Family vacations with teenagers are the perfect opportunity to make lifelong memories! A little planning ahead goes a long way in helping everyone get on the same page before you go and minimizes unnecessary stress that could dampen the fun!
There are lots of tips out there for traveling with babies, toddlers, or young children, but you don’t see very many for traveling with teens. As a mom of three teenagers, I’d like to share some tips from my own experience that have made our travels more enjoyable.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your vacations with teenagers, too!
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Listen to their ideas
Most likely, your teens have some places in mind that they’d like to visit someday. When you’re planning your next vacation with teenagers, sit down as a family and talk about your destination. It might not be feasible to go exactly where they want to go, and if you have more than one kid, it’s likely that they will all have some different ideas.
This is where you can take some time to teach about compromise and living within your means. Maybe there is a similar location that is more realistic for your current financial or time restrictions. Maybe there are some fun places for teens that have elements that are important to each member of the family and would give everyone a bit of what they’re looking for.
Of course, you’re the parents and you get the final say, but if your kids are personally invested in the trip, it will be a much more memorable and pleasant event for the whole family.
Get them involved in the planning
Teenagers know how to use the internet. Why not use that to your advantage? Once you decide on a destination, give them some parameters to work within (budget, time, geographic, etc.) and let them find fun and interesting things to do. This could save you time and ensure that they enjoy the trip, too! When we were planning our trip to Disney World last year, we knew we were only going to have one day at each park. With this in mind, we had each member of the family decide on the one thing that they absolutely did not want to miss. We made sure to incorporate those items into our plan, and it worked out beautifully!
Give them personal space
Whenever possible, we always stay in accommodations that offer multiple bedrooms and bathrooms for our family vacations with teenagers. You can find resorts, condos, and other rentals for just about the same price as a regular hotel room these days (sometimes, they’re even less expensive than traditional hotels). Yes, sometimes a kid has to sleep on a pull-out couch, but being able to spread out and have their own space just helps everyone to keep a better temperament for the duration of the trip…especially if it is for more than a couple of days.
Laundry…You must think about the laundry
They’re teenagers. I probably don’t have to say much more about this. Unless your trip is very short, you’re going to need to do some laundry. In-room laundry is my favorite, and it’s becoming more and more common! Just one more reason to opt for condo-type accommodations…
Food…Do they ever stop eating?
One more check in the “pro” column for condos…they have kitchens. And kitchens give you space for food. I know you’ll want to sample some of the local eateries at your destination, but eating out every meal can really get expensive with teenagers. For our family, we choose a few mealtimes when we know we’ll be out and about and plan our restaurant meals for those occasions. For other meals, we eat in the condo.
On our first day in town, we make a trip to the nearest grocery store and purchase breakfast items (we almost always eat breakfast in the condo before heading out), sandwich supplies, late-night snack items, a few staples we know we always want, and the ingredients for the meals we know we’re planning to prepare in the condo. We usually err on the conservative side in quantities, so we don’t have to worry about dealing with extra food at the end of the trip. If the grocery store is nearby, that’s not usually a big deal. We’ll just stop by on our way back to our condo one day if we need more food.
Pro-Tip: Check the condo for cooking supplies before you go to the store (baking sheet, salt and pepper, etc.). Most of the ones we’ve gone to have been pretty well-stocked. However, we have found, on occasion that there is an item missing that we like to use. You can call and ask if missing items are available. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t.
Example: Our family cannot survive without sweet tea (we’re native Texans, y’all). We have purchased more than one tea jug (that’s a pitcher for anyone who doesn’t speak Texan) and happily donated it to the condo for use by the next Southern family who might visit there. If we had room in our luggage, we could take it home with us, but tea jugs are cheap, and it’s usually worth it to us to just buy one to use while we’re there and leave it for the next family.
Plan time for rest into your schedule
You might think that rest time is only important to plan for if you have young children, but teenagers need downtime, too! Whether it’s sleeping in and getting a later start to your day, coming back early to swim and relax, or planning a whole day into the middle of your trip to just hang out at the condo to play board games and watch movies, giving your family time to rest and recharge will greatly decrease the likeliness of a grumpy-pants (teenager, toddler, or husband) ruining that perfect family moment you had envisioned!
We HAD TO HAVE a day of rest after we took a day trip to Washington, DC while we were visiting the Historic Triangle of Virginia last fall. We actually gave up a day trip to Virginia Beach we were planning for the same family vacation, because it was just too much. We had to take a step back and re-focus our priorities.
Let them be social
I know it’s tempting to ban all devices and social media to make sure everyone is focused on family time while you’re on vacation. There is definitely a time for that, and I am not trying to tell anyone how to parent. This is just my opinion for your consideration.
Allowing my teens to use their phones throughout the trip has some really positive rewards.
It allows me to see the experience through their lens. I can get to know them better by seeing what photos they choose to take and what experiences they choose to share with their friends.
Today’s teens have grown up in a very social, very visual, very interactive, and very public society. While shutting all the media off and disconnecting for periods of time is definitely important, doing so for long periods of time might cause your teens to feel isolated and resentful.
I choose to allow it, as long as it doesn’t interfere and isolate them from the family (this applies to earbuds, too) and use it as a tool to get to know my teens better and try to see the world through their eyes.
Focus more on your time together than the thing that you’re doing together
I’ve been guilty, more than once, of getting frustrated because one of my kids wasn’t having the perfect response to one of our carefully planned and already-paid-for experiences.
You know how it is. You plan the picture-perfect adventure that you just know the whole family is going to love. You envision the moments of pure happiness as you skip hand-in-hand sharing giggly moments in an epic location that will be forever cherished. The sheer excitement that will radiate from your joyful family when they experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure you’ve planned will be the envy of everyone in sight.
And then it’s not. Somebody’s in a bad mood. Somebody doesn’t want to be there. Somebody wanted to do something else. Somebody is just tired.
In those moments, it’s hard not to feel unappreciated.
But rather than adding to the discomfort of everyone, it will be much more productive to choose peace over pain. I know that if I let it get to me and show that frustration to my family, it just makes the situation more miserable.
Instead, just continue to enjoy the experience for what it is and give whoever is being a grumpy-pants some time to get over themselves. Most of the time, they’ll come around when they realize they’re not going to elicit a reaction from anyone. Let it be more about the time you are spending together than your ideal picture of what you thought that moment should look like.
Traveling together is a great way to make lifelong memories with your teens. I hope these tips will help you to enjoy every moment of your adventures!