From Eye Rolls to High Fives: How to Make Family Travel with Teens an Iconic Experience

Tired of eye rolls and sighs every time you mention a family trip? It’s time to turn those teenage attitudes into excitement and create unforgettable memories together!

Let’s get those angsty adolescents on board with the family escape by including them in the planning process. Whether planning a beach getaway, an adventurous hike, or a cultural exploration, we’ve got you covered with practical tips and family travel ideas to make your trip successful. Get ready to transform your family vacations into unforgettable adventures for every age.

Why you should involve your teen in family vacation planning

They’re likely to be more engaged. 

Parent Map says allowing your teen to come up with some of the family travel ideas and activities makes them feel a part of creating the experience and “secures a better attitude” (cue the eye rolls we mentioned earlier).

It gives them the decision-making power they crave.

We write a lot about autonomy [link to a previous article] at Youth Life Center because it’s what middle schoolers and teens struggle with the most. They want to make more of their own choices but don’t have enough life experience yet to consistently make good choices for their lives. Travel with teens is the perfect time to hand over the reins (or maybe just one) as they choose how the family will spend its time together.

FabList Co-Founder Christie Kremer, gave this example of how an adolescent can contribute and plan family vacation ideas – tell one child (when age-appropriate) to research Florence and pick a restaurant and one activity the family should do. Another child can do it for Rome. They will be so excited to show off and experience what they have chosen, plus they learn about the city and culture ahead of time.

It allows you to learn more about their interests.

You’ve probably noticed that your middle schooler or teenager doesn’t like talking to you as much. We imagine you’ve seen their faces light up when they encounter their friends and their eyes glaze over when interacting with you. 

Inviting them to pick activities they’re only interested in while on a family vacation is a good, non-evasive way to lean into their interests. You may experience a welcome change of excited chatter and eagerness to participate in these pre-planned excursions compared to the usual grumbles you get from them while at home.

It teaches them accountability.

Writer Talon Windwalker shared that he teaches his son about accountability by letting him pack his luggage when traveling.

“So many parents pack for their teen in a panic: What if they forget their toothbrush, their underwear, their iPad? But part of growing up is learning accountability. Will the world really end if they have to buy a new toothbrush or, heaven forbid, endure a morning with bad breath?” 

He shared that if your teen ever wants to pack too much for the family vacation, just remind them that they’re responsible for their luggage, which means lugging it wherever it needs to go (airport, overhead bins on the plane, taxis, etc). 

Vacation ideas for families with teens

A well-planned family vacation will undoubtedly be memorable, but you also want it to be fun.

Parent Map suggests the following vacation destinations for families with teens

  • Theme Parks
    • Disneyland or Disneyworld are never going out of style.
  • Active Resorts
    • Consider resorts for skiing, camping, or hiking as family vacation destinations.
  • A once in a lifetime trip
    • Think of a cross-country, open road, and make-a-stop-in-every-state sort of trip.

Here are a few more from KidsAreATrip:

  • Take a group tour.
  • Volunteer vacation.
    • Suppose you want to instill the value of giving back. In that case, summer break is a fantastic time to involve teens in charitable activities. But don’t make them do it alone. Plan a day(s) over the summer to volunteer as a family. Allow your teen to pick the organizations they’re most interested in helping, then try discussing the day’s events with them afterward to see where their head is about helping others.
  • Cruise
  • Staycation BucketList
    • If you can’t travel with teens this summer, you can still get the family vacation feel by jazzing up your staycation with a local bucket list! We all have places we’ve been “dying” to try but never have, even though they’re only 15 minutes away. Use summer break to make the most of your staycation by creating a local bucket list of restaurants, recreation activities (go-carts, bowling, trampoline part, etc), shopping, or parks you’ve wanted to visit. Spread the activities throughout summer break, and don’t forget to let your teen(s) create most of the list.

More tips for travel with teens

Start now and look ahead to summer activities. Include your teens in family travel planning and transform family vacations into adventures for years to come. 

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