Traveling with tweens and teens can be both special and challenging, according to Colin Farndon, director of leisure at Gleneagles, a property in the Scottish Highlands, and a father. “Kids in this age group are a lot of fun to engage with,” he said. “On the other hand, they don’t necessarily want to be with their parents all day, but they’re not quite old enough to be left alone for long periods of time.”
What’s the best way to get that balance right and make sure your family vacation is enjoyable for everyone? Some of Farndon’s tips:
>> Involve your kids in planning the trip: There’s no better way to get tweens and teens excited about a family trip. This starts with getting their input on where they most want to go.
Farndon suggested presenting your children with three or four destinations and giving them a choice. Once you’ve settled on where, get their help in researching options for activities, sights and restaurants. Make sure to integrate at least some of their suggestions into the trip.
>> Have an itinerary: Only schedule a half-day of set plans to allow flexibility to make sure no one is disappointed if your child’s preferred activity or tour isn’t available at your planned time, which can be common during peak seasons at your destination.
>> Encourage kids to put down devices and experience the moment: Tweens and teens tend to be attached to their gadgets. Talk to your child about your expectations. Be flexible though: Hard limits will alienate them, but encourage them to enjoy each experience in the moment, versus documenting everything on their phones. You can also make screen time educational by downloading apps and maps related to your destination and encouraging your children to explore.
Your children will likely want to take photos and videos with their phones and share them with friends and family back home — just as you likely will. So be sure that whatever rules you put in place apply to you as well.
>> Give them some space: Farndon said that his children appreciate some time away from him and his wife. “Giving them room to be independent makes for a more enjoyable trip for all of us,” he said. Many destinations, like museums, zoos and nature preserves offer guided tours for this age group, where children don’t need to be accompanied by an adult.
>> Consider tween and teen tours: Some travel companies offer group tours specifically meant for families with older children. Booking one can take the stress away from the planning, and your child or children will be surrounded by others their age.