After years of traveling with two teenagers, I’ve discovered some ground rules for great vacations with these painfully hard-to-please offspring. I’ve also come to value these getaways.
After all, unless you vacation with these almost-adult children, your time together is likely to be limited to swapping car keys and listening to your teens’ requests for money. But over doughnuts in the airport lounge, or dinner at the highway stop, you might just find out why your high-schooler skips history, or what it really feels like to come in third in the swim meet.
Here are some tips and trips that turn travel with teens into quality time for both of you.
* Involve teens in the decision making.
Ask teens which vacations would be “gross” and which would be “sweet.” Their veto of the remote beach house far away from pizza and parties—perfect for you and your spouse, but “bo-rring” for them —can save you considerable angst.
* Choose places where there are likely to be other teens.
Teens need other teens even if they are just going to “hang out” on deck chairs wired up to iPods.
*Make sure activities are scheduled throughout the day.
Teens like to sleep late. If a resort’s teen program routinely starts at 8 a.m., mornings will be a struggle with you ”nagging” your grumpy teen out of bed. Day-long activities eliminate this sure-fire resentment builder.
* Indulge in a favorite sport.
Teens like action. Build camaraderie by using the vacation to improve in tennis, golf, horseback riding, skiing or other sport.
*Look for package plans.
An all-inclusive or package plan of unlimited activities and food saves your budget and prevents you from having to play “the bad guy,” saying no to another waterskiing session at “only $150.”
* Opt for as much space as possible.
Teens are great people and terrifying roommates. To give them (and yourself) some privacy, consider condos or junior suites that have a sleep sofa in the sitting area or a second bedroom. Also, look for resorts offering discounts on two rooms.
Before you leave home, establish how much money you will contribute toward extras such as souvenir T-shirts and gifts for friends back home. Then, let your teen spend his or her money. Such pre-planning does away with constant haggling.
What trips interest teens? Consider an exploration of an intriguing city such as Los Angeles, London or New York. Teens love to browse the shops, sample the local food and explore the museums. Plan ahead and purchase tickets for a concert or a theater performance.
Another good choice: soft adventure vacations. Teens, often more physically fit than their parents, can take the lead on rowing, hiking and biking vacations. The switched roles make teens feel good about themselves and teach them appropriate risk-taking. ROW offers a range of family-friendly river trips.
Bribe teens, especially older college-age students, with a spa trip. For most spas the minimum age is 18 while some lower the participating age to 16 years. Whatever the age of your teens, they will love the attention to work-outs followed by the pampering treatments and massages.