By Christina VanGinkel
Traveling with a teenager can be an experience all in itself. We sometimes get so wrapped up with dealing with the younger kids, or just figuring that our teens are old enough to just go with the flow of things, that we do not really give them any thought whatsoever when traveling with them. This is at the least a disservice to them, but also to us. Teenagers are often knowledgeable about the current trends of everything, so to take advantage of this, inquiring of them as to what they would like to do, see, where they would like to eat, etc. It can give your travel time a completely new twist. Besides, letting them have a hand in the travel plans are sure to take some of the stress of having to accomplish it all off yourself.
If you are traveling to a completely new destination that no one in the travel party really has any experience with, turning over the task of finding out about the destination to a teen can be the best idea you will come up with. It will not only assure them that they will end up getting to actually participate in some activities that they want, but it will also take the pressure off of you from having to listen to the time honored ‘I am bored’ phrase. If they have a hand in the planning, they have nobody to tell they are bored but themselves.
This does not mean you have to give them free reign, so do not panic that you will end up having to skydive from a prop plane when what you really wanted to do was sit in the sand and enjoy a drink filled with umbrellas! Sit down with them and ask them first if they would like to help plan the vacation. If they are agreeable, and most teens seem to be, give them a rundown on any specifics that you already have. If you know you are going to Hawaii, for example, tell them. If you really do not have a destination in mind yet, ask them for suggestions even on that aspect. Once the destination ahs been decided upon, then give them an approximate broken down budget of what you have available to spend on items such as lodging, meals, and activities. Ask them to come up with at least two or three ideas for each. For example, under activities, maybe they really do want to try hang gliding. If so, have them also list at least one or two more activities. Then, have them research the cost of each activity, and any requirements needed to participate, such as age limits.
If this sounds like just too much to let a teen handle, then start small, and ask them to plan one aspect of the vacation, such as choosing the hotels you will stay in, or having them choose one activity, even if it ends up riding the biggest rollercoaster at a theme park along the way, or heading to a concert that is playing in a venue close to your destination.
In order to better allow them to accomplish all of this, be sure they have access to the information, such as Internet searches and a telephone. Explain to them about travel brochures, and tell them that if something even sounds like something they feel the family might be interested in, then to call or email for a brochure or further information. Be upfront from the start and tell them that you might not agree to do everything they ask, but if something is reasonable, you are willing to try it.
Even younger teens can have a hand in the planning. We have been letting our now thirteen year old choose the restaurants we eat in when we travel for as long as I can remember. Part of the fun of travel is trying new things, and he seems to have a knack for choosing restaurants and eateries that we might not normally choose, but they sure are fun to try! We have also been letting him have a say in our destinations for about as long. We will normally choose two or three places, which are within our budget, and have him do the final choosing. A teen or preteen, who has some say in where you are all heading off too, always seems to be a better travel companion than one who has simply been ordered to pack their bags because you said so!