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Traveling with Teens and Tweens (and Keeping Everyone's Sanity)

Updated: Mar 29

If you’re well beyond the days of holding an infant on your lap on the airplane, or packing the car to the gills with car seats, sippy cups and strollers … congratulations? Gone are the days of last-minute diaper changes right before the final boarding call at the airport, but here come the days of competing for your teen’s attention with the latest Tik Tok craze.

For those traveling with teens and tweens, here are our best tips. Not everything will work for your family situation, so we recommend picking and choosing, then using those techniques every time you travel until they’re, well, out of college? One of our favorite tips that makes everyone happier … allowing a teen or tween traveler to bring along a friend. Friends make everyone nicer! More on that below …

Without further ado, we offer our top 10 tips and tricks for traveling with teens and tweens and keeping everyone’s sanity intact.

Let Teens and Tweens Help Plan the Trip

When you’re planning a vacation, leave a couple of guidebooks to your destination on the coffee table. Let the kids in your family thumb through the books and get excited about places they want to see and things they want to do. Now, instead of complaining that they’ll be away from home during school vacation and won’t see their friends, they’re starting to get invested in the trip.

Put Family Activities and Free Time on the Schedule

Stemming from the first tip, this suggestion allows everyone to come together, but also have time apart. Obviously, the free time bit depends on your location and the age of your kids. We wouldn’t advise letting a 13-year-old out on their own to explore New York City, for example. However, when you’re in a destination, of course you’ll plan activities and excursions together such as snorkeling, hiking or tours, but then also allow for downtime at the resort, where everyone can do their own thing. This may also translate to breaking up the family into separate groups, based on interest. Perhaps you have an art history buff and a foodie? One parent can take a cooking class with the tween, while the other takes an after-hours tour of the Louvre with the teen.

Consider Bringing Along a Friend

We’re not suggesting that if you have three kids, for example, you bring along three extra kids - that’s no one’s idea of a vacation! However, maybe you rotate which kid gets to bring a friend with each trip you take. You’d be amazed how that one extra face at the table can make your whole family a bit more generous with each other. A family trip may require one more item on the packing list. Passports? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Friend? Absolutely.

For the best overall experience, choose a long-standing friend with whom your child has a mutually respectful relationship and whose parents you’re familiar with (as well as their parenting styles, values and views on discipline). Make sure, too, that your kid and their friend share the same temperament and interests. And, well before leaving town, go over what you’ll be doing and what a typical day might look like so there are no big surprises.

How About a Cruise?

Multiple pools, teen spa treatments, dance parties, video games, waterslides, abundant food - for teens and tweens, today’s mega-ship cruise market is on point. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your kids are somewhere fun and safe on the ship, while you might take a well-deserved moment for a quiet meal with your spouse or a spa treatment of your own.

For a teen or tween these days, a mega-ship is basically a resort and amusement park at sea, all rolled into one. From roller coasters to laser tag, movies under the stars to teen-only clubs, they’ll find plenty of exciting and entertaining options to last the entire cruise. This is a particularly good option for multigenerational vacations, as there is quite literally something for everyone.

Be Flexible

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, or boarded the cruise ship, take a deep breath. You’re all here; now it’s time to enjoy. To that end, try not to over plan. As mentioned above, clearly outline which “together time” activities are a must and get your kids’ buy-in, then counter that with reassurance that they will have plenty of free time to do as they wish.

Make sure you build in time for that extra sleep this age needs - that means few, if any, early breakfasts. Honestly, you don’t know what moods you will be dealing with when your teens and tweens wake up each morning, so the key to a happy vacation is going to be your willingness to go with the flow. Don’t schedule every minute, keep things relatively carefree and flexible - as much as your particular destination and style of travel allows - and you’ll be a happier bunch.

Now that you have the tips for making travel smoother with teens and tweens, where would you like to go? I can help. Let’s chat.

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