Traveling with Teens

Living with teens can be hard enough. And then, we think we can surprise them with a trip of a lifetime, but instead, they can be ungrateful and potentially put a damper on a family trip. Follow these tips to lessen the stress, and hopefully save your family vacation.

I used to teach dance to 15 and 16-year-olds. Just before spring break, I heard one of the girls complaining to her friends that her Mom is forcing her to go to Paris for spring break, with her family. My first thought was, “What a brat! She doesn’t know how lucky she is.” She went on, telling her friends about all the plans she had already made, but had to cancel. After they returned, I asked her about her trip, and she was surprised by how much fun she did have. I also taught her younger sister, who also said the trip was great. But then, I spoke to the mother who confided in me that she wished she had never bothered, “the girls complained about everything – getting up early, walking, eating strange food.” It was like she was on a different trip than her two daughters. What went wrong?

Talk to them

This seems obvious, but I think we often forget to include our children in decisions and ask for their opinions. Sometimes, it only takes a little communication and inclusiveness to get your teen excited about an idea. So, before booking that trip, talk to him or her. Ask them what they think, where they would like to go, and what they would like to do. You don’t have give-in to all of their wishes, but making an effort to appease them will go a long way.

Give them freedom

While we’re traveling, we tend to be helicopter parents, afraid to let our kids do anything on their own. And rightfully so, we’ve all heard too many horror stories about what can go wrong. But try to see it from their point of view – when you were their age, did you like tagging along with your parents to boring museums and overly fancy restaurants?

Try to give them as much freedom abroad, as you at home. Believe it or not, for teens hanging out in the hotel room, while you go to another museum, may be the best part of their trip. They can skype with their friends and brag about being on the other side of the world, order room service, or just hang out. Teens have their own idea of fun, and they don’t typically include the parents.

Travel with friends

If possible, have your teen invite a friend, or plan your trip with another family with children the same age. Teens tend to be happier in packs. They can also keep each other preoccupied when you the parents enjoy themselves.

Chill out

I know when we travel to the other side of the world, we want to make the best of it. Take advantage of every spare moment, but teens don’t have the same agenda as us. They want to live in the moment and couldn’t care less about who was king in the 18th century. Take some time for the family to just hang out, whether it’s at a cafe, arcade, or shopping. Taking it easy can go a long way.

What could have the dancer mom done differently? I think what was missing was the lack of communication. The girls had a great time once they got there and took in the attractions. Perhaps, if she spoke to them and included them in the decision, they wouldn’t have been so disappointed at first. Also, in their eyes, they’re on vacation from school and wanting to sleep in, but their mom had a strict agenda, which didn’t include time for the girls to relax. Had she included them in the planning phase, things would have gone a lot easier.

Stay tuned for more tips and ideas for traveling with teens.

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