One of the trickier travel-related questions that often comes up has to do with traveling with older kids; how do you keep your teenaged children interested and entertained when traveling as a family? Teens are generally famous for not liking…things. Or at the very least, working very hard to not like (or pretend not to like) whatever their parents enjoy. Hey, it’s the age of rebellion. They’re entitled. But if you only get so many days off per year, you don’t want to spend it with a snarky, eye-rolling stick-in-the-mud. Here are a few keys tips for traveling with teenagers so that your 13- to 18-year-olds can actually have fun on vacation (and maybe you can too).
Ask For Their Input
Teenagers are at a difficult age. They’re still kids, but becoming adults. They don’t like being treated like the latter, so try to give them a little credit. Helping with the planning stages of your vacation will make your teen feel respected and involved. Have they always wanted to explore England? Let them help you find cheap flights to London. They’ll appreciate that you’re taking interest in where they want to go, and they’ll feel great about being able to help. It will also help ensure that they’ll have more fun once you’re on your way. They helped picked the time and place, so why wouldn’t they enjoy it?
Let Them Bring a Friend
You’ve probably already noted that your teen is more comfortable (and often like a completely different person) when they’re with their friends than when they’re at home with the family. If it’s feasible, let them bring their BFF along. They’ll feel more at ease, and may even feel more daring and willing to try things that would seem lame with just the folks. (Taking a goofy group selfie is great with friends, not with your parents.) If another traveler isn’t in your budget, talk to the other parents. They’ll probably be more than willing to pay at least part of their kid’s way, if for no other reason than to get them out of the house for a few days.
Give Them Some Space
Spending time together is great, but being confined to the same airplane for 5 hours, or the same hotel room for 5 days, will make some time apart seem like a dream. Especially if your teen is bringing a friend, give them some space to do their own thing. Even if it’s just to sit at a separate table at lunch, or to go on an amusement park ride, a little alone time can be beneficial for them. Remember – if they’re doing their own thing, then you can too!
Bend The Rules a Bit
Being a little strict or protective in the day-to-day is understandable. But just like how you might relax the rules of your diet (or your wardrobe) when you’re on vacation, you should relax the rules you place upon your teens. So, let them stay up later, or sleep in longer. Let them eat a little more junk food than usual. Just be sure they know that when the party’s over, everything goes back to normal.
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Be A Good Sport
Just like how you might want your teen to loosen up and try new things, so should you. There will most likely be a point on your trip where your kid really wants to try an activity or go somewhere that you have no interest in – but you didn’t leave your hometown to just do the same old thing! We’re not saying you have to try bungee jumping, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t attempt snowboarding. Or going on a haunted ghost town tour. Or try an intimidating new cuisine. Even if you end up embarrassing yourself a bit, the fact that you went along with it will be appreciated. And think of all the memories!
Pick a Destination They’ll Love
Just like adults, teens are also in need of destinations that bring on the fun and excitement. Teens respond best to places that let them explore the world in person. Think about their interests. For example, if your child is particularly fond of a certain sport, visit places related to that sport. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has all sorts of exhibits that your favorite basketball fan is going to love. If your teenager has been studying a specific period in school such as the Colonial period, a visit to Colonial Williamsburg and nearby Jamestown can bring their study of history to vivid life. Teens really love hands-on activities of all kinds that let them use their imaginations and learn new things.
Encourage Them to Document Your Trip
Documenting your trip is one of the many joys of taking a vacation with your teens. They often love to share what they’re doing with their friends as it happens. Give your teenagers an opportunity to read up on the locations you’re going to visit beforehand, including the background of the places you’ll be visiting. Your teenagers can also easily learn how to use a camera to create inventive shots that will show off the highlights of your trip. Or, if your kid is a budding writer, help them start a blog of their own and show off their creative skills. This can serve as a virtual scrapbook that lets them preserve some of their favorite childhood memories. A Youtube channel of their own can also demonstrate their media skills, which leads us to…
Don’t Try to Limit Their Screen Time (Too Much)
Screen time has become increasingly important to kids. Teens love using screens to communicate with their peers. Remember, it’s their trip too. You may be tempted to limit their screen time when they’re away from home, but teenagers should be given the freedom to do as they wish while they’re on vacation. This can teach them how to manage their time more effectively, even when they’re away from home. It can also help them figure out how to use all forms of media during their day. Teenagers benefit when they’re given a lot of responsibility in their lives by the adults who care for them. That being said, encourage them to put down the phone when eating meals together or while listening to someone give a museum tour.
Set a Flexible Schedule With Some Free Time for Them
Flexible schedules are imperative for teenagers, especially on vacation. Teens respond best when they have structure. They like knowing what they’ll be doing each day. A schedule that allows time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is ideal. At the same time, teenagers also enjoy having some downtime of their own. A good vacation plan is one that combines all sorts of options. Let your teens have a list of activities they know about in advance each day of your vacation. You should also make it clear that they’ll have some time to themselves. For example, if you’re at a hotel with a pool, allow them at least 30 minutes a day to take a dip and cool off after spending lots of time in the sun.
Do you have any other tips for traveling with teenagers? Tell us in the comments!