Traveling With Teens
By: Armin Brott
Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I want to take our two teenagers along on our family vacation this year but every time we try to discuss the topic we end up having a fight. How can we get through this and still make it fun for everyone?
A: Little kids rarely have preconceived expectations about travel--they're just so delighted to be going someplace new--so it's hard to disappoint them. But teenagers are a lot more particular about what they think is fun. And you can pretty well count on there being some differences between your definition and theirs. Sometimes all they want is a chance to hang out with other kids their age. Or, they may be interested in an activity that presents a physical challenge. It's a pretty safe bet, though, that they're not going to have a lot of interest in spending all day museum hopping. The key is to include your teenagers as much as possible in the decision making and to be flexible. Determine the budget and distance limits then toss suggestions into a hat, pick one, and discuss.
Give the kids a vote in picking hotels and restaurants. If you're taking a driving trip and the kids are old enough, let them spend some time behind the wheel. Once you're at your vacation spot, give your teen a small amount of spending money and leave it up to him to spend wisely. If you're in a place where you feel comfortable letting the kids go off on their own for a while, check out in advance the places they plan to visit--just like you would at home. And be sure everyone agrees on curfews and emergency procedures.
One of the risks of traveling with teens is that they might fall in love on the trip. There's something about unfamiliar surroundings that makes everything seem more exciting and everyone seem more attractive. How you handle the situation will, of course, depend on the circumstances. If you're trying discourage a summer romance, be gentle. It's better to let your child figure out for himself that long-distance romance is hard to difficult to maintain than blame you for ruining his life.
For more tips on travel, check out Travel with Others Without Wishing They'd Stayed Home, by Nadine Davidson. Bon voyage!
A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Father for Life, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at http://www.mrdad.com/.