Since I just got home from a 9 day family vacation and am now planning a European vacation for 2017, I’ve decided to jot down a list of tips on how to travel with teens. Since returning home, I’ve tried to remember our trip, both the good and bad experiences. I try to take those sour or stressful experiences from our vacations and incorporate solutions and improvements to make sure the next trips are happier, with less stress, irritation, and family discord. Some of these tips seem obvious. Nonetheless, sometimes when you’re on vacation, your vision can become distorted, as you want to make the most of your trip regardless of what everyone else wants or needs at the time.
Obviously this is difficult if you are on a tight budget, but whenever possible, opt for a bigger room. Families are used to being spread out in a home. As soon as you are on vacation and packed together tightly in a small hotel space, attitudes can sour. Teens like to spread out and have their space and privacy. This tip also applies to cars as well, especially if you are going on a road trip. No one likes to be squished in a small space for the majority of the day. Splurge on a bigger car (if you can) to minimize frustrations.
This tip goes along with the first. If possible, get a place with your own ‘adult’ bedroom. Just as kids need space from their parents, parents need time away from the kids. By space, I mean a separate bedroom, with a door! Sometimes vacation rentals on VRBO or Airbnb cost the same or less than hotel rooms, and they offer much more space. As it’s not always possible to get that second room or bedroom for the adults, try to find some time alone as a couple whenever possible.
On vacation, my family tends to be the kind that wants to see and do everything we can while we travel. Sometimes that’s not the best plan. Burning the candle at both ends can make teens (and adults!) irritable and frustrated. If you wake early, try to turn in earlier or vice versa. No one has fun when they’re tired and cranky. Especially teens.
When vacation planning, make sure you talk with your teen to find out the things that he/she wants to see and do in the area. As you plan for a family vacation, make sure that there are things included that everyone will enjoy, not just the adults. After all, teens are young adults, forming their own opinions and ideas about traveling. They will have a lot more fun, will learn more, and make better memories on the vacation if they’re an active part of the trip, not just tag-alongs.
This tip includes following tip 3 about sleep. Make sure everyone has plenty of water and snacks packed when traveling. Unless you want to spend a fortune buying the essentials off the street or walking all over to find it, it’s always better to be prepared. Everyone gets cranky when they’re thirsty and hungry. Plan meals accordingly and make sure everyone is hydrated. In addition, make sure not to sight-see during the heat of the summer day. When people get hot, tempers rise. If you’re visiting outdoor sites, try to be out in the early part of the day and avoid being outside from 12-4:00pm. Early evening is also a good time to tour, if possible.
Despite wanting my kids to partake in all vacation activities, I’ve learned over the years that sometimes it’s just not worth it. If the kids are tired and want to sleep, aren’t interested in the activity, or just don’t want to tour, don’t make them. It’s better to have them stay back at your accommodations so they can be content and you can have a pleasant day. Teens can hang at the pool, read a book, sleep, and maybe meet up with the family at a later time. The best advantage of being able to travel with teens is that they can be independent and self-sufficient. It’s not a bad thing to utilize that from time to time, especially if they are asking for a break.
Sometimes we all fall victim to just giving in and letting bad behaviors slide as parents. However, this happens more frequently, as least with me, during vacation. It’s important not to let your teens push the envelope with poor habits and bad behaviors, as they will just anger or irritate you while on vacation. Reinforce good habits like eating healthy, proper manners, and minimal device/phone use and continue to discipline as necessary. Teens often do better with a regular schedule and consistent parenting.
This is not always possible to do, depending on the size of your family or the destination of your vacation. However, when teens bring friends on vacation, it keeps them engaged, happy, independent, and sometimes offers a much-needed break from the norm. Whether or not you can pay for your child’s friend to come along, sometimes the invitation is enough. Financial arrangements between families can always be worked out. Being social is vital during a teen’s development and sometimes bringing along a best friend can make a world of difference.
As parents know, it takes patience, tolerance, and an open mind to travel with teens. Teens aren’t always the easiest bunch to travel with, but if you cater to their specific set of needs (independence, socializing, and privacy) this should make for a happier vacation and less stress for everyone in the family.
Just to note: Some of these tips apply to traveling with kids younger than teens – getting enough sleep; making sure that there are fun things that they will enjoy seeing; enforcing rules; etc. Use your own judgment to decide which tips might or might not work for your family. I hope they will help!
How do you travel with teens? Let me know in the comments!