Living at home with a teenager can sometimes be difficult enough, so how do you survive travelling with them?
No museums. No bushwalking. No art galleries. No “boring stuff”. These are the rules set down by my teenagers when it comes to planning family holidays. But wait, there’s more: no backpacks, and forget that stuff about travelling light. And don’t expect us to get excited about the same things that you do. Ah, well … at least they still want to come with us. High on the list of “fun, cool stuff” are, thankfully, things that most of the time we can also enjoy. It comes as no surprise that consultation and compromise are the keys to successfully travelling with teenagers. As mine reach the higher end of their teens, at 17 and 18, we’re finding it easier to find a middle ground, which means everyone can enjoy their holidays. The first hurdle is to reach agreement on where to go. With family ties in New Zealand, that destination is a regular on our list, but is increasingly being relegated to the “boring” list. Familiarity does breed contempt, it seems. This year, we have managed to sneak it in again, with promise of lots of action-packed Kiwi-style soft adventure.
“We need to go somewhere that we can brag about to our friends,” says the 17-year-old. But further questioning reveals that it’s not about where her friends would consider “cool” but where she believes is worth bragging about – Europe and the USA score well. Within Australia, Queensland is always at the top of their list for the chance to revel in sun, sand and surf.
Once the destination is agreed, the next question is, “What will we do there?” Teens may be happy to hole up in the hotel (as long as the TV is good and the programs are in English), but in the interests of getting them out and about I’ve become quite an expert in soft adventure.
That means organising activities such as parasailing, horse riding, surfing lessons, skiing lessons, and zorbing, where you are strapped inside a huge plastic bubble (with or without water inside it) which is rolled down a hill. Sounds strange? Don't knock it – the kids requested this themselves. That’s a big advantage because it means there can be no complaints.
Encouraging teens to research and decide what they want to do on holiday means they are more likely to be keen to get out and experience the destination.
For girls, shopping is always high on the agenda, even if it is only window-shopping. And for a truly girly experience, throw in a spa treatment somewhere – it will go down a treat. When we planned a holiday in Italy, our teens were worried about the language difficulties. “How are we going to get on if we don't speak Italian?” fretted our eldest. The same way as many other tourists, I assured her, and within days of arriving she was confidently returning cheery “buon giorno” greetings and offering “grazie” to all and sundry. Eating out, however, can be fraught. Foreign food may challenge teenage tastebuds, but there is usually something that can be found. In Italy, good old pasta and pizza came to the rescue, even if we parents opted for something more sophisticated.
The other beauty of travelling with teens is that it’s possible to leave them on their own while you and your significant other go out alone. Ours are often happy with room service and a movie, and make it a “night off” from restaurant meals. As they’ve got older, we’ve also given them limited amounts of freedom to “do their own thing” without us – usually an organised activity or tour which gave them a few hours independence. Providing them with mobile phones and ensuring they have a card with the hotel’s contact details on them also means that getting lost or separated is not such a daunting prospect. And during those hours we had the opportunity to pursue our interests, leaving everyone happy.
By Lee Mylne
Your survival plan
- Encourage teens to help plan your holiday
- Allow them to select the destination, or at least some of the activities
- Ask them to research the destination for activities that interest them
- Think soft adventure – it gives teens exciting activities such as horse riding and surf lessons
- Have them plan the best shopping options
- Allow them to book and enjoy a spa treatment.
Hunt out restaurants that satisfy teen and adult taste buds
- If they are old enough, give them a night off. They can order room service and watch movies while you go out
- For older teens also consider allowing them to go on a tour or organised activity by themselves.