If you thought the constant cries of ‘are we there yet?’ from your younger children on the back seat were tiring, just wait until you travel with teenagers! However, it has many advantages for all of you.
Teens come with extra emotional baggage, tend to find their parents endlessly embarrassing and are probably convinced that a family holiday won’t be much fun.
However, a recent survey conducted by the Wagner Group, in partnership with the US Travel Association and TravelEffect.com, found that people who went abroad on a school or family trip between the ages of 12 and 18 were more likely to be academically and financially successful. They were also more likely to earn a college degree (57% ) and earn an income 12% higher on average than those who never travelled during adolescence.
With that in mind, here’s how to avoid your teens’ trademark snarky comments and hormonal meltdowns so that the whole family can enjoy the getaway to the fullest.
Involve teens in the planning process
There’s no better way to get a teen on board for a family vacation than making them believe it was their idea in the first place. Rope them into the planning process and take their suggestions seriously:
‘My husband and I were super-keen to visit the UK, but our sporty 15-year-old son was adamant that we go skiing in Switzerland,’ says Patricia Hadley from Johannesburg. ‘We quickly realised that settling for his destination would be a lot more enjoyable than dragging him to the UK and having to listen to him complain… Needless to say, although it wasn’t the original plan, we all ended up having a wonderful time.’
Try to plan a holiday that fully encompasses everyone’s interests in one way or another. If your teenager loves adventure, include something high energy and exciting in the itinerary, like paragliding or surfing. If they love reading,
be sure to explore the local library and bookshops. If they have a passion for food or cooking, why not take a cooking course together that focuses on local cuisine? The opportunities to get them really enthusiastic about the trip are endless.
Ultimately, you want the holiday to include lots of family bonding. Work together to set boundaries that allow for this, like ‘no cellphones from 9am-4pm’. Let your teen make a few of their own rules too so that they don’t feel picked on. Making your expectations known before you leave will ensure that the holiday runs as smoothly as possible right from
Choose your flights carefully
While a direct flight makes more sense when flying with infants and young kids, it may not be the best option when you have teenagers in tow. A stop-over in an interesting destination could add value to your trip (especially if you’re able to leave the airport for a few hours) and provide your teen with an opportunity to stretch their legs. This could make them a lot more pleasant for the remainder of the journey.
‘A great way to stagger your flights and explore multiple destinations is to look at the Double Dip and Triple Treat
deals on offer via the Flight Centre website. You’ll get a sizeable discount on your flights, make each travel leg
more manageable and maximise the family fun,’ says Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group General Manager:
Marketing & Product.
Give them space
It’s important to be realistic about your holiday. While you’ll be wanting to spend lots of time together, it’s unfair to expect your independence-seeking teenager to be by your side 24/7. As long as it’s safe for them and there are boundaries in place, allow them some time to do things alone, even if it’s just spending a few hours chilling in the
hotel room while you and your partner get a massage down at the spa.
As when travelling with babies and toddlers, forewarned is forearmed. The one thing that’ll always be a winner? Snacks! Carry them on you at all times – during the flight, when out and about and even when lounging around on the beach or at the pool. ‘Hangry’ is a very real sensation for adolescents. If they’re hungry, their mood will start to deteriorate.
Be mindful of your own behaviour
It’s really easy to criticise your teen’s behaviour, but what’s essential in avoiding arguments is keeping yourself in check, too. Do you find yourself always ‘sweating the small stuff’ and making negative comments? Perhaps you moan a lot about your teen’s hairstyle or the way they dress. These things can spark negative behaviour in your child, causing a vicious cycle that could ruin the holiday. If you both make an effort to be more positive and tolerant, you’ll enjoy the trip and each other’s company more. A whole lot more.
Don’t expect perfection
It’s unrealistic to expect smooth sailing from start to finish on a family holiday. Disagreements don’t recognise geographical borders! Think carefully about how best to deal with conflict and keep it to a minimum. The last thing you want is sulking, non-speakers or a full-on confrontation.
Even if travelling with your temperamental teen seems daunting, take the plunge. Not only will it be a wonderful opportunity to bond, but it will also provide them with a new perspective.
It’s also an opportunity to learn about other cultures, which will benefit them for years to come.
FEATURE: BIANCA DELPORT PHOTOS: STOCK.ADOBE.COM