Travel with teens can be a fun and uplifting experience, or it can be a nightmare. It is all about how you approach and plan the vacation and the expectations you have during the trip. After several trips, I vote for “Travel with Teens!”
Having an only child, we often included friends in our travels once he became a teen. When he was younger, many of our trips were to other states and 7+ days; we did not feel comfortable taking younger children that far away for that length of time. Plus we enjoyed the family time with our son.
Once he hit the teen years, we started including others in our ventures and I’m happy we did. The young adults who have traveled with us are like family to us now.
We started with a few local trips, weekends at an amusement park, water park or science center. This allowed us to test the waters to see how we all interacted with one or two more in our group.
Then we ventured on to week long trips with several teens accompanying us.
Before You Say NO, Consider This
Before you close the book on inviting other teens to travel with you, remember, this could be an opportunity for them to be a part of a trip they might never get a chance to take otherwise. It also might be an opportunity to them to see how another family interacts, etc. Not all families are the same. Not all families travel.
From the opposite angle, it might open your eyes and make you realize how fortunate you are to have the child/children you have instead of someone else’s kid!
So whether traveling with your own teens or inviting others to join you, it can be an amazing time.
Tips for Travel With Teens
I have found there are a few tips and tricks that make traveling with teens a success. I’m happy to share them with you.
1. Include teens in on the planning. Make sure you are planning activities that appeal to everyone or that everyone gets to weigh in on. For instance, I am not a sports fan but have attended a few baseball games because the group wanted to. My husband does not care for shopping, but he went because the majority wanted to. There has to be “give and take” and activities that everyone can enjoy at some point in the vacation.
2. One Activity. Make sure everyone has at least one activity that they love doing during the trip. Put yourself in their shoes. You wouldn’t want to spend an entire vacation doing activities you hate, so you shouldn’t expect the same of them.
3. Sleep Schedules. Part of planning is taking everyone’s sleep schedule into consideration. A whole week of early morning activities will mean my son will be grouchy. Alternate schedules and plans, so everyone is happy. For the most part, we are night owls, but when visiting amusement parks, etc. it is sometimes better to get an early start. My son hates early starts. So we rotate.
4. Plan for downtime. Don’t have everything so scheduled back to back that there is no time just to relax. I used to think we had to be busy all the time. My husband complained he just wanted an evening to hang out and do nothing. I realized that worked for everyone. Teens will want time for video games, hanging out, just being a teen.
5. Interests. If there is something the teens especially like to do, then be sure to include it in the planning or make sure it is available. The teens we take with us love tennis so staying places that either had tennis facilities or were near tennis courts became a requirement.
Teen travelers ready for a game of tennis!
6. Plan for alternative activities. If going to the beach or other destination that is predominately outdoors and you have a week of rain, what will you do? Have some pre-determined activities to suggest. The movies, a game night, a visit to a shopping center, a science center, a concert, a light show, indoor paintball, etc. (You can put your teen in charge of researching what all there is to do in the area in advance.)
7. Food Dollars. Plan to spend a lot more on food. Teenagers eat a lot. Whether dining out or cooking, the bill will be more!
8. Cooking. If cooking, let them help plan the menus. Include them in the trip to the grocery store to pick snacks, etc.
9. Sleeping Arrangements. Plan for each to have a bed. If they are going to be sharing a bed, make sure they are good with this in advance of booking the room or house.
10. Schedule in Advance. Provide a bit of a schedule in advance so the families of teens traveling with you know the agenda and a basic idea of what the kids will be doing each day. This also helps the teens to know what to expect and gives them something to look forward to.
11. Cost Estimates. Provide a cost estimate in advance if the teens are paying for any of the trip expenses. For instance on a trip to Disney, each teen was responsible for their individual airfare and Disney Ticket. We provided all the lodging, meals together, car rental, parking, etc. Three months in advance they knew the estimated cost and could decide if they wanted to go with us. When we took a Myrtle Beach trip, we paid all expenses except their personal entertainment and gas since taking four teens required us taking an additional vehicle. So the four split the cost of gas for the trip.
12. No Maid Service. Make sure everyone knows in advance you are not the maid. Everyone will have responsibilities. You might be covering costs, but they can help empty trash, cook a meal, do dishes, take care of laundry, etc.
13. Togetherness. Don’t expect them to be with you the entire trip. There will be times when they want to do things on their own. Walk on the beach, go for a hike, ride a roller coaster, or just hang out in one of their rooms. As long as you know where they will be, and they are safe, let them have some fun on their own. They will be happier, and you will get a bit of a break too!
14. Give Them Privacy. It is worth the cost of a second room or better yet, rent a house or condo, so you all have room to spread out. Everyone including you needs some space.
15. Unplugging. Don’t expect everyone to unplug. While this might be nice, unless everyone in advance is on board, don’t expect this. You can model the behavior and request unplugged meals, but expecting teens to willingly turn all electronics off for a week is unrealistic. (Unless you go to the mountains and have no access!)
16. Homesick or Heartsick. Know they might get a bit homesick for family or boyfriend/girlfriends. Or they might have fights with their boyfriend/girlfriend over the phone/social media while away. It is part of a teenager’s life. Just be supportive.
17. New Things. Be open to trying new things they suggest. Playing a video game or eating a new food. You might learn something new or find a new favorite!
18. Friends vs. Family. Know for a teen, being with friends often trumps being with family. It is a part of growing up. Don’t have hurt feelings if they desire to do something with their friends that doesn’t include you. When they want to include both family and friends in their experiences, feel blessed and be thankful.
Meals together as a group!
19. Snacks…..make sure you have lots of them and variety. As I mentioned before, teens graze a lot, and snack food is a must. It can be healthy, but you need to have something. We usually have carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, chips, pretzels, snack mix, crackers, bread and peanut butter and jelly, corn chips and salsa, etc.
20. Just Say NO! Make sure they know your expectations in advance regarding alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc. With our family it was/is a zero tolerance. When they travel with us, none of the above. Break the rules and their parents would be called to come and get them. We never had an issue. (But my son has great friends!)
21. Skills and Knowledge. Don’t assume they know how to do things. Because you have trained your children to do laundry, wash dishes, load the dishwasher, etc. Don’t assume all teens have these life skills. Be prepared to patiently teach a new skill without talking down to them. Usually, if you can explain the importance of why they need to do it, they will willingly help.
22. Moods. Know that everyone will have moods. They are teens.
23. It is everyone’s vacation so everyone should get to do things they enjoy.
24. Be Flexible! Be the example of how to react if things don’t go as planned. There will always be something that doesn’t go the way you wanted. Be prepared and be flexible.
One Final Tip!
25. Plan to have a good time! Talk the trip up in advance. Make sure everyone’s expectation of the trip is an awesome adventure and it will be one!
When you travel with teens, you will make memories with your teens and their friends that will last a lifetime for both you and the teens. I vote for “Travel with Teens!”
About Robin Smith
Robin is a wife and the mother of a 20-year-old son. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, social networking, blogging, and cooking. A blogger, editor, freelance writer and podcast producer, she also works full-time as the Chief Information Officer for a school district.
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