The joys and challenges of travelling with a teenager can sneak up on you unexpectedly, especially if you don’t get the chance to go on holiday as much as you’d like. All of a sudden your happy-go-lucky tween is no longer willing to bounce out of bed at 7am, even if the day’s activities hold the promise of fun, and wi-fi has suddenly become as essential as oxygen (and wine, if you’re a parent trying to keep a teen and everyone else happy). Here are five tips for travelling with a teenager from parents who have travelled around with their teen and lived to tell the tale.
Give your teen plenty of notice
Nothing annoys teenagers more than being rushed and having to drop what they’re doing (read: chatting to friends online) at an inconvenient moment or when they’re not expecting it. Instead of managing holidays like you used to when your kids were younger, with a ‘put your shoes on now, we’re going’ warning a few minutes before you drag them out the door, tell your teen what time they need to be ready. They’ll probably still need that five minute warning, but will be much less likely to grumble.
Listen to what they say
I got really annoyed during one holiday, not long after our son became a teenager, when it seemed like every tour or activity elicited a less than enthusiastic response. Finally, I got so frustrated that I asked (ahem, I might have yelled just a little bit, actually), ‘What type of tours DO you like?’ My son gave it some thought, then said food tours were the best ones. Since then, we have tried to include a food tour on every trip and it turns out he was right. When you’re travelling with teens, food tours are excellent, and the rest of the family can enjoy them too.
Later starts rule
It can feel frustrating ‘wasting the day’ as you wait for your teen to finally emerge from under their doona, but allowing for some later starts gives them time to catch up on sleep and regroup. Choose a few days where you don’t have much planned – and tell your teen about them in advance – so they know the much needed sleep ins are coming and can look forward to them. Threatening to cut a late start day if they start acting up is an effective way of ensuring your teen behaves during the trip.
Teens need wi-fi (but not necessarily all the time)
While family holidays are meant to be about connecting with each other, teens also have a group of people they care about back home: their friends. There is no need to book accommodation with fast wi-fi just to keep your teen happy. However, you can try to meet them halfway. On a recent cruise, my son didn’t get a wi-fi package (neither did his parents, it was way too expensive) but we agreed to stop for coffee or lunch at a café with wi-fi on port days. It turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable with all three of us sharing updates from home and plenty of friendly rivalry as we tried to outdo each other by posting our best pic of the day on Instagram.
Plan ‘one perfect day’
Give everyone the chance to create their own ‘perfect day’ (keeping within the family budget, of course). The secret to this activity is no one can veto another person’s day or activity, unless it’s too expensive, too dangerous or for another legitimate reason. You might find your teen’s ‘perfect day’ turns out to be yours as well, as their activities often encourage you to step outside your comfort zones. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy our white water rafting trip in Bali but it turned out to be a trip highlight. Spending a day at Disneyland Paris was great too, and provided a welcome culture-free break. Turns out it’s not just teens who sometimes get tired of wandering around endless museums and art galleries.
Disclosure: The writer loves travelling with her teenage son who provides the perfect excuse for her to enjoy a sleep in on holidays.