Family Vacation Tips for Parents of Teens

Summer is rapidly approaching, and you would love the chance to take a vacation, but you’re just not sure you want to spend it with the eye-rolling, attitude-copping teen you fondly call your son or daughter. Don’t bail yet! Traveling with your teen can be a great experience, if you just follow a few guidelines:

Let your teen have input in the decision-making.

From the very start, parents should involve teens in the vacation planning. Where you are going and what you will be doing when you get there are all important things that need to be decided upon. If your teen gets some say in these decisions it will accomplish two major things: (1) it will help your teen feel more responsible for the outcome of the trip and he/she will strive to enjoy the trip more; and (2) it will take your teen’s interests into account, which will ensure he/she gets more excited about the trip.

When choosing your destination, determine everyone’s goals. For example, if you want to sit by the pool, but your teen wants to play in an arcade, then find an all-inclusive resort or cruise that takes both of these desires into account. Parents might want to save money by staying at a hotel on the outskirts of town, but staying at a location with lots of attractions nearby will save you a lot of frustration and could potentially offer your teen some independence to do some things by themselves.

If you do choose a destination that your teen is not excited about, consider having your teen plan out a day trip for the family. Show your teen how to use the Internet or a guidebook to find activity options and then commit to doing whatever your teen chooses for the day. This will not only increase your teen’s excitement and provide great insight into your child’s interests, but it will also be teaching your teen an important life skill – planning an itinerary.

Give your teen the responsibility of having a trip budget.

Souvenirs and other purchases to keep the kids happy can quickly add up. That’s why it’s a better idea to give your teen a budget and let him or her make the decisions. Vacation is the perfect time to instill good spending habits and teach the life skill of budgeting. Determine if you will be giving your teen some spending money or not. Have your teen determine their total spending allowance for the trip by adding his or her own money to whatever amount you have decided to provide. Have your teen determine his/her priorities for spending during the vacation, such as buying tokens for arcade games or purchasing a t-shirt. Then have him/her research how much each of these priorities will cost. Subtract these things from the total amount he/she will have. If it doesn’t seem like enough, encourage your teen to earn additional money before the trip.

Give your teen the responsibility of his/her personal items.

Your teen is old enough to pack for a vacation. First, ask your child to write down everything he/she needs or wants for the trip. Review the list and add items you think they have missed, and talk to them about items you believe are unnecessary. Then give them appropriate luggage and a deadline for the packing to be done and ready for you to check – preferably a full day before vacation. Suggest your teen bring their list with them so that when they are repacking to return home from vacation, they don’t leave any personal belongings behind.

Set the rules before you depart.

Your vacation should be a time to have fun and relax. The best way to make sure that your trip will be a great memory maker is to have clear communication between you and your teen about your expectations of his/her behavior before you leave on your trip. Items to discuss include times that your teen will be able to be on his/her own, curfew, and when everyone needs to be ready in the morning. Be sure to compromise, too. Think of the privileges you allow yourself on vacation – a little more dessert, staying up later, a little more TV and gaming time. Lighten up on some of the less important family rules to give your teen some of those same indulgences.

Keep the peace.

Lightening up is an important part of vacations. Although some rules are important, now is not the time to be overly critical or nit-picky. Try to let some things slide so that by keeping the peace, everyone will stay in a good mood. When fights or attitudes flare up, try not to dwell on them, but quickly move past it.

Let your teen drive.

If you are going on a road trip and your teen has his/her learner’s permit or license, use this opportunity to allow your teen to drive in areas that are new to them – this is an excellent learning experience where they can handle different terrain such as busy city streets or hilly country roads. This is also a good chance for teens to use and understand maps.

Let your teen bring a friend.

If you can arrange for one of your teen’s friends to join you on vacation, that can help keep your teen excited and engaged, and likely offer you more down time. If you decide to let them bring a friend, then set up a meeting time with the friend’s parents. Be clear about where you will be, providing an itinerary and contact information in case of emergencies, and also about what you expect from the friend – spending, packing, behavior, etc. If you decide against bringing a friend, you could consider selecting a vacation destination where your teen is likely to meet other teens. If your teen has no one his/her age to talk to, it will make him or her less interested in the trip and more miserable to be around.

Give your teen some freedom.

Teens need a little space and independence. There are ways that you can still enjoy a vacation together, but enjoy some separation as well. If you rent a vacation home, make sure your teen has his/her own bedroom. If you’re in a hotel, book adjoining rooms so that they have privacy. Let them choose some activities to do while you’re there. If your teen’s number one priority is to go to the amusement park, make an effort to go even if you don’t want to. You don’t have to do all of the activities together, but you may be surprised at how much you like doing something that your teen enjoys. Finally, remember that to your teen, sleeping in might be one of the most important parts of the vacation. When you can, allow them this luxury. Perhaps the parents can visit the spa, relax by the pool, enjoy a long breakfast, or take in some shopping. Remember this is your vacation, too, and over-scheduling yourself only serves to make everyone grumpy.

Enjoy your teen’s company and create some fun memories.

Despite the possible hurdles, you can make a family vacation memorable and fun. Remind yourself that your teen will never be this age again and that, before you know it, they will soon be out on their own. Look at your kids with fresh eyes, notice what excites them, and be amazed at what they can do. The right attitude – yours and theirs – will ensure a wonderful adventure.


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