We know it’s hard to engage teenagers and tweens in family life. These are challenging years in a family unit, as the people we’re accustomed to thinking of as little kids start looking for ways to be considered adults. Your teen’s need for privacy is probably reaching an all-time high, and basic communication can be a challenge!
Still, one of the best ways to spend family time in these shifting times is on vacation. Taking a family vacation is an opportunity to reconnect away from the familiar battlegrounds of home, school, and work. So how can you successfully vacation with teenagers?
Start the process at home by getting your teenagers and tweens involved in your vacation planning. Then, fill in the blanks on accommodations, activities, and attractions with best-of-both-world scenarios that allow for a mix of family and private time for everyone.
Talk about everyone’s dream vacation: Adventure is out there, but this might not be the year your teen wants to try mountain-climbing or scuba diving. Stress from school and college plans could have your kids thinking more about relaxing by a pool or slamming a few rolls of quarters at a state-of-the-art arcade than discovering new frontiers. On the other hand, burning off some tension with physical activity might be just what they need. Family vacation spots that offer something for every age and interest, such as large resorts with a variety of amenities and activities, are good ways to let family members with different ideas about how to spend their vacation unwind in their own ways.
Get them planning: Who has more boundless energy for staring at a computer screen than a teenager? Once you have the groundwork for your vacation laid, put them to work researching where to stay and what to do. Not only will it save you the effort, but you’ll figure out exactly what your teen really wants to do on vacation. When’s the last time you had that much insight into your kid’s brain? It’s just another reason why family vacations are priceless at this age.
Suggest some adult activities: As your teens make the leap from childhood to adulthood, their interests and wants can ping-pong between reliving favorite memories and tackling adult pastimes they’ve never experienced before. It’s the difference between ordering chocolate-chip pancakes at a casual breakfast joint and dressing up for dinner at a white-tablecloth restaurant. While it’s likely your trip will include some treasured traditions from years gone by, giving your teen a grown-up feeling with an adult evening out will be a treat for everyone, and might just give your entire family a reassuring taste of the vacations and get-togethers yet to come.
Plan ahead to maximize alone time: If your vacation plans will take you off your resort, look for accommodations as close to the action as possible. Giving your teens some room to move around on their own and experience a little privacy and autonomy will improve everyone’s vacation experience. Ask your kids to tell you what’s top on their list, and compare it to your own top sights. As they get older, you might find they’re able to visit some of their favored attractions on their own — which is great as your interests probably don’t completely overlap at this point!
Book additional space: Once you’ve entered the tween/teen years, everyone just needs a little more space. The old double occupancy hotel room might not be enough, especially on longer trips. Condo or villa accommodations with at least one separate bedroom can save your vacation when everyone has just had a little too much togetherness time. If there’s one thing that can’t be forced, it’s family harmony! Avoid pushing the envelope by retreating behind a closed door after a long day of sightseeing or visiting attractions, allowing your teens the privacy that makes them feel like adults as well.
Let them sleep: Whenever possible, leave your teens to sleep in. Go out and have breakfast, and bring them back some pancakes, but don’t wake them up unless you have to! Most teens find themselves over-scheduled and over-stimulated, with daily early alarms for school, just when their bodies need the most sleep. You might love an early morning of sightseeing or a sunrise jog along the beach, but chances are your teen would prefer to just be left to snooze. For a lot of teens, sleeping in is vacation enough.
With some teamwork on planning, your family can have a memorable vacation–even with teenagers! Adjusting the parameters of your typical vacation planning to allow for differences in interests, and an enhancement of privacy, can really make the difference between taking a tense trip and a fun-filled family vacation. And the memories and connections you make on vacation might just translate to better communication with your teens back home… although we’re not making any promises!