Want to keep your relationship intact while vacationing with your teenagers? Here’s how to do it:
Realize up front that this will not be a “vacation” in the traditional sense of the word and adjust your expectations. This is a working trip, plain and simple. And that’s ok! You want rest and relaxation or museum tours and culture? Don’t take your kids. However, this will be a wonderful opportunity to have quality time making memories with your young ones before they leave the nest. Investing in the parent child relationship in this way will bear fruit in the adult relationship you will have with your children later. It’s all about playing the long game.
And it can still be a ton of fun!
When we had to do a last minute pivot from an international trip due to the Covid pandemic, we enlisted our teenagers in planning a replacement closer to home (staying home altogether was NOT an option!). We settled on an LA trip to do
all of the touristy stuff and we had a great time! Everyone contributed ideas of things to do and see and we fit in as many of them as we could. We saw the Hollywood sign, stayed in a rockstar worthy hotel, ate at legendary Musso and Frank’s Grill, did a star homes tour of the Hollywood Hills and walked on the Santa Monica Pier, to name a few. It was a LOT. But we spread it out and planned in rest periods and avoided early starts since we all like to wake up slowly. The result? Great memories that we still reminisce about often, two years later. It was a fantastic opportunity for my husband and I to work as a team to make a significant investment in our family memory bank. And we killed it! So here are our tips for other parents planning a trip with older kids (travelling with younger kids is a whole different ballpark):
Make sure you are including the teens in the planning. Ask them what they want to do and try to include as many of those things as possible on the itinerary. Say yes as much as you can. They will be more invested in having a good time (and less apt to complain) if they have a say in what the trip looks like. It is also good information to know what they are into, what interests they have. It creates a window into their world and gives you more stuff to talk about. Remain curious and don’t judge.
I remember one date I went on with a guy who shared that he had promised his son a trip to NYC for a graduation present. I leaned in to hear more, this sounded promising as I love to travel and wholeheartedly believe in bringing the kids as a means to expand their worlds. But I was blasted back in my chair when he unleashed a torrent of complaints about how stupid his kid’s interests were since he wanted to see all of the tourist spots. Then he droned on about how he didn’t want to waste money on letting his son buy “trinkets” and stuff. Bah humbug! Buy him the plasticky mementos, go to the Empire State Building with all of middle America and take a mental snapshot of the joy on his face. Needless to say, there was no second date with that killjoy!
Ok, back to the pointers: Privacy. Good for you and for them. Spring for the bigger rental house or 2 hotel rooms. This will be money well-spent as you will all rest better. Some time and space apart is vital. Don’t skip this! We had connecting rooms and two bathrooms on our Hollywood trip; worth every penny.
Schedule plenty of downtime and avoid early morning departures as much as possible. Teenagers need lots of sleep and will be more pleasant with enough rest. Clear expectations go a long way. If you know you have to leave early to catch the flight, make sure they know they need to be packed and in the car with their ID by a specified time. If going on a tour, prepare them for how long it is going to be, what they need to bring and make sure they are fed before and after.
Speaking of feeding – feed them regularly and well. Happy to hangry is a short trip for teens. If staying at a resort, consider an all-inclusive package so you don’t have to figure out how to feed them all of the time. Food is one of the joys of travel as well! Don’t miss the opportunity to try new things and local dishes, encourage them to tiptoe outside their comfort zone. Our kids are pretty adventurous eaters and really wanted to try Nobu for fancy sushi in LA. We went for lunch and shared a bunch of memorable dishes, plus got the all-important photo-ops for them to share with their friends.
Its ok to spend some time apart doing different things. Let them hang out by the pool on their own, take a neighborhood walk or run around Disneyland sans parents. Just set a time and place to meet back up or check in via phone or social media. I’ve had to learn how to snapchat since texting appears to be outdated now! They will appreciate the independence and you will enjoy the break. One of my favorite memories form our LA trip was our evening walk on the Santa Monica Pier as a foursome followed by a stroll alone with my husband afterwards to see the holiday lights downtown while the kids enjoyed downtime in their beds with their screens. And each other. Everyone wins.