Happy travels with teens

Spring Break is just around the corner, and for many, this means travel together as a family. Whether you are taking a short drive or flying thousands of miles, trips with teenagers can be filled with unpredictable mood swings, impatience on everyone’s parts, and a general desire to go back home where everyone can retreat into their own rooms. Traveling can also be a bonding experience filled with laughter, unforgettable memories, and a rejuvenation of communication and love. While a mixture of both is likely, what can you do to tip the scales in your favor?

Well, having just traveled 6,000 miles with 18 teenagers, I can share what I learned to help you to make the most of trips with teenagers:

  • Gentle reminders couched in a sense of humor are much more likely to prompt good behavior than drill sergeant tactics. Standing hands on hips and using a demanding voice may get short term results, but it will also make everyone miserable and resentful.
  • When waking kids up for a busy day, do so in the same way you would like to be wakened. Don’t turn on bright overhead lights and yell “Time to get up!!” and expect your kids to be happy about it. Discuss plans the night before, decide on a time that everyone needs to get up, and then make the process as painless as possible. Remember that everyone needs different amounts of time to get ready and be respectful of those differences.
  • Make less pleasant tasks more fun by singing songs, telling jokes and stories, and bringing along snacks and drinks. Long car rides and activities that are fun for the adults but not so much for the kids can be salvaged by allowing the kids to “do their own thing” while you do yours. Forcing them to trudge through a museum that holds no interest for them will ensure that they will “get you back” with whining and complaints.
  • However, you can alleviate this problem by taking turns doing what various family members want to do. Let everyone pick an activity with the condition that no one will complain. You’ll be surprised how well this works.
  • Keep everyone fed and keep drinks on hand at all times. Particularly in different environments and elevations, water can make the difference between continued fun and a trip to the emergency room.
  • Spend time each evening recapping everyone’s favorite moments from the day. Just five minutes will give the kids (and adults!) time to be grateful for the day’s blessings. Sometimes, you will be truly floored by what mattered most to your kids that day. And you may even find yourself fighting tears when their response is, “Just spending time with the family.”

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