They scorn escargot and caviar for pizza and burgers. Sometimes they’re moody, even rude. They crave independence and will probably protest that they don’t want to go with you.
So why would you really want to vacation with your teen-ager? Well, consider this recent account from a friend of ours:
“We were waiting in line to get into the Schubert Theater on Broadway, when my daughter threw her arms around my neck and kissed me. ‘You’re my favorite mom,’ she said. Would she ever do that at home? No way! The trip would have been worth every penny just for that.”
There you have it. If you can pry your teen away from her home turf, she’ll be out of range of her school’s unforgiving arbiters of “cool.” Free from fears of lunchroom slander and late night IM attacks. Free to reveal her true self. She might express a whole range of emotions you never suspected she had, openly display curiosity, and eagerly soak up new experiences. And – once removed from friends, e-mail and text messages – she might begin talking with you about all sorts of things she typically reserves for her buddies – from how cute the boys were at Nick’s party to what she really thinks about dishonest politicians and underage drinking. Sound good? Read on.
Tips for a Successful Trip
Once you’ve done a little virtual arm twisting to convince your teen to go on vacation with you, don’t assume that it will be just like the old days, when splashing in the surf or watching someone juggle in the park evoked wild enthusiasm. To be successful, travel with adolescents requires a little more planning and a lot of flexibility. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind:
• Choose a destination they’ll enjoy. City visits are great for teens who couldn’t care less about beautiful scenery and don’t relish the idea of spending hours on end alone with their parents.
• Research your destination’s events and sites thoroughly. Check the city’s Web site for the local convention and visitors’ bureau to research attractions and special events during your visit. Choose activities that will engage your teen, even if you have to skip a few popular attractions. You needn’t assume that it’s “now or never” for viewing every museum and monument. Instead, plan at least one activity a day around your teen’s interests, perhaps a sporting event, play or concert. Many indoor sports arenas, outdoor amusement parks and water parks also cater to teen tastes. For older teens, a visit to an urban college campus can help them learn what college “feels like” and provide access to unusual concerts, plays and movies at affordable prices.
• Include your teens in the preparation, but don’t push them. You might get discouraged if you expect your children to do much research and planning; most will tell you they’re too busy or don’t care what they do on the trip. Instead, just propose, and let them dispose. At the dinner table, discuss the pros and cons of different options, and then press them to make choices. If you have more than one teen, let each one pick one activity for each day of the vacation. In addition to generating enthusiasm for the trip, this will create a nice break from the typical “what did you do in school today?” dinner conversation.
• Scout out the right kind of accommodations. The most important criterion is location. Don’t force your family to wait hours for buses or trains to get into the heart of the city. Choose a hotel that puts you in the center of the action when you walk out the front door, with plenty of easy dining and browsing opportunities nearby.
Search Internet travel sites for hotels with rooms that will allow your teen a little privacy, even if it’s just on a fold-out couch in an alcove. Some hotels offer a second, adjoining room at half price. Others offer suites at reasonable rates.
Swimming pools and spas are still attractive to most teens, as are hotel shops and restaurants.
Look for deals that include breakfast to save both time and money. And if you’re calling for reservations, always ask about discounted rates.
• Give your teen a wide berth. Allow your teen some physical space – if you’re staying in a safe part of the city, let him go have a snack or check out the stores by himself. Be sure to give him some mental space, too. When you’re together, don’t ask a lot of questions or try to play the professor; he wants to take in the new surroundings in his own way and proceed at his own pace. No matter how much talking you do or how many things you point out, you won’t convince your teen to see or experience the trip the same way you do.
Want to avoid conflict and mutual frustration when traveling with your teen? Read on for some Hard-Won Wisdom from Intrepid Family Travelers.
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.