Eight Tips for Traveling with Teens
- Monday, June 06, 2011
Summer is upon us, and if you’re contemplating travel with teens you may be feeling a bit of dread mixed with that vacation-anticipation. “Making memories” can be fantastic, but the pressure to do it right, keep your teen engaged, and above all have fun can drain the pleasure out of any vacation.
One of the best trips I’ve taken was a recent journey to Italy with my teen daughter, a senior in high school, to explore Pompeii for my historical fiction novel, Pompeii: City on Fire. We wanted to find out what life was like when Christianity was a relatively new movement, and in between research, get our kicks too! So here are my best travel tips for those heading out with teens this summer, to make your trip memorable for a lifetime:
Secure the “Buy In”
From Day 1 of trip planning, give your teen the reins in some area. My daughter’s God-given sense of direction always trumps my tendency to get lost, so she knew it would be up to her to navigate us through Rome and Venice. If there’s a particular location that interests your teen, give him the task of planning your time there. How about one day that is completely his to plan, from activities to food? He’ll have ownership of the adventure, and probably be more agreeable to the plans you’ve made as well.
Mix Both Your Interests
Our trip to Rome was primarily to research Pompeii for my upcoming novel, but my daughter really wanted to see Venice. It meant a side trip of a couple of days and some extra expense, but seeing something she was interested in made the trip more enjoyable for both of us. Because I had no agenda there, I found that the days in Venice were wonderful. Find out what is most interesting to your teen in the area where you’re traveling, and make sure you spend adequate time there to satisfy her curiosity.
Make Transportation Decisions Up Front
Nothing is worse than a teen complaining about too much walking or driving. If your destination is a city, decide before you arrive how you’ll get from place to place. Walking always feels longer than you expect. Public transportation provides local flavor and saves money, but takes more time -finding stations and waiting for arrivals. (Though my daughter and I have some laughable memories of Bus #64 in Rome!) Taxis save time and sore feet, but can be expensive. A mix of all three will keep everyone from getting too grouchy.
Stay in Sync on the Education
If you’re headed for someplace educational and want to be sure your teen gets all the info, I highly recommend audio tours. There are a number of companies online that provide downloadable walking tours for worldwide destinations. My daughter and I loaded several of these onto our iPods, hit play at the same time, and walked the cities with our own personal tour guide. We learned history, but it also satisfied some of that inherent need teens have to be “plugged in.”
Take your cue from the average teen’s attitude, and don’t get freaked out when things go wrong. Because things will go wrong! Be spontaneous and flexible and embrace the unexpected as an adventure. I can hardly count the episodes my daughter and I encountered – a missed bus at the top of Mt. Vesuvius, a surprise roadside downpour, late night searches for wi-fi – but every one of them is now an entertaining story we brought back. Don’t let detours ruin the fun. Pray on it, give thanks for the adventure, and have faith that everything will turn out ok.
Give them Space
Are you continually amazed at the amount of time your teen can spend asleep on the weekends? Don’t forget that they still need extra downtime when you’re traveling, too. Be sensitive to their need for a little space and some extra rest. If the crankiness starts to build, it’s time to take a break.
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