Traveling with teens: will it be an opportunity to make memories, unplug, and connect? Or, will it be full of those moments with your teens that you’d rather not remember so well? Realistically, it will probably be a combo of both–because, teens . . .
We travel several times a year with our crew of three, ages 11, 14, and 16. I truly look forward to each trip. Yes, they are work to plan, to pack, and to coordinate. Yes, there are moments when I think, “Why did I take the kids with me?!?” But in the end, because I unplug so much better away from home, our kids (even the teens) tend to follow my lead.
We do things that we tend to “forget” to do at home like play board games and cards, sit and do a craft project, or just take a walk together. Yes, we have some favorite destinations (shout out to northern Michigan!), but in the end, being together and away from the constant chaos is the biggest ingredient for success.
Still approaching your next trip with that surly teen with a bit of trepidation? I get it, and I’ve been there! Here are some tried and true tips for travel with teens from me, a mom of three–and a mom of two teens and a tween!
Get to know what they are passionate about, and what motivates them.
Does your teen have a sweet tooth? Research the best candy store or ice cream parlor in the area you’re traveling to as an incentive for minimal eye rolling while you play tourist. Is one of your kids really passionate about history? Find some historical landmarks to add to the day’s agenda.
What about pop culture? We once drove an hour out of our way so that our middle child could take a picture in front of one of the Pittsburgh locations for Abby Lee Dance Company. It was totally worth it! Even the other two kids got a kick out of seeing their sib so excited!
Let them sleep!
As the kids get older, I do my best to find travel accommodations where we can spread out a bit more and allow my older two to sleep in. This also gives me time to go out each morning with my husband and my youngest for early morning adventures that the teens have zero interest in.
Bonus tip: We love renting a home or condo through Airbnb or VRBO when we can, so we can spread out! To make it more affordable, we stay in an adjacent town or hop in the car to hit the beach instead of staying somewhere walkable.
“Right size” your expectations.
Make sure that your expectations for each day and each activity are realistic based on who your teen(s) are right now, NOT who you want them to be. This helps protect us from needless frustration when our vacations are not “picture-perfect,” and to appreciate the moments when things DO go well!
Bonus tip: Make sure your teens’ expectations are realistic as well. Do you expect a wait for dinner? Give them a heads up! Will the beach be crowded, so you will need to get there early? Let them know the night before that you will have to leave the house quickly in the morning.
Say “yes” as much as you can!
What if when browsing local bookstores, your teen asks for a book? A real book; you know, those things made out of paper, that don’t need wifi? SAY YES! They may even surprise you and read it! What if they ask for pop with dinner? What would happen if you said yes AND got them dessert? You may see one of those rare, yet amazing, teenager smiles.
One of our favorite finds on vacations are local toy stores. Do the kids beg for money? They sure do! And we say YES to letting them pick out a new game that we can all play that evening.
Bonus tip: Visit one of our favorite toystores on main street in downtown Frankenmuth and shop local at Toyberg!
In the end, remember to keep your expectations realistic, and pick your battles. Your teen may not share their gratitude, but they will appreciate your flexibility in allowing them to just be themselves. And on an especially trying day, instead of counting the difficult moments, pay attention to those fleeting smiles and laughs–they are usually there when we look for them!