On our last trip BC (before children) the spouse and I flew down to Tampa for a week on the beach with friends. We packed everything we needed into one duffel bag, rented a convertible once we landed, and then drove with the top down and hands in the air all the way to North Redington Beach. While in line at the car rental facility, we noticed a man close to our age standing with his wife, three small children, his mother-in-law, and a mountain of luggage. The minivan they requested wasn’t ready and they couldn’t fit into a four-door car. He gave us such a mournful look as we waved on our way out that Chuck and I turned to each other and vowed to “never become that family.” I’ll spare you the travel details between now and then because there’s no escaping the frazzled, stressful feeling of dragging around car seats, a stroller, and what feels like luggage for twelve.
While there are plenty of ways having teenagers in your house can feel like the worst phase of parenting (another post for another day!) going on vacation isn’t one of them. Traveling with teenagers is the best! Want a date night at your dream destination? No babysitter (or mother-in-law) required! Want to sleep in on vacation? Teenagers are always down for that. They can also: pack for themselves, schlep their own things, keep track of their own shoes, entertain themselves during the journey, and if you’re road tripping in your own car, they can take a turn at the wheel! See what I mean?
Communicate Your Expectations
We start every trip regardless of length of stay or distance from home with clearly communicated expectations. My kids like knowing all the activities planned for each day. This also allows them to have some input. Isaac and Isabelle typically research our destinations and add their requests to our list of sites and activities planned. Using a list app on our phones, we keep an inventory of proposed destinations and things to see and do at each one. This year, we let the kids pick between three different road trip routes allowing them plenty of buy-in. After all, it’s their time too. With teenagers, vacations are sandwiched between jobs, school activities, driver’s ed, and friends. I want it to be fun for all of us.
Share Veto Power
That also means, our teenagers, as well as the grown ups, get veto power. While I could spend literally days on end at a presidential museum, my teenagers start to tune out after three hours. We let them negotiate how long we spend at places they might not love as much as others. Now that they are 18 and 14, we also let them hang back at the hotel and skip some activities all together. While this might seem counterproductive to the concept of a family vacation, I assure you, having a teenager spend some time on his/her own for a few hours beats dragging a sullen, stomping, eye-rolling kid to places you might enjoy more without the attitude.
Book Two Rooms
One of my favorite parts about traveling with teenagers is to book two hotel rooms. Just be very clear when booking your rooms that you want side-by-side or adjoining. This extra space for spreading out, extra bathroom for getting ready, and simply a door to shut at the end of the day can change a family vacation from too much togetherness to just enough.
I love vacations. I’m thankful my family (who all thrive on schedules and agendas) indulge my desire to shake things up and get out of town as often as possible. Whether it’s alternating who picks the restaurant, to limiting the amount of historical sites (or shoe stores, I’ll be honest), we endure on each trip, all of us are old enough to take some of the vacation responsibility and contribute.
If you are already parenting teenagers, I encourage you to get out the calendars and find a time to get away together. Enjoy their quirky sense of humor, encourage their interests, and build some lasting memories. If your kids are still 12 and under, now is the time to endure being their pack mule BUT go someplace anyway! Start training your kids to travel like teenagers. You won’t regret it. Bon Voyage!