Share the insights offered by a well-traveled, articulate teen to make your next family vacation successful, fun and yes – pleasant.
Teen travel. Sigh. It is the most difficult age for parents to deal with; many would just like to let their teens be and not bother with them. But there has to be a time for family unity, so why not create a time during vacation?
You’re probably thinking, how could vacation time be any different? Well, it can be if you follow a few tips that I, myself, who am in fact a teenager, am willing to give:
1) Choose travel to places which have activities for both you and the teens. “Recreational vacations are usually a good choice because it gives families a lot to do,” says my father, who has raised four teenage daughters. Bonaire was a favorite vacation of my mom’s: “People could do their own thing, and yet there were activities we all enjoyed doing together.” When we went there three years ago (I was 14) everyone had a great time. My dad would take me and my sisters, Kaye and Chris, snorkeling every morning while my mom would walk along the beach to meet us. Later in the day we would drive to one of the many beaches and relax in the sun.
2) Don’t drag your kid to every historical site known in the USA; instead, I’d recommend going to someplace fun. A very good place with history and also lots of activities is a big city like New York. It offers many options for a family, such as shopping, theater, and sightseeing. As for the sightseeing, you have many choices from the Statue of Liberty to Central Park to the Museum of Modern Art.
3) It is also good to remember this tip: Location is key. Don’t get a hotel that is miles away from anywhere so that your teen is stuck there until you want to go someplace.
Make sure that your teen can take a bus, the subway, or can walk to some place of interest to them. I remember when my family went to Michigan one year; all of us kids were trapped in the house we had rented. We were by a lake, but it was too cold to go swimming, so we just stayed in the house watching television and playing cards. That has to be one of the worst vacations I ever had.
4) Let your teen have some free time. One of the teens I interviewed said, “I usually like traveling with my family, except after awhile, they get annoying.”
Some teens are great to be around…for a limited amount of time. My older sister, Chris, can’t be with us for very long (for reasons unknown), so during trips we allow her to do what she wants, by herself, as needed. When we traveled to St. Lucia this past year, Chris would stroll along the beach or walk to town on her own. So if your teen seems to be getting restless, allow him/her some time alone.
5) Keep a loose, flexible schedule instead of organizing every minute of every day. Suggest going to only one, two, or three places a day.
6) Another good idea is to try not to drive long distances. Many teens that I interviewed said, “I like to travel with my family, except on long car trips — because they get annoying.”
If you do need to take a long car ride, I would suggest finding an interesting place to stop on the way, or bringing travel games along. Playing is always more fun than doing nothing. My family also brings books-on-tape so there is something to listen to the whole way, but remember — this book must be one everyone would enjoy. A good way to accomplish this would be to have your teen come along and help pick one out from the library.
7) Travel with relatives who might be about the same age as your teen, or let your teen bring a friend.
Sometimes having time to themselves isn’t enough for teens because they really want or need the companionship of someone their age.
A junior at my high school said, “I enjoy traveling with my family because my sister (step-sister, actually) and I get along really well.” This quote is what helped me come up with this tip because being a twin myself, I always had this companionship. But what if my twin sister, Kaye, was yanked from the picture? Well (as much as I love the rest of my family), I don’t think that I would have as much fun on vacation.
If you are lacking in the teenage relative area, you might look into allowing your son/daughter to bring a friend along. On a summer vacation trip to Maryland, my parents let Chris bring her friend, Renay, with us. Not only Chris, but all of us, enjoyed Renay’s company.
8) Join your teens in something they want to do. If you take your teens on a trip and don’t let them do anything they want to do, they’re liable to be cranky much of the time.
For example, if you really want them to see the Alamo and they are refusing to go, make a deal. Ask them for the one place they want to go, in exchange for their going to your site. When we were in Acapulco, Chris really wanted to visit the Hard Rock Cafe, so we waited in an hour-long line. We didn’t like the food and my mom ended up getting sick from the guacamole, but at least, Chris had finally eaten at the Hard Rock Cafe.
9) Rent a vacation house or apartment instead of staying at a hotel. On many past family vacations, we did it and I really enjoyed myself a lot more.
When my family traveled to Paris, we rented an apartment which had a nice little restaurant right below it. You feel so much more of the country’s culture when you live right along with its people. Another time we rented a house during our second trip to England. Since we’d been there before, we had already viewed most of the sights we wanted to see. During this return visit, we lived in half of a large house and spent much of our time taking walks and drinking tea, eating scones, and talking. It was a restful and delightful time.
You get a much more homey feeling from accommodations which provide a personal dining room, kitchen, and a refrigerator to store snacks (ie: milk, juice, yoghurt.) This allows you to have a nice family meal while on vacation, making it possible for you to at least spend dinner together if you can’t seem to see your teen any other part of the day.
10) Act free spirited. Hey! It’s your vacation, too, so why not enjoy yourself? I’m not saying that you should disregard all rules, but just remember you’re on vacation. Allow yourself to relax and be footloose and fancy free…to some extent. Bexley High School senior, Craig Neely said, “I enjoy traveling with my family because my mom is like a little girl, we have so much fun when we go out.”
I’ve found many times when one person is really enjoying him or herself, the happiness almost floods the room and seeps into the other people’s bodies until they, too, are smiling.
So, though the teenage years might be the hardest times for parents to get through, that shouldn’t stop pleasant vacations from occurring. When I surveyed 70 people from my high school, 61% said that they enjoyed traveling with their family. Why not increase that number by following a few of the suggestions that I have given? Remember, your next vacation can be a great one if you just take a bit of advice from someone who understands.
Anne Brown visited Istanbul, Turkey while in high school. From this trip, she devised a list of the top tips for parents who want to make travel with teens more fun.
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