Many parents feel trepidation at the thought of trying to incorporate teens into their family vacation.
That's because teens are at that funny stage where they still want to be involved in everything that the family is doing but are simultaneously pulling away from the family.
Like with the rest of daily life with teens, it takes a lot of patience to balance these two conflicting needs. But it can be done, and it can be done in such a way that your family vacation can be terrifically fun and wonderfully memorable.
Here are some tips for making travel with teens easier:
Let Them Get Involved in the Planning
This means actually involved, not superficially involved.
There are many ways to do this, so you'll have to find what works for your family.
Some trust their teens enough to let them plan one whole day of the trip ... selecting in advance the sights to see, restaurants to eat at and so on.
Other families simply consult the teen with "either/or" choices ("we're either staying at this lodge or staying at this hotel; what do you think?").
This makes the teenager feel like he/she really is an important part of the trip.
Choose Flexible Activities
Choose activities that will allow your teenager to enjoy both their child side and their adult side.
For example, head to a theme park where they can have fun on the rides with the younger siblings. But then let one parent stay with the young ones while they go to bed early while the other takes the teen out to see some night activity.
Pandering to both sides of your teen's needs will help greatly in maintaining that balance.
Leave Family Issues at Home
A bored teen on vacation will pass by a tattoo shop and mention that she's thinking about getting one.
It's intended to rile you up to liven up the day. Leave those kinds of issues at home; they don't need to be taken care of during the vacation.
Pick Your Power Battles
Here are three scenarios:
The family goes to a museum and your teen sits on a bench the entire time, ignoring everyone and listening to her Walkman.
Your teen puts up a fight about the chosen restaurant and refuses to order food.
Your teen refuses to leave an attraction because she's not done seeing things yet. Do you fight about all of these things? No, you probably don't fight about any of them (although that depends on your family structure).
Be glad that your teen is at the museum; she's probably absorbing more than you think. Don't worry if she doesn't order food; she's not going to starve.
And if she's refusing to leave somewhere; assess the risk of the situation and decide if this calls for an argument.
You can be really careful in picking your battles with your teen in order to make the trip go more smoothly for everyone.
Don't Let Your Teen Control What Happens With the Family Vacation
Yes, give her some say in the planning. Yes, include her in activities. Yes, make sure that you're not caving in to ridiculous power battles.
But when the time is right to set down your foot and say, "I'm the parent, this is what we're doing", do so.
Your teen really is more likely to remember the sight of the Grand Canyon than the fact that you told her she didn't have a choice in whether or not to go.