It’s wasn’t so long ago that I was terrified of teenagers. The surly attitudes, eye rolls, headphones over the ears, iPhones in front of their face, I was petrified to be in the same room with them, let alone spend a week together on vacation. Those days are largely gone now and I live in the same house with FOUR teenagers and one tween. Over the last eight years of family trips in over 20 US states, I’ve developed some teen travel survival strategies that might help you on your next family vacation.
Here are my top five recommendations:
#5: Try to involve them, but don’t take it personally if they act disinterested.
With seven opinions in our house about where to go and what to do – invariably one person just needs to take the lead (usually that’s me). However, asking each family member to pick a “must do” for each destination has been great. And if you hear any grumbling the day of that event, you can point out that each person gets one “bucket-list item”, so it’s only fair for us all to go along happily.
#4: Embrace technology.
I would love it if my kids would completely disconnect on vacation. Heck, I’d love it if I could completely disconnect on vacation – but that’s not practical or easy. So set some limits around technology – not at the table during meals, not while touring attractions, not out by the pool – but allow for some connected moments because our teens find communicating with their friends to be as essential as food and water. Encourage your kids to send photos or tell their friends about your trip.
#3: Set a budget for extras.
We determine a reasonable dollar amount to spend on daily treats and souvenirs in advance and allocate that to each kid as a special trip allowance. That means if one child desperately wants the $80 Red Sox official jersey and another wants a triple ice cream cone every day, then everyone is satisfied and you’ve avoided all the nagging.
#2: Build in some action and some rest.
We prefer to keep our teens on the move. They’ve got so much energy anyway. Plan for walking, biking, time by the pool or an adventure on the trip like zip-lining, rafting, hiking, or kayaking. It’ll help burn off excess energy and provide some new experiences they might not have tried before. Conversely, needing a vacation from your vacation is not ideal – so plan some rest time too.
And our #1 Tip: Pick the right place to stay.
For our family of seven, a hotel just isn’t restful or enjoyable. We can’t always find adjoining rooms and the extras (breakfast, parking, resort fees) just escalate too quickly. In our experience, renting a vacation home when traveling with teens is the best way to go. Everyone has more room to spread out, we can cook some of our own meals, buy breakfast items and often there are games and activities right at the house. Staying at a vacation rental also allows our teens more independence. We typically select an accommodation where they can walk, bike or roam a bit on their own – researching a “walk score” can be helpful.
Finding the perfect accommodations has been such a challenge for us, we’ve bought two of our own vacation properties over the past two years. There are so many pros and cons to that, it requires it’s own blog. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a vacation rental house that has been “teen-tested and approved” – take a look at our homes in St Petersburg FL and in the North Carolina mountains. You can rest assured that we’ve got all the things teens want, including space to spread out, fast wifi, convenient things to do at the house and nearby, as well as amenities for frazzled parents!
Teen travel has not always been painless, but we have learned some critical tips. I love hearing our kids reminisce about the trips we took three, four, even five summers ago. As many of us know, the best things in life aren’t things – our family has created many incredible memories while traveling.
Give us your feedback! What tips work for your family trips?