Family Vacations with a Teen: Should they stay or should they go?

Smiling Family Posing in FieldSo, you have decided your family should go on a vacation. Only problem is that your family includes a grumpy, annoyed teenager who doesn’t want to be within a 10-foot radius of their family. The mere mention of a family vacation induces moaning and complaining. What’s a parent to do?

Parents have five options when it comes to vacationing with their teen:

  1. Force your teen to go with you. Insisting your teen go on vacation with you, without offering an alternative, usually results in the parents spending the vacation lecturing the teen about how they should be enjoying it more and/or how they are ruining the vacation for everyone else. Although this is a common response for many parents, we don’t recommend this option.
  2. Get your teen’s input on planning a vacation. Consult your teen about the type of vacation they would prefer to go on with the family, and let them plan aspects of the trip. Obtaining your teen’s input, and ensuring that the vacation has some “teen element,” goes a long way when trying to plan a good time with the family. We highly recommend this option, and you can learn more specifics about how to implement this option in our previous blog, Family Vacation Tips for Parents of Teens.
  3. Leave your teen at home. In choosing this option, the rest of the family can enjoy their vacation, and the teen is equally happy. The downside to this option is that your teen may do something that you have forbidden. If you are lucky, it will be something minor like staying up all night playing video games. Unfortunately, many parents are not that lucky, and discover that there was a “gathering” at their home – possibly with a lot of underage drinking, neighborhood complaints of loud noise, or an insurance claim from a neighbor who said their property was damaged. We do not recommend this option.
  4. Allow your teen to stay with or go away with friends. It depends… if the teen has been invited by their friend’s family to go somewhere, or stay with their family while you go away, this can be an enjoyable experience for everyone. However, if the teen has been invited to go somewhere with a group of unsupervised teens, your son or daughter will likely be exposed to drinking, injuries and risky behaviors. We do not recommend this option either, and you can learn more about the risks and dangers involved in our previous blog, Should you let your teen go on vacation unsupervised?
  5. Invite one of your teen’s friends to come with you. 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 as they will entertain themselves. We highly recommend this option.


Do not just give up on family vacations when your family suffers from adolescent griping. Despite their eye-rolling, teens need time bonding with their family to thrive. Just alter your vacations a little to make sure that you are setting your family up for success. Either invite your teen’s friend along, or go someplace that will truly appeal to your teen. Despite the possible hurdles, you can make a family vacation memorable and fun. The right attitude – yours and theirs – will ensure a wonderful adventure.

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