Getting Tweens & Teens Excited and Involved in Family Travel
Traveling with older kids can be challenging. Although you’ve ditched the strollers there now seems to be a whole new set of baggage – not to mention attitudes. As kids approach their teen years, they are harder to please. In fact, sometimes it seems as if they practically take pride in showing how unimpressed they are with things! If you're creative, however, you can plan trips that are interesting and exciting for teens as well as the rest of the family. Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your next family trip.
1. Manage the gadgets.
Most teens are addicted to their mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players and so on. This can be an area of contention when traveling. I have found that it's best to take a middle ground when it comes to these issues. If you try to ban gadgets from the trip entirely, your teens are likely to rebel and feel resentful. On the other hand, you don't want them texting and instant messaging with their friends the whole time. Give them some time to indulge, but be firm about limiting this to certain times of the day.
2. Get them excited
Part of a great vacation with teens is managing those attitudes. If you can let them know what to expect, they’re more likely look forward to their trip and less likely to be disappointed. Look into a cool book or magazine that will highlight your vacation destination. The Not for Parents travel series by Lonely Planet provides tweens with interesting facts and stories about their next adventure. With answers to questions like “Why are cabs yellow?” and “Which country banned chewing gum?” this kids only travel guide is available for New York, London, Paris and Rome with their original book covering 200 countries. For older teens, a travel magazine like national geographic can be a great opportunity to say, “that’s right, we’re going there.”
3. Choose a family friendly hotel or resort.
This means a place that has resources for kids, teens and adults. Don't just pick hotels randomly or based solely on price. Make sure there are activities that will entertain older kids as well as necessities to make vacationing with younger ones easier on you. Family friendly resorts offer a wide variety of entertainment, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding and more. If there is a theme park or water park nearby this can provide entertainment for a variety of ages. Resorts are great options for parents with teens as it allows them some freedom while also giving you the peace of mind that they’re in a safe and secure area. Many family friendly hotels and resorts offer kids clubs that provide supervised excursions for snorkeling, skiing, and surfing. Try using Gogobot to ask other parents for specific recommendations for your teen’s ages. I found a great list of Walt Disney World hotels in Orlando by sifting through other family’s reviews. That allowed me to find the perfect place for my family of five, equipped with a wading pool and a great shuttle service to the park!
4. Remember to save memories from your trip.
Don't rely strictly on camera phones. It can be fun to buy some disposable cameras and give them to every older kid. This will make them part of the whole process of documenting the vacation. Rather than having only digital photos, it's nice to have some old fashioned printed out pictures that can be put into a scrapbook. If your teens truly enjoy photography, look into something fun like an old Polaroid camera that can be used to create interesting artwork they’ll really enjoy. Photography has a great way of forcing the one behind the viewfinder to see things in a different light, which may be a nice subtle reminder for some disinterested teens.
5. Choose a new destination.
If your family tends to take the same trip every year, it may be time for a change. Older kids and teens can easily bore, and the same places that used to entertain them might produce nothing more than an apathetic shrug now. Even if you're visiting the same region, look for spots that you haven't seen before. This will instill some freshness into your next family vacation. Want to get them really excited? Don’t tell them where you’re going. A surprise destination will be sure to get them interested and invested. But be aware that this can also lead to disappointment if your big surprise is a trip to Grandma’s house.
Kendra Thornton is a Travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. She is a long time travel expert who has been packing her bags and traveling the world since she was 3 months old! She has found her utmost desire in life is right here in her own home. She has taken her excitement for travel and brought it to you with some of her favorite travel tips and tricks. Learn more about Kendra @KendraThornton on Twitter or thorntonPR.com.