6 Tips for Traveling on Vacation with Tweens and Teens

Teenagers wait at a train station with their suitcases. (Getty/altrendo images)
Teenagers wait at a train station with their suitcases. (Getty/altrendo images)

A family vacation is the perfect time to enjoy a change of scenery while reconnecting and spending quality time with each other, but it requires planning, budgeting and flexibility. Adding children to the mix makes vacation planning even more complicated.

As kids grow into tweens and teens, their traveling needs change. Instead of packing diapers and strollers and visiting all the sights on your list of must-sees, you have to think about their interests, moods, attention spans and energy levels.

So what should you keep in mind when traveling with these mini-adults? Here are six tips for traveling with tweens and teens.

1. Involve Them in the Planning Process.

Kids this age strive for autonomy, so they like to have a say in the planning process of family trips instead of simply being told what they'll be doing. Tweens and teens are old enough to make informed decisions, so get them involved before and during the trip.

As you're researching your destination and formulating an itinerary, ask the kids to add to the list of possible things to do. Pass around the guidebook so everyone can take a look at the activities options and brainstorm. And once you've reached your destination, let them use maps or apps to navigate the area or find nearby restaurants and attractions. Maybe they'll lead you to something fun you weren't expecting.

2. Discuss Budgeting.

Not only are tweens and teens old enough to understand the concept of sticking to a budget, it's also an important life lesson.

You don't need to give them the exact dollar amount of your travel budget, but you can break it down into generalities by explaining why driving and paying for parking is cheaper than flying, or why going to an expensive restaurant for lunch means a less expensive dinner. You can also give each kid spending money for the trip with the instructions that they have to budget it wisely so they don't run out.

3. Compromise on Screen Time.

It's understandable for parents to limit gadget time during family vacations, but don't completely forbid screens the entire trip. Allow your kids designated times for their devices each day so they can stay connected with their friends or play games after sightseeing without interrupting family time. And remember that modeling that behavior is an essential part of the screen compromise, so put your phone away unless you're using it to snap photos or for navigation.

4. Schedule Laziness.

It's tempting to try to squeeze the most out of a location loaded with things to do, but avoid booking activities every minute of the vacation. Tweens and teens need downtime, and so do you! Schedule some relaxation into each day, whether that means sitting by the hotel pool reading a book, taking a power nap or watching the kids enjoy their screen time.

5. Mix Up the Attractions.

Kids don't want to do and see everything that you want to and vice versa. Remember that teens and tweens like getting physical, so alternate cultural or educational sights with more fun, active experiences. This might mean visiting one museum and skipping the second to rent bikes at a park instead.

6. Make Sure Everyone Is Fed and Rested.

No one enjoys sightseeing and exploring a new place when hungry, tired and cranky. That means snacks and regular meals are a must when you're on the go with tweens and teens. And once the fun is done for the day, make sure those growing kids get enough sleep to recover and recharge their batteries for the next round of adventures.

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