Things I wish I had known when I planned a vacation with my teen

If you want a stress free-holiday with your teen, just leave them at home. Yea, alright, just kidding. Teenagers can be just as difficult to manage as toddlers while travelling. Being on that cusp of childhood and adulthood, they tend to be extra grumpy, roll their eyes at many things and can really be annoying after all the effort you went into booking a lovely vacation.  So what can you do to make sure that your teen rolls her eyes a little less and smiles a little more? (Am I being ambitious?)

  • Involve them: Before you buy your tickets or even finalise a destination, discuss it with your teenager. You may want to see Rajasthan, but your teenager might say, “Are you telling me that walking from fort to fort in the hot sun is your idea of a vacation?” True story. I also know of another family, where after day one in Rajasthan, the teenager declared that she would like to stay in the comfortable hotel with air-conditioning and enjoy the pool and room service; anybody who wants to sightsee is welcome to do so on their own. Yes, we want to expose our children to culture and architecture, but dragging along a whiny person is just no fun! Make use of your teens’ tech savvy and delegate the googling to them to find an ideal destination; an education in travel planning, and taking ownership all at once
  • Make a list: Have your teenager make their own packing list of things to take. Ask them specifically of what they would do during a long ride or at the hotel. Make sure they take all the things they might need to keep themselves engaged during down times. While you definitely don’t want your teen to be playing video games at a historical site, you also don’t want them to be stuck with nothing during your nap time at the hotel!
  • Set expectations: You know the temperament of your teen, what they like and dislike. So if you know in advance that there are certain parts of your vacation that might be met with resistance give them a heads up on it and prepare them for it. For example, “I know you don’t like museums, but I think this is a really important one for you to see. So we will do that, followed by this fun activity for you.” This will keep them prepared and keep any rebellion down. Hopefully.
  • Make it fun: If you happen to book a vacation that you know is not going to be very fun for your teenager, then think of how you can do things in a way that will be fun.  For example, we went to Hampi, a heritage site. As adults we appreciate the history and the amazing architecture of the Vijayanagara empire, but from a young teen’s point of view, it was a series of ruined temples. So we went with friends who were great company and we rented bikes to cycle from one place to another, which made it really fun for the kids.
  • Do crazy stuff: You might have a lot of dos and don’ts at regular times. But during a holiday, relax the rules. For example, let’s all have only desserts for dinner! Back-to-back movie marathons, unlimited french fries… anything that will delight them because it is usually not done.
  • Make it physical: Teens love to have an activity to do rather than just plain sightseeing. So find some activity you can do together. Maybe a trek in the neighbouring hills, a game of frisbee on the beach, sunrise or sunset walks etc can all be great activities that burn off some energy and build great memories.
  • Give them some cash: My daughter is always excited about shopping. So give your kid a little cash and tell them they can spend it on anything they want to (that is safe). This will give them something to look forward to and they won’t whine so much when you want to go shopping for local trinkets!
  • Stock up on snacks: Yes, just like a toddler, your teen can get really cranky when they are hungry and you can’t find that lunch joint you are looking for. Carry some juice packs or even candy bars in your bag for a stop-gap hunger fix.

Travelling with kids , old or young , can be fun and a challenge; but with a few tweaks, you can make your vacation a memorable one for everyone.

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