Balancing Family Vacation for Tween- and Teenagers

Tweens and teens on vacation don’t necessarily want to hang with Mom and Dad all day, but parents know they’re not quite old to be left alone for long periods of time. You want a family vacation that’s enjoyable for everyone, so you’re looking for a way to balance the children’s need for independence and your need for peace of mind. Here are some tips to get your tweens and teens excited about your family trip.

Ask where they want to go.

Give your children three or four choices and ask which destination interests them. Once the family has decided where to go, ask their input on sightseeing and activities. The more choices they are allowed to make, the more ownership of the vacation they will feel. They will go into the vacation feeling more trusted and independent.

Plan the day.

You will avoid squabbles about where to go and what to do if you set a schedule for at least half the day and make reservations early. The choices your tweens and teens made about activities can easily get overlooked if the day dissolves into a last-minute scramble. They may end up feeling frustrated and powerless if their wishes are ignored. An itinerary also avoids disappointment if your child’s preferred activity or tour is booked up and you can’t get in, which can a problem during peak seasons.

Explore Tween and Teen Tours

Several travel companies specialize in group tours designed for families with older children. Their services may be on the expensive side, but they can be worth the money if you’d rather have experts design your days and recommend activities and tour guides best suited for children. One firm that can create custom itineraries for families is Butterfield & Robinson.

Give Them Room to Explore

Many destinations such as museums and zoos offer guided tours designed for this age group and make provisions so that adults don’t have to accompany their children. Resorts also schedule programs and activities for children such as ziplining for tweens and kayaking for teens. Check here for recommendations on U.S. resorts. Some even offer separate dining for parents and children at dinner so you all can relax a little.

Children appreciate some time away from parents to be independent. Consider allowing older teenagers the space to explore for a few hours on their own. It makes for a more enjoyable trip for all.

Encourage kids to put down the phone.

Screen time can be an issue for many parents and children. Don’t let gadget attachment get in the way of enjoying your family vacation. Before you head out for your trip, talk to your children about what your expectations are for their phones and devices and come to a compromise. For example, if you want to make sure they put down the phones during meals, let them know. You might want to set out times when they are permitted to use devices such as part of the morning or before bed.

Encourage them to enjoy the experience instead of capturing everything via selfies. Make the trip educational and fun by downloading apps and maps related to your destination so that your children can explore using their beloved devices. You can also bring your digital camera, leave the phones at the hotel, and get some quality family photos and time.

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