With one quick glance, the contents of a family’s vehicle before a big trip reveal quite a bit about the ages and stages of the children.
When the kids are babies, the trunk is bursting at the seams with a stroller, pack-n-play, diaper bag, a variety of toys, and the list goes on. Similarly, flying the friendly skies with a little one doesn’t always feel friendly or relaxing. Parents do their best to fill their carry-on bag with a host of necessities, including two of every possible outfit, favorite blankets, baby food galore, diapers, a first aid kit, sensory toys, and the list goes on.
Fast forward a few years and strollers and car seats are replaced with wake boards, beach toys, technology, and a host of parent-approved activities to help keep boredom at bay.
Today I’m sharing my tips on vacationing with teenagers since it’s something I am asked about quite a bit in the summer months. It’s a topic I can speak about from personal experience, as I’ve learned a few things in recent years (and weeks!).
Let teenagers play an active role in the agenda.
Whether you’re headed to a favorite beach or a cross-country destination, thanks to a plethora of travel apps, there’s no reason your teenagers can’t help shape the activity lineup. Depending on your timeline and the number of stops along the way, challenge them to find the best the city has to offer, such as where to grab a bite to eat, the most talked about river to tube, ocean to surf, or milkshake to find before hitting the road again.
I had a friend who provided her teens with the route they’d be taking on a big trip and asked them to pinpoint the best three cities to see on the way to their final destination. As an added bonus, it teaches the kids firsthand experience in the logistics of putting a vacation together.
Don’t over-schedule fun.
We’ve all been so exhausted from a vacation that we need a week of rest to recover. Too much of a good thing can get downright overwhelming, so it’s important to carve out a window of time for rest on your getaway.
There’s nothing wrong with giving everyone a few quiet hours in the afternoon to nap, listen to music with their earphones, or read. What each family member chooses to do with that time should be flexible. If your teenagers want to check social media and watch a few videos, try to be understanding. Expecting your teens to be completely tech-free may cause more angst than you are willing to endure. It’s a form of communication with their friends – just set clear limits in advance.
Pencil in activities teens will enjoy.
A family vacation should feature entertainment options that include everyone. While it may not be fun for you to spend an entire day at the beach where you are left to burn like a fried egg, your teen will probably not remember a trip fondly where they were stuck in an older family member’s house where the topic of conversation centered around your childhood antics. Everything in moderation is the key.
Spend a little extra on a nice hotel.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but try and stay at a hotel that offers teen-friendly enticements. A great pool, fitness center, horseback riding nearby, fishing, tennis, boating, and pre-scheduled teen activities all add an extra lure to the summer vacation. If your teens are old enough to stay alone, plan a date night and let them order room service (within a reasonable dollar amount) and watch a movie. The money you spend on a higher quality hotel will be well worth the cost of having a happy teen in tow.
Allow your teen to sleep in.
School is out for the summer, and one of the things teens relish most is the opportunity to sleep late. If you are an early riser, go down and get some breakfast and let your teens sleep in a few days out of the week. They will prefer the few extras minutes of rest over a waffle and syrup in the hotel restaurant. Buy some breakfast foods or bring something back for them to enjoy when they wake up. They will be in a much better mood if they are not rushed.
Plan a mother-daughter/father-son adventure.
Something as simple as a morning of mountain biking, fly fishing lessons, or a mani-pedi at a local salon (skip the spa – too expensive) will be equally enjoyed by both parent and teen if you agree on interests and options. It is a nice way to spend quality time with your teen, and you’ll feel uplifted afterward.
Don’t let tension get the best of you.
Be realistic. Nothing will go completely as planned and too much togetherness will probably get old when you are in one car or sharing a hotel room for any length of time. In a perfect world, your son or daughters could share a suite and give you some much-needed space.
Use this time to get to know your growing kid. You may be surprised at what you find out. On a recent family getaway, I learned my son was a much better photographer than I had ever imagined. He spent time sharing some pictures he had taken and telling me stories. I also discovered he sold some of his old sports equipment and made an anonymous donation to a nonprofit he’d recently become interested in helping. Our lives are so busy, and even when we think we know it all, there is always something new we can learn about our children – regardless of their age.
For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, read her Inc. contributions, subscribe to her articles on Huffington Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.