When my kids were younger, we could take them anywhere. They were great travelers and didn't complain much. Now that we have three teenagers with three different personalities, it's not as easy. Still, we manage to find a family vacation that suits us all. Here are some tips to make your vacation not only easier to plan but fun for even your teenagers.
Involve the kids
Kids want to do something they helped plan. A few years ago, we wanted to get away for Spring Break, but we couldn't take very many days and it had to be inexpensive. We gathered the kids up and had a family meeting. We asked them what would be fun, yet also inexpensive. It took some creativity and brainstorming, but we finally settled on going to Moab, Utah, about four hours south of where we live. I just wanted warmth after a cold winter and the kids wanted an outside adventure with a nice hotel and dinner thrown in. Involving the kids in your vacation planning will get them excited and looking forward to the time.
Encourage your teen to save vacation money
If teenagers have their own money, they feel a little bit more in control of the vacation. When they can pay for their own souvenirs, it can make the experience more memorable.
Let your teen do some of the driving
This is a great time to teach your 16-year-old the rules of the road. Let him drive for an hour or so to give you or your spouse a break. He will love this and it can be a great bonding time.
Let your teen bring a friend
If you only have one child, allowing her to bring someone can bring much peace to the vacation. She will have someone who she can relate to, and chances are, she will be much more friendly and fun to be around. She may even hug you and say "Thanks!" Just remember to set clear rules and keep the parents up-to-date with everything you will be doing.
Write down everything you think you might need or want to do, as well as where to stay and where to eat. Find and print directions to your stops. When you arrive, you won't be driving all over looking for your stop. Once you have your plan in place, make notes on what to take. It's good to anticipate any kind of weather. Also write down when you would leave and arrive. Once that is in place, you're ready to go.
Expect the unexpected
Things happen, and so even if you don't know what might happen, it's a good idea to plan for the unexpected. Even if you're going to the Bahamas, it still can rain. If it's pouring down rain, hang out at your hotel and go swimming indoors or order in room service and watch some movies together.
It's inevitable that someone will not like something and start an argument. Be patient with each other, especially when you're in the car for a long time. Take frequent stops, even if it's just to get out and stretch your legs.
Don't take away their phone or iPod
Yes, you heard right. Why? Because your vacation will turn into the worse vacation ever. Now, that doesn't mean your teens can just tune you out the whole time. We let our kids use them on the drive and in the hotel room. When we were sightseeing, they put them away unless they were taking pictures. Phones were also off limits at meals. Our teens were fine with it and we got what we came for - bonding time.
Vacationing with teens can be fun and memorable, it just takes a little extra planning and compromise. Make the most of it, knowing that these precious years you have with them are drawing to a close.
Julia Nielsen is currently parenting three kids with pitfalls and pleasures. She co-authored two published books in "The Crystal Locket" series, and graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2005. Check out her blog: http://jewelswrites.blogspot.com