Traveling with Teens

Give some parents a choice between traveling with teenagers or with a pack of hungry badgers, and they'll choose the badgers nine times out of ten. There's just something about combining unpredictable teens and close quarters that create stressful situations for those unprepared for the journey. When faced with a long trip with their teenager, some parents simply toss an MP3 player or hand-held computer game into the back seat with their child, or allow their teen to invite a friend. While this may stop them from repeatedly asking, "Are we there yet?" it builds barriers between the child and parent, defeating the true spirit of the family vacation.

Travel agents, in all their worldly experiences, see vacations as the perfect opportunity to bond with your teens, for how often do you really get a chance to spend quality time with them away from phones, TVs, video games and instant messaging? Once teens are in a different environment, even for a day trip, they often become more open and communicative. To unlock the secrets of traveling peacefully with your teenagers, check out these tips from ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know that even though you don't agree on music and movies with your teen, you can all agree that hiking the Grand Canyon or watching the sun set from the deck of your cruise ship is very cool.

Space, the First and Final Frontier

Teenagers need space like fish need water. Give them space by having your travel agent select accommodations that offer more than just one room, such as a suite, or book adjacent rooms if the budget permits. Mental space is important too, so do not plan a schedule jam-packed with activities for every minute of the day. Have plenty of time for relaxing. To teenagers, space equals privacy, and privacy is hard to come by in a cramped hotel room. Plus, the more space your teens have to get away from you, the more you'll have to get away from them.

They'll Love It When a Good Plan Comes Together

Planning is an important step of every vacation. If you want to plan a trip your teenager will get excited about, the solution is easy: get them involved with the planning. Your teen will enjoy sifting through the guidebooks with you or researching activities online. Bring them to your travel agent's office and urge them to ask as many questions as they like. Brainstorm with your entire family and listen to their input. Your teen may surprise you with some of things he or she might like to do on vacation. The more you show that you are listening, the more your teen will come forth with ideas. Take their interests into consideration, whether it's their love of the outdoors, history or music.

Once the family plan is in place, keep your teen involved by putting them in charge of at least one aspect of the trip. If they're good with maps, make them the navigator. Do they have an eye for photos? Make them the official vacation photographer, in charge of not only taking photos during the trip, but also of compiling the album once you return. They will enjoy the responsibility of the project and the trust you give them to accomplish it.

They Love the Night Life, But They Don't Love to Boogie

Going out at night is a necessity for teenagers, so it's vital to visit an area with many nightlife options. Your travel agent will know which towns or resorts have something going on in the evening, and how to avoid quiet communities where they close the streets at 5 p.m. You should aim to go places where teens are, so that your kids can hang out with others in their age group. Give your teens a night off. Allow older teens to go out on their own for a few hours, to just hang out at the local shops, and trust them to be back at the hotel at a designated time. For piece of mind, have your travel agent set up an international cell phone plan that can keep you and your teens constantly connected. Even if they don't feel like going out, you can still give them the night off to simply chill out in the hotel while you enjoy the nightlife. Let them rent a movie and order room service.

Dollars and Sense

Set a budget with your teens for incidental spending and stick with it. One good idea is to make a deal with your teens, stating that they will get a percentage of the money left over at the end of the vacation. This often works in reducing the number of "I wants" that escape their lips.

Sleeping Beauties

Let your teens sleep in as much as your schedule allows. It's a win-win situation. They happily get to sleep in, and you have time for a quick nine holes on the course or a trip to the spa. Teens love to sleep late, and research has shown that their body clocks demand it. Try not to think of it as wasted vacation time, for letting them sleep is an easy way to eliminate tension.

Food for Thought

Part of experiencing a new destination is enjoying the local cuisine. While most travelers look forward to this savory part of world discovery, teens often fear it. Especially during international exploration, where the food can range from the exotic to the bizarre, forcing your teen to experiment day in and day out may not yield positive results. Allow them the occasional fast food trip to cleanse their delicate palates. One great trick, travel agents tell us, is to let older teens eat on their own, especially in a foreign town. Give them enough money and set them free. This will force them to find their way around, communicate with locals and handle money responsibly. And all the while, you and your spouse can sneak off for a romantic dinner.

Just be sure to discuss with your teens to respect and obey the local customs while they're out on their own.

Take a CyberBreak

As many parents can attest to, it's difficult at times to pry your teenagers off their computers. While a vacation is a great opportunity for teens to experience the World Wide without the Web, don't force them to quit cold turkey. Make it easy for them to stay in touch with their friends back home by visiting cyber-cafés. You know you'll want to check your e-mail just as much.

Where to Go

Now that you have a better grasp on how to peacefully coexist with your teens while on vacation, the next logical question is where to take them? A question like that is best directed at a travel agent, for they know of many places that cater to the entertainment and cultural needs of all ages. Travel agents recommend cruises as a great option for families, where teens often bond with others their age on board and enjoy a great amount of space and freedom. Ski holidays also come highly recommended, even though your teen will most likely choose to snowboard, for most resorts have special programs designed just for their age group. "Family adventures" are a travel agent specialty, where you'll enjoy guided, multi-sport tours in amazing locales. If multi-sports are not your idea of vacation bliss, and you prefer to keep things low-key, possibly to visit relatives or an historic site, keep in mind some activities that your teen can look forward to or plan a side trip to an amusement or water park.

The Name is Agent, Travel Agent

The end result of any family vacation is to bring you closer to your loved ones while enjoying a fantastic travel experience. The key is to think of your next vacation as an adventure, for it's nearly impossible for anyone - especially your teenager - to not get excited about setting off on an adventure.