As kids get older, vacationing with them becomes less about keeping them entertained and safe and more about preventing their boredom from ruining the trip for the rest of the family.
The truth is, it can be more tempting (and cheaper) to leave teenagers at home than risk having their family vacation fun spoiled — especially if you also have younger children.
But it’s possible to have a great vacation with teens – all you have to do is think differently than you did when you were young, choose the right vacation, plan it well and, crucially, involve your teens in the decision-making process.
“The most important thing is to discuss things sensibly and thoroughly beforehand,” stresses parenting and parenting adviser Gill Hines (gillhines.co.uk), co-author of Whatever! A down to earth guide to raising teenagers (Piatkus, £9.99). “Choosing the right vacation is crucial if everyone is to participate fully – if everyone is involved in decision-making and research, they will be much more invested in the trip itself.”
To ensure the whole family, including the teens, enjoy their vacation, Hines suggests the following…
1. Host family vacation get-togethers
Hines recommends holding regular family gatherings (regardless of whether you’re going on vacation or not) and making them a regular part of family life before kids hit double digits and their brains start changing “so they get established before.” non-compliance reaches its full force”. . She says a family meal around a table or a pizza in the living room with no gadgets allowed is a good time to talk.
2. Get everyone to write a vacation wish list
Anyone going on vacation should think about what they would enjoy most about the trip and write it down. Hines suggests asking everyone to narrow down their choices to three to five things. “Everyone shares their shortlist, and then that gets combined into one long family vacation wish list,” she explains.
Instead of just parents doing all the vacation research and choosing the final destination, teens should join in the search for the best travel destination, armed with the family wish list. “Everyone has to think about what places they would like to visit or what types of vacations they would prefer – they can search online for deals that are available within their budget,” says Hines. Everyone’s two favorite travel destinations can be discussed and compared to the list of ‘things we like’. While teens may prefer adventure activities and nightlife, younger kids will want the sea, sand, water or amusement parks, and parents may prefer quiet taverns and a day spa, Hines says. “The point is that everyone looks forward to the parts that they enjoy and they become more aware of the needs and wants of other family members,” she explains.
4. Can you take a friend with you?
If you only have one child, or there’s a big age gap between you and your siblings — or even if there isn’t one — taking a teenage friend on vacation can really help, Hines points out. Her boyfriend’s parents can (hopefully) offer to help pay for their holidays and their flights etc. so it’s not necessarily an expensive option.
Once the holiday is picked, it’s time to discuss the “rules,” perhaps at another family gathering, Hines suggests, or alone with your teen. She says parents should think about what they want to talk about beforehand, warning: “Be willing to negotiate — this is about negotiation, not the law.”
6. Don’t plan anything for the morning and expect teenagers to come
As parents of teenagers know, they think mornings are for sleeping and definitely not for work, especially when they’re on vacation. “Mornings are probably best avoided if you want a teenager to be responsible and at their best,” Hines points out. “They need exceptional amounts of sleep, and it comes in batches. For family outings, keep this in mind – if you plan to climb that mountain together or visit this quaint seaside town, plan to leave around noon if you want them to come along.”
7. Also plan for younger siblings
Younger brothers and sisters probably won’t want to stay in bed like their teenage siblings, so make sure you plan an energetic morning activity for them while your teen sleeps in. “Younger kids will be in a very bad mood if they have to stay home until big brother gets up, so make sure you have a pool, beach, field or park nearby so he can run, walk or swim.” can be taken off to get some energy,” advises Hines.
8. Don’t expect teenagers to come with you on all your outings
Teens don’t find it easy to be with the whole family 24 hours a day, so plan some short outings or activities when they can be left behind if they want, and some longer ones – maybe off their wish list – that they expect to take part in . “Decide in advance which parts of the vacation are optional and which are mandatory,” advises Hines.
Of course, teenagers want to enjoy the holiday nightlife without their parents in tow, especially if they’ve brought a friend along. Hines suggests the home rules should apply on holiday, but with a goal of relaxing them as your teen shows they are in charge.
“Negotiate a few nights alone for yourself, but give them a few in return — it’s easier if you take a friend with you,” says Hines. “If you expect them to text at home every few hours, do the same and if you have a curfew at home, have the same, but maybe at least once or twice at a later point during the holidays.
“Keep the rules strict at first, but relax a little as your young person matures. If they are in any way irresponsible or breaking the rules, keep them tightly under your wing.”
10. Talk about money beforehand
Talk about what allowance you will be giving to teenagers and agree before you go. “For example, you could fund the zip line experience they want to try, but not a night out,” says Hines. “Be clear, be reasonable and negotiate. Don’t pay or bribe them to do things – but negotiate nicely.”
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