A teenage girl takes a selfie in front of the water and mountain.
Your trips might end up being vastly different then when your kids were young, but you can still plan fun family vacations now that they're teenagers.
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Helpful Tips for Traveling with Your Teenager

A Vacation You’ll Both Look Back on with Fond Memories

Traveling with teens may seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but it doesn’t have to be. While most teens would rather hang out with their friends or play video games at home, it doesn’t mean they’re not open to going on vacation once in awhile.

Underneath all that angst and attitude lies someone who wants to have just as good of a time as you do. If you’re planning a trip with your teens in tow, keep these tips in mind to make traveling a bit easier on everyone involved.

Involve Them in Planning

Ask your teen this question, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?” You might be surprised by their answer.

Even if it’s some far flung destination you can’t afford right now, there may be a similar destination or a way to bring that specific locale to you. For example, maybe they really want to go to Venice, Italy and take a gondola ride in one of the canals.

Both Venice, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offer a similar experience at only a fraction of the price, especially if you can find free activities at your destination.

Even freshmen and sophomores might be interested in visiting some of America’s best college towns to start the exciting process of thinking about post-secondary. And older teens will certainly be interested in exploring the town where they might spend the next four years of their life.

Once you’ve pinpointed a destination, it doesn’t hurt to put them in charge of activity planning. Chances are they’ll be researching things to do already.

Something they’re interested in is bound to pop out at them — or they may even find something of interest to you or another family member. Having them plan out some of the actual activities will give them something to look forward to on the trip with the added benefit of making them feel like they contributed in some way.

This is also a great opportunity for them to learn some important life skills. Who knows, maybe one day they will want to go backpacking alone — you’ll feel much better about that if you are confident they have some experience with the logistics of trip planning.

Choose Something Different

Nothing will make a teen roll their eyes faster than going someplace they’ve already been a million times, or even worse, as a kid. While they may have enjoyed exploring the sleepy town of your in-laws when they were five, as a teen they’re likely to find it pretty boring.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit your in-laws, but maybe try staying in a larger city instead with a trip over to see them as well.

Teens want more than anything to be seen as adults so it wouldn’t hurt to give them access to something a little outside of their reach. Take them to a Broadway show while in New York City, get all dressed up and go to dinner at a fancy restaurant, or let them drive if you’re taking a road trip and they have their license.

Letting them experience new things will make the trip more special and one they’re likely to actually enjoy.

It also doesn’t hurt to choose a vacation that’s geared more towards them while still offering plenty of thing for you and your partner to revel in as well. Cruises or all-inclusive resorts offer a teen-friendly experience with organized activities and pre-paid amenities.

That way if they want to pig out on the buffet or try a different water sport everyday, you can rest assured they won’t rack up a huge bill.

Themed vacations are also a huge hit with teens when it’s specific to their interests. If they’re obsessed with music, maybe a family trip to a huge music festival like Lollapalooza, Coachella, or Outside Lands would appeal to them.

Or maybe they’re huge Harry Potter fans and desperately want to go to the UK. Plan a trip to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London and take them around to the various filming locations in the area.

You can always find a way to keep yourself entertained while also learning about and bonding with your teen in the process.

Family adventure vacations are also a sure-fire way of keeping their interest piqued. There’s no time for complaining (or reason to) when you are rocketing down white water in a raft, paddling like mad.

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Give Them Their Space

Even the pickiest of teens can learn to enjoy a family vacation if you give them the space they need to thrive. That means letting them go off on their own for a while if you think they’re responsible enough (and have their own phone) or staying in the hotel while you do another activity.

It may also mean getting a second hotel room if you can afford it. If your teen hardly ever wants to spend time with you normally, they’re definitely not going to enjoy bunking in the same room with you on vacation.

Some hotel suites have couches or roll out beds in another area of the room, which will at least give them a little bit of privacy.

Teens will be teens, which means they’re going to want to have down time to talk to their friends. While obviously you don’t want them on their phones the whole time, you can designate specific times during the day where they can text, email, and post on social media to their heart’s content.

As long as you let them do it at some point during the day, they will likely be in a better mood since they connected with a familiar face (that’s not yours).

Keep Them Engaged

While you might be the kind of person who just wants to get up and go, teens are more likely to want to sleep in and laze around once in awhile. When traveling with teens, you have to allow for both activity and down time.

Try to avoid repetition by alternating days that are jam-packed with things you want to do, with a lazy day or stuff they want to do. You can’t always please a teenager, but you can keep them engaged by changing things up and doing things of interest.

It’s also a good idea to stimulate their minds with artistic experiences, physical activity, and working together with other family members. Go to a modern art museum, go whitewater rafting as a family, or try an escape room as part of your vacation.

When you make them feel included and that they’re being heard, they’re more likely to have fun — putting your own mind at ease — and making your family vacation a memorable one.

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