It’s common knowledge teens are not the easiest traveling companions, but is common knowledge always right? We don’t think so. We find teens both fun and exhilarating to travel with — not to mention surprising. Here are some things we have learned in our travels with four different teens.
Let them be the guide to get you to the right place with GPS, encourage them to identify restaurant choices on TripAdvisor and use a currency conversion app. Embrace those Instagram-able moments. If this is the way teens relate to their experiences, go with it. The main thing is they relate.
Spend as much time doing as seeing. Look for hands-on activities and cultural experiences – painting, craft or cooking workshops, such as tile-making in Lisbon or pasta-making in Florence. Animal lovers might enjoy a special tour with an animal keeper at a zoo or a marine biologist at an aquarium.
Lock in the essentials, like lodging and admission to popular attractions or events, to avoid standing in line (annoying for any age). Do some research so you’ll know what activities and attractions might be interesting to your teen traveler, so you have suggestions ready.
But Don’t Over-Plan
Know what some of the possibilities are but don’t schedule everything in. Make discovery part of the experience and allow for choices instead of scheduling every minute of the day. Be flexible and always prepared to change plans if you hear of something new.
Share the Planning
Get your teen’s input ahead of time to decide on destinations and attractions to visit. There might be attractions that sound interesting to her/him that you might not have considered.
Push the Envelope Occasionally
Some place you go might spark an unexpected interest. Who knew a teen-aged girl would find antique furniture interesting? We didn’t, but a recent trip to Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, she surprised us by her fascination for how furniture styles changed over the centuries.
Share the Responsibilities
Teens are old enough to share some of the business of travel. They can look for restaurants and opening hours at attractions online, and be responsible for their own packing and luggage. Mary uses all the ticket machines and carries the Euro change and small bills. Her jeans always have plenty of pockets and this saves our pulling out our wallets for small purchases.
Sure, you want your kids to learn while they travel, but unless yours are passionate about history or show a particular interest, take off your tour guide hat and don’t lecture on the historical or other importance of what you’re seeing. Fill in a few background details, but concentrate on learning together by reading signs, listening to guides and encouraging your teen to look up facts and answer questions that come up in your discussion. This is a vacation, not another class.