By Rachel Diebel
Sometimes traveling with your teenager can seem like a chore, but giving up family vacations isn’t an ideal option either. Some teens love to travel and take it in stride, others not so much. Negotiating mood swings and attitudes can be exhausting when you are already dealing with so many other things to get your family on the road. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to set both you and your teen up to have a peaceful and enjoyable vacation.
Get Your Teen Involved
One sure way to capture and keep your teenager’s interest is to get them involved from the very beginning. Helping to plan the trip gives them a reason to be invested in the successful and happy outcome of your vacation. Plus, they probably have some great ideas and this way not all of the stress is on you!
Like younger children, teenagers often need to know what’s coming in order to feel comfortable. If they expect to be able to kick back and have a slow morning and instead the family ends up walking all over a new city, whining and surliness may set in quickly. Be sure to let your teens know at least the basics of what you plan on doing for the day so they can mentally prepare for what’s to come, or even opt out if they really don’t want to participate in an activity.
Do Something They’re Interested In
Even if your trip has a purpose (visiting family or college research, for example), reserve at least some time for doing something that your teen is interested in. If your daughter is a bookworm and wants to visit the national library, go for it! Or if your history buff son wants to see a famous historic site, take the time to make it happen.
Space, Space, Space
One thing that teenagers need almost as much as air is space. Even if it costs a little bit more, try and ensure that they have their own room at your hostel or hotel, or at minimum their own bed. Try and remember how much your teenage self longed for space and privacy, and try to accommodate that. You and your kid will be much happier.
Schedule Free Time
Flexibility is key when traveling with teenagers, which means scheduling some extra time into your days for free time. This time is also ideal for letting your teen explore on their own, which can sound scary but is essential to their independent development. Giving them the flexibility to schedule some of their own time and learn how to get around is good for both you and them.
Sleep is Key
You may be tempted to maximize your day by getting up very early in the morning, but there is no better way to start your teen off on the wrong foot. Research has shown that teenagers need more sleep than adults or even younger children. Well-rested travelers of all ages are happy travelers.
Listen To Your Teen
It can be tempting when you are stressed out or in a hurry to just rush over what your teen has to say or disregard it as unimportant. However, it is important that your child feels as though they have a voice and a say in what is going on. If you take the time out of your day to listen to them, you may find that they have solutions or ideas that you never even heard of.
(Some) Screen Time
Don’t try to eliminate screen time from your teenager completely. Doing so is fighting a losing battle and not worth your time or energy. Instead, let them know if they won’t have access to consistent Internet, and that there will be times when they won’t be allowed on their phone or tablet. Tell them early, and be consistent in your rules regarding screen time.
Do Something Active
To keep your teenager engaged and involved in the vacation, go do something that will get them moving or give a little adrenaline rush. Try zip lining or going on a hike. If the great outdoors isn’t your thing, try a long walk through downtown window-shopping or taking in sights. Just making sure you get out and moving will keep your teen alert and in a better mood.
The most important thing about traveling with a teenager is the same as the most important thing about traveling with anyone: have patience and stay calm. Despite any bumps in the road, everything will work out fine in the end.
Family Beach Holiday: Roderick Elme via Flickr
Four Wheeling: a4gpa via Flickr
Jumping Teens: thephotographymuse via Flickr
Family Travel Picture: Harvey Barrison via Flickr
Ziplining: Loco Ropes via Flickr