Travel with Teens: Hard-Won Wisdom from Intrepid Family Travelers
By Ronnie Mae Weiss and Marlene Ellin

Here are some tips to avoid conflict and mutual frustration when traveling with your teen:

• Negotiate with your teen on when he will wake up. Most adolescents like to stay up late and sleep late. If you force an early start, you may find yourself with a seriously sulky companion during the best part of the day. Are you always ready for action before 9 a.m.? Lock the door, go out for breakfast, and bring something edible back to the room for your sleeper. If that doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, order room service and read the morning paper. Relax – you’re on vacation.

>• Let your teen bring along a book or CD player everywhere you go. Even if you’re dying for her to soak up that Paul Klee exhibition, don’t force it. If you’ve been on the go all day, she may need downtime – and besides, she’s observing more than you think. Later in the day, she might surprise you by recounting details about both sights and people that completely escaped your notice.

>• Keep museum visits short. Stop by the information desk and pick up a map. Let each person pick a room or special exhibit, spend 15 to 20 minutes on each choice, then leave.

>• Let your teen stay in touch with friends. Even though you’re on vacation, give your child time to make a couple of phone calls or duck into an Internet café for some e-mailing.

• Eat simply and often. Save the four-star dining experience for a night out alone with your partner. Let your teen help choose what and where you eat. Plan a few stops for snacks and people-watching during the day. And it doesn’t hurt to tuck some healthy snacks in your purse in case you get stuck in long lines.

Leave time for shopping. For some teens, the highlight of a trip might be a trendy, Euro-style boutique, a music store that lets you sit in a booth and listen to all the CDs you want, or a vast sporting goods store with a climbing wall. If safety is not an issue, let your teen visit these places alone or with a sibling.

• Make your teen carry his own money. Vacations are a great time to foster a teen’s independence by insisting that he carry money he’s saved or earned so he can learn to manage a budget and make his own purchasing decisions. Encourage him to buy souvenirs and inexpensive gifts for friends so he can experience the pleasure that brings.

• Allow some downtime. If you’re getting on each other’s nerves, both you and your teen may be getting trip fatigue. Go back to the hotel, take a swim or watch a movie and order room service. You can go down to the bar or for a walk to give your child some privacy. Take a break and just “chill,” as your teen would say.

Still dubious about whether vacationing with your teen would be enjoyable? Consider what Rick Guttenberg, the father of a 16-year-old, has to say:

“It’s much easier for us to be together on vacation than at home, because both my daughter and I have so many daily demands on our time. Our family trips have been important bonding experiences – times to exchange ideas and impressions and share deep feelings.”

Now, what parent would pass up the opportunity for that kind of experience?

Return to: Traveling with Teens: Tips for Success

Ronnie Mae Weiss frequently writes on family issues. She has traveled extensively with her husband and two teen-age sons since they were very young. Marlene Ellin, a senior writer and editor for a software company, enjoys all forms of family travel with her husband and teen-age daughter.