I fervently believe that travel is one of the best educations any parent can give to a child – especially during their impressionable teenage years. Having said that, anyone who has teenagers will testify that travelling with them can be, well, challenging. Here are some tips that will hopefully help make your next trip as teen-friendly as possible:
1. Go team!
'The family who plays together stays together.' Simple, yet powerful, wisdom. Get your teens involved in all aspects of the holiday from the very onset. Discuss destination choices, itineraries and activities. Reading guidebooks and online travel sources will not only stir up pre-trip excitement but also stimulate young minds. Encourage your children to ask questions and make sure you listen keenly to what they have to say. Keep their sense of ownership of the travel experience alive by continuing to assign tasks while on the road, whether it's navigating, reading maps, updating a travel journal or being appointed chief photographer.
2. Become a groupie
Most teenagers thrive in like-minded company, so you may want to consider taking a package tour for all or part of your trip. Involve your teen in the task of finding the right tour by speaking with travel agents and/or surfing the net. Cruises are particularly popular with families because they offer all sorts of organised social activities on board, from pool volleyball to dance nights.
3. Tough love
This is likely to be your biggest challenge. Convince the kids to leave 'comfort items' (handheld electronic games, MP3 players) at home. The reason? These distractions tend to diminish quality family bonding time. Although your teen may initially be grumpy about the decision, after a day or two, you'll be surprised at how much more communicative they become, not to mention more engaged in what's actually happening around them.
4. Space to breathe
Teenagers need their space; however, this can be particularly tricky to achieve while on holiday. Perhaps the easiest way is to book accommodation that has separate or adjoining rooms so that you don't tear each other's hair out after a long day of sightseeing together.
5. Chill baby, chill
There's always too much to do and too little time when on vacation, but avoid squeezing 101 things into a day. Spread activities out and factor in some time to purely chill – whether it's lazing by the swimming pool or simply spending an afternoon watching movies and munching on room service. It'll leave you all less frazzled and thus less likely to snap at one another.