Stress-Less Vacationing with Teens

By Anna Soref, Editor in Chief

My kids have been going on planes and adventures since they were young; travel is an integral part of our family vacations and values. Now that my girls are teenagers, preparation has progressed from keeping them occupied on the plane to creating teen- engaging trips—a bored teen can be quite punishing on the parents.

Find a balance of activities that gives everyone something they enjoy.

Finding a balance between boundaries and freedom is the key for successful trips with teens, says Dr. Susan Smith Kuczmarski, Ed. D., author The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. “On your trip, keep in mind that teens are really busy trying to figure out Who am I?’, what their passions are, and what they want to do with their lives. Instead of stepping in and trying to control the process, let their own nature be their guide,” she advises.

This evolution of how to vacation with kids can be tricky for parents. Not long ago your child begged for your constant attention in the swimming pool, and now they want to leave you back at the hotel. Remember, balance is the key. Consider the following tips on taking trips with teens.

  • If there is flexibility in the budget and calendar, discuss as a family where the next vacation will be.
  • Consider locations that offer opportunities for teens to explore on their own. For instance, all-inclusive resorts may not be your cup of tea, but the upside is that teens can explore, eat, and do activities by themselves and with other teens from around the world.
  • Find engaging ways for your kids to prepare for the trip. There are many young-adult historical novels and films that can educate and peak interest about vacation destinations, for example.
  • Give your kids money at the beginning of the trip and let them manage it. You won’t always have to be reaching into your pocket, and it teaches them financial responsibility.
  • If you have an only child, consider bringing along one of his or her friends.
  • Ask your kids to do some research and give you ideas for what they would like to do on the trip. Then find a balance of activities that gives everyone something they enjoy.
  • Don’t be too rigid with an itinerary. You may feel compelled to push your teen to get the most out of a trip you are funding, with nonstop museums or tours; but if a teen is unhappy, he or she will shut down and not absorb anything.
  • If adventure is on the vacation menu, take some of the risks along with your kid. It demonstrates conquering fears and that you want to make the effort to engage in their interests as well.

Remember, says Kuczmarski, teens need enough direction and control to guide them, yet enough room to let them breathe, learn, and discover. “There must be a balance between structure and flexibility. A strong disciplinary approach overlooks the need for growth and exploration during the teen years.” Let balance be your vacation mantra, paired with fun, and you will all have a memorable trip.

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