Our five tips for traveling with teens can help you explore, discover, and plan an ideal trip every member of your family will enjoy.
Traveling with a teen is always a balancing act between quality time and independence while still creating the memories both you and your older kids will cherish.
Designing your perfect family vacation can give rise to possible challenges and incredible opportunities, and these tips on what to consider can help make your next vacation the best one yet.
When planning your family vacation with older teens, it is essential to consider the type of trip your child might enjoy. Are they the type interested in historic cities with a modern culture, or would more active excursions be best? Do they look for exotic beach getaways or are they animal lovers?
“With teenagers, it is important that they have a say in the planning of the trip. A family trip should be a 'family’ trip, not an adult trip where the rest ‘tag along,” encourages Raquel, a travel specialist for Spain and Portugal. Capitalize on your child’s interests, be it English football, Japanese anime, wildlife, or history.
Once you consider not only the destination but the type of experiences your teen may want to have, you can start playing with the possibilities of tours, classes, discoveries, or other experiences that may enhance your overall trip. “Get your kids involved early,” says Suzie, a travel specialist for several regions of the world. “Perhaps let them do some research on their own to see what would be one thing, a location or just an activity or experience, they would really like to include on the trip.”
Don’t be afraid to get the entire family involved and take in their opinions. Offer guidance to your teens by providing options rather than the paralyzing freedom of limitless possibilities.
“It’s important for them to know that something perhaps isn’t feasible because of time, expense, or interest of other family members, but allowing them to be part of the process can help them get excited about the trip and start learning about the destination,” says Suzie. You can even let their interests guide their choices as they find inspiration from social media, films, books, video games, or more.
Rely on your travel specialist to provide road-tested ideas and suggestions, and then discuss them as a family. By giving your kids the chance to take part in the planning, your teen will have a deeper investment in the coming trip, no matter where it takes you.
The chance to experience new things together is the best part of any family vacation. “With teenagers, I usually like to include more adventurous experiences,” says Raquel. “Zip-lining over the Tagus in Toledo, jet boating in the Douro River in Porto, or chances to interact with locals.”
It depends on the person--a trip with climbing, surfing, and canyoning may sound like a dream for some but a nightmare for others. Gauging what might be enjoyable and accessible for all is essential. You want to authentically take in all that your destination offers in a way that works for everyone.
“If you plan in advance, this can be an experience that the family is looking forward to for a full year. It can be an opportunity to start learning a new language together, or learn in advance the history of the country that comes alive when you are there together,” says Suzie. Your vacation is a great time to test the limits and try some things you might never have tried--from traditional foods to authentic excursions.
Downtime is important for the entire family. A full schedule is great for a fast-paced trip, especially when you have limited time, but an endless array of non-stop activities can be exhausting for everyone. “When designing a personalized vacation itinerary for families with teenagers, my goal is to always use their immense energy,” says Filomena, a Portugal travel specialist. But with that, you also want to give your teens a chance for time to themselves.”
“Stay in central locations so if they want to explore by themselves for an hour or two it is easy for them to do so,” says Kate, a travel specialist for Australia. “Be sure to include some adventure. Build in a bit of free time so that they can enjoy the hotel pool or pop out and get an ice cream.”
Time to relax may feel counterintuitive to the travel experience but everyone in the family needs time to recharge. By building the option into your itinerary, your teen can focus more intently on the excursions you will be taking, knowing they can rest or even reach out to friends during the scheduled downtime.
Beyond the initial planning process and taking into account your family’s preferences, you can give away some control during the trip to help keep your teen engaged.
As they grow into independent adults, they can take on some of the travel responsibilities, especially on days with little to no schedule. Let them pick the restaurant, choose a different activity, navigate a city, or plan a specific family activity for the day alongside your travel specialist.
“Adding specific or unique activities can give each trip a vivid place in your mind,” Suzie says. “Working with an expert in the area that you want to travel will unlock possibilities and experiences that you might never have known were available to you, and can ensure a quality experience, allowing the family to just focus on the fun, NOT stress over the logistics.” Why not let your teen make the decisions and surprise you with a day’s activities? You may be delighted with what they come up with.
A family vacation is a great way to make memories while introducing your teens to new experiences, cultures, and ideas from around the world.
Whether lounging on a secluded beach, uncovering ancient archeological sites, or witnessing lions in the savannah, our 12 Best Family-Friendly Destinations can help you find the right vacation for your family.
You can also find more inspiration for where to go when traveling with teens with our sample Family Vacations & Tours. Find a larger sense of adventure with our 8 Unique Places to Visit as a Family with Your Kids and enjoy exploring the possibilities of what you can do when visiting our Family Vacation Travel Guide.