Teen-Tested Travel Tips
When your kids hit high school, family travel time gets even more precious. After all, it won’t be long before they are heading off into adulthood. But between schoolwork, sports and activities it can be hard to get away. How can you make the most of your time so that your teen and you have fun — and connect?
Here are some tips to keep everyone smiling on your next family trip.
Involve Your Teen in Planning
Before you book tickets or a hotel, check in with your teen about the dates and destination. Ask them to double check their school, sports and social calendars to make sure they won’t be missing something important. And then ask them to think about where they’d like to go and what they’d like to do. You might even consider turning over the planning of an entire day of your trip to your teen, letting him or her choose the activities (or lack thereof) and dining options. A bonus here is that you are also teaching them the valuable life skill of careful planning.
Plan Activities that Connect with Their Interests
Whether your teen loves sports, movies, history, animals, music or being outside, you can always find a way to include those passions in your family vacation planning. This might mean making a detour to see a historic site, museum or hall of fame or buying tickets for a local sporting event or concert.
Be Realistic About Screen Time
You may have visions of an entirely unplugged family vacation, but if the end result is a sulky kid, you’re not likely to enjoy yourself. Permit your teen a reasonable amount of time to play games and listen to music each day — a half hour in the morning before beginning your day’s activities and a similar amount of time at night before bed should keep your teen happy and connected.
Think too about meaningful ways to incorporate your teen’s devices into your trip — ask them to take photos or videos or look up information about the site or museum you are visiting. Before your trip, share apps that help teach a language or offer virtual tours of your destination and encourage their use.
Give Your Teen Access to Friends from the Road
Whether your teen tends to connect with friends via text or apps like Instagram, Snapchat or WhatsApp, give them permission and time to communicate with their friends in ways that are the most affordable and make sense, given your destination.
Let Them Have Some Independence
Teens love to feel grown up, and they probably don’t want to spend every minute of their vacation with you (a feeling that may be mutual). Look for ways to let them spend time either alone or with peers.
This might mean you permit them to hang out in your hotel room without you for an hour while you have a cocktail in the lobby bar. Or maybe you sign them up for an all-day group ski lesson with other teens. Some resorts or cruise lines have supervised clubs for teens, which is a great way for them to make friends.
Plan for (Some) Family Time
Family vacation offers that rarest of pleasures: uninterrupted time just to hang out together. Make sure you schedule some downtime and consider bringing along a favorite game, trivia book or just a deck of cards.
One final tip: Don’t get too caught up in sighs or eye rolls. Just because your teen periodically acts bored doesn’t mean they don’t want to be on the trip or spending time with you. If you both listen and talk to your teen, chances are they will respond, surprising you with a funny observation or insight just when you least expect it.
Remember that by traveling with your teen, you’re building memories that you’ll both eventually cherish, even they don’t realize it yet.