Eight Tips for Traveling With Teens

Written by  by T.L. Higley

A parents’ guide for avoiding attitudes and embracing adventure

If you’re contemplating travel with teens you may be feeling a bit of dread mixed with that vacation-anticipation. “Making memories” can be fantastic, but the pressure to do it right, keep your teen engaged, and above all have fun can drain the pleasure out of any vacation. 

One of the best trips I’ve taken was a recent journey to Italy with my teen daughter, a senior in high school, to explore Pompeii for my upcoming historical novel, Pompeii: City on Fire.

Here are my best travel tips for those heading out with teens this summer, to make your trip memorable for a lifetime: 

Secure the “Buy In” teen travel

From Day 1 of trip planning, give your teen the reins in some area. My daughter’s excellent sense of direction always trumps my tendency to get lost, so she knew it would be up to her to navigate us through Rome and Venice. If there’s a particular location that interests your teen, give him the task of planning your time there. How about one day that is completely his to plan, from activities to food? He’ll have ownership of the adventure, and probably be more agreeable to the plans you’ve made as well. 

Mix Both Your Interests

Our trip to Rome was primarily to research Pompeii for my upcoming novel, but my daughter really wanted to see Venice. It meant a side trip of a couple of days and some extra expense, but seeing something she was interested in made the trip more enjoyable for both of us. Because I had no agenda there, I found that the days in Venice were wonderful. Find out what is most interesting to your teen in the area where you’re traveling, and make sure you spend adequate time there to satisfy her curiosity. 

Make Transportation Decisions Up Front

Nothing is worse than a teen complaining about too much walking or driving. If your destination is a city, decide before you arrive how you’ll get from place to place. Walking always feels longer than you expect. Public transportation provides local flavor and saves money, but takes more time -finding stations and waiting for arrivals. (Though my daughter and I have some laughable memories of Bus #64 in Rome!) Taxis save time and sore feet, but can be expensive. A mix of all three will keep everyone from getting too grouchy. 

Stay in Sync on the Education

If you’re headed for someplace educational and want to be sure your teen gets all the info, I highly recommend audio tours. There are a number of companies online that provide downloadable walking tours for worldwide destinations. My daughter and I loaded several of these onto our iPods, hit play at the same time, and walked the cities with our own personal tour guide. We learned history, but it also satisfied some of that inherent need teens have to be “plugged in”!

Just chill…

Take your cue from the average teen’s attitude, and don’t get freaked out when things go wrong. Because things will go wrong! Be spontaneous and flexible and embrace the unexpected as an adventure. I can hardly count the episodes my daughter and I encountered – a missed bus at the top of Mt. Vesuvius, a surprise roadside downpour, late night searches for wi-fi – but every one of them is now an entertaining story we brought back. Don’t let detours ruin the fun.

Give them Space

Are you continually amazed at the amount of time your teen can spend asleep on the weekends? Don’t forget that they still need extra downtime when you’re traveling, too. Be sensitive to their need for a little space and some extra rest. If the crankiness starts to build, it’s time to take a break.

Preserve the Memories

Don’t forget to get pictures with your teen. It’s easy to forget while you’re sightseeing. You return home to find hundreds of shots of the sights, pictures of your teen,maybe a few of yourself. But make sure you find other friendly tourists and get some photos of both of you in all the important spots. It may feel awkward to ask a stranger, but you’ll be glad you did. Those pictures together, taken at such memorable times, are priceless. 

Then Share the Memories!

Once you’ve returned, don’t let those photos disappear into digital storage! When my daughter and I returned from Italy, I used an online service to put together the best of ours into a photo book, an 8 inch-by-8 inch hardback book with a montage of photos of the two of us on the cover. Include some anecdotes and fun captions. And remember, before you know it your teenwill be headed off to college or life outside your home. It’s easy to order two copies, one to send along into life with your teen. Someday maybe your grandchildren will love looking through it! 

I’ve traveled the world researching my historical novels, but the trip to Italy to research Pompeii was unlike any of my others because my traveling partner was 17 years old. It was an adventure for both of us, and a shared memory that we carry into the future. Don’t let concerns over attitudes dampen your enthusiasm. With a bit of forethought, travel with teens can be great!  

Historical fiction author T.L. Higley doesn’t just transport readers to the settings of her books, she transports herself as well. Her trips to Greece, Egypt, Jordan and Italy have found their way into her suspense novels, including the popular Seven Wonders series. Her upcoming Pompeii: City on Fire brings to life the lost Roman city buried by a massive volcano.