As a mother to a hormonal teenager, there aren’t many things I can say that make her smile. And travel with a teenager is one of them. “Hey, want to go to France for the weekend?” I ask. Eyeroll, followed by the comment, “France is boring.”
When writing the title for this, I wrote teenanger by accident. How ironic.
Your teen may not respond to a family vacation by doing cartwheels, but they do secretly look forward to travel. Vacations are a great opportunity to bond as a family, without social influences from other friends and peers putting a damper on things. You just have to be prepared and know how to avoid the drama. As a globetrotting mother, I offer you 5 ways to beat the eyerolls, attitude and survive travel with a teenager.
travel with a teenager survival tip 1: plan for space on your trip
“A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.” -Rumi
Space is the most important thing you can offer your teenager during travel. During these difficult and transformational years, living with a teen is like living with someone from another planet. And the sentiment goes both ways. Teenagers need a break from us, as we do from them. The craziness gets kicked up a notch during the intensity of travel, so be prepared to schedule breaks – it’s good for both of you.
Teens are biologically wired to crave space.
Alone time builds intelligence and helps teens regulate their emotions. “Time spent alone to reflect is just as important as the activities themselves,” confirms Joseph Murray, an associate professor of education at Bucknell University. In his study, he found that teenagers that enjoy regular solo time thrive in college. “Students need to spend time alone with their thoughts, and there’s reason to believe that’s not happening nearly enough,” Murray said.
When planning a trip, book a hotel or apartment with room for your teen to be alone. If a suite is out of your budget, a hotel with a pool, nice lobby or lounge will serve as a great place they can wander off to, as they need. Space can also be created in the simplest of ways, like allowing your teen to put on his earbuds, hang out and listen to music.
“For teenagers, being alone isn’t lonely. It’s part of their growing up process.”
vacation with teens survival tip 2: let them sleep in!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a teenager’s sleep-wake cycle can shift as much as two hours, thanks to hormones. This makes it difficult for your teen to fall asleep before 11 p.m or to wake up at 9 am. To make matters worse, teens need a minimum of 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep makes them irritable and prone to lashing out. Sound familiar?
When traveling, plan to do things your teenager doesn’t want to participate in, while they sleep. Or take that time to indulge in an early spa treatment, a work out or personal quality time of your choice.
Knowing that your teen is a late riser, make plans in the late afternoon and evenings together, when your teens are at their best.
traveling with teens survival tip 3: schedule wi-fi time
When traveling, schedule Wi-Fi breaks and turn off data. You’ll save on roaming costs and increase family bonding time. Our family rule is that when we’re out, we don’t text or have conversations with a device, just with each other.
Bowman house rule: people before Apple!
To offset the “outrageous demand” of family bonding time, we allow our teen wi-fi time, back at the hotel room, at some point daily. Wi-fi time for the teen is the perfect coffee or wine time for adults.
Let your teens check in with friends back home and use it to your advantage! J, our teen, is often more engaged in exploring, because friends want her to report back on things she saw and selfies she took.
teen travel survival tip 4: use my hands on history activity to get your teen engaged
If you haven’t read about the Bowman family hands on history activity, give it a try. We travel so much, I want my kids to really enjoy and appreciate what we are doing. They get travel homework before we leave on a trip. I tell them where we’re going, some cool things about the place and ask them to google the place and come up with what they found interesting and what they want to see.
Put yourself in your teenager’s shoes to understand where they’re coming from. Your teen: What’s the point of standing in this old, round building with no roof and a pile of rocks with a bunch of other people? This is hot and boring. My parents are embarassing me right now.
If you give them some travel homework and let them research the place in advance, the script may change. Your teen: we are standing in a round building with no roof and a pile of rocks in Rome called the Colosseum. Some gladiator in a skirt probably got shred to pieces by a tiger right here a long time ago. Gladiator was awesome. How did they fill this place up with water? It’s time for a selfie, my friends won’t believe I was here!
teenage travel tip 5: slow down
Don’t pull a Griswold on your vacation! There is no need to see every sight in the guide book. You can learn a lot from your teen about slowing down. On a recent trip to Scotland, we spent the day in a small village, in and out of monasteries, museums and castles.
Jade was not into it. She walked out of our castle tour. I followed her, ready to give her an earful. She sat on a bench to watch birds bathe and play in a water fountain. I sat with her, not realizing how tired I was. The sun was shining on us and we kept giggling at the water war between the birds in the fountain. A large, old, creaky tree was blowing in the wind, making the most beautiful sound. It was a lovely break.
Jade simply said, “I just needed to come outside for a little while. My brain told me less sightseeing, more being.”
Those are the moments that make travel with teens, when planned right, a worthwhile experience. Moments when they briefly reveal their soul and you can relax and be proud of who they are growing up to be. Take Jade’s mantra, “Less sightseeing, more being,” and incorporate it into your next vacation with teens.