares and priorities of young people. Would the sixteen-year-old you have rolled your eyes at some of the things the fully-grown-up you do and say? Probably, right? Chill out, put things in perspective and don’t get too upset when your teenager acts like a teenager!


Q: How can I involve my teen in trip planning? 

A: Involve your teen in researching destinations, activities, and accommodations. Encourage them to share their preferences and interests.

Q: Should I set restrictions on using technology? 

A: Rather than strict restrictions, establish guidelines for technology use that balance connectivity with meaningful interactions.

Q: How do I ensure my teen’s safety during the trip? 

A: Set clear safety protocols and guidelines for exploring new places, using public transportation, and handling emergencies.

Q: What if my teen wants to spend time with friends back home? 

A: Allow your teen to maintain communication with their friends through messaging apps or social media to provide a sense of continuity.

Q: How can I encourage my teen to embrace the local culture? 

A: Encourage your teen to interact with locals, participate in cultural activities, and learn about the history and traditions of the destination.

Q: What’s the key to a successful family trip with teens? 

A: The key is finding a balance between respecting their independence and staying engaged, along with open communication and flexibility.

Do you have tips for traveling with teens? We would love to hear how you handle mixed age situations and have fun with the younger members of your entourage.

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.