Vacationing with Tweens and Teens

Eager to get away for a week this summer? If you think traveling with babies was a challenge, just wait until you try to take your tween or teen away from her friends. Even though the problems of adolescence don’t go away just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean your family trip is destined to fail.

By deliberately involving your older child in the planning process of the family vacation, and by giving her some space to explore, you increase the likelihood that your trip will be a success.

It also paves the way for a positive experience for the both of you, and gives you the chance to bond and make the most of your time away from home. Here are some tips to consider when planning a family trip with a tween or teen.

Let Her Plan. Research involving your older child in a family trip should begin long before you leave home. Tweens and teens can help plan family trips and should be consulted for ideas in the planning process. Put your older child to work investigating possible trip locations on the Internet, or by finding places to stay or interesting side trips to take. By involving your teen in the planning process you give her the confidence of knowing that her opinions matter, and that the trip is just as much for her as it is for you and the rest of the family.

Your child can even help map the trip on Mapquest and find interesting places to stop for a rest or overnight while you make your way to your destination. Be sure to give your older child a specific responsibility on the trip, such as tracking how far you have to travel and about how long it will take to get there. Tweens and teens also can be put in charge of the family pet while traveling, making sure the dog food and any medications are packed. And why not allow your older child to plan at least one day of the vacation? Provide your tween or teen with brochures, catalogues or Web sites of the area you plan to visit, and see what interests her. By incorporating your child’s interests or passions into the trip, you stand a better chance of having a positive family experience.

Stock Up on Books, DVDs. Before you leave, take your child to the library or a bookstore so she can pick out a few good reads for the trip. While you’re there, check the audio book section for the car ride or plane trip. You also might consider buying a few new DVDs, Nintendo DS games, or other items your tween or teen might enjoy while away from home. And while she’s stocking up, charge your teen with getting the cooler or snack bag for the car ride or plane trip ready to go.

Bring a Friend. If your child has no siblings near her own age, you might consider bringing one of her friends along. It may seem like extra work for you, but by having a friend along your teen is less likely to complain of boredom and more likely to enjoy the experience of the trip. Choose the friend carefully, especially if your trip is an extended one, as even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves over time. Give Her Space Family bonding is great, and that’s what vacations are all about. But older children need some time alone every day.

Be sure you give your tween or teen a little space to go to the pool alone, listen to music, read in her room or text her friends. She may want to stay put while the rest of the family goes out to eat one night. Just be sure she is in a safe environment before you leave her alone.

Expect Changes. The tween and teen years are all about change and parents should be prepared. Even if your child has always loved going to the beach, she may just decide that she really doesn’t want to go this year. Or, your daughter may decide that a week at a mountain lake sounds really boring, even if she’s always enjoyed the trip before. Be prepared to hear complaints from your child, but don’t let her dictate what the family should be doing or where you should be going. Sometimes older children need to learn that they have to step in line with the rest of the family, even if they don’t want to. And it’s also possible your child will rediscover the beach is pretty cool for teenagers after all.

Jennifer O’Donnell is the Guide to Parenting Tweens on You can read her advice, tips, and blog at