10 Family Vacation Tips for Parents of Teens

Let your teen make some important choices.

Caucasian family enjoying beach
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Where you are going to vacation and what you will be doing when you get there are all important things that need to be decided upon. Giving your teen a say in these important decisions will give him/her some ownership of the family vacation. This will help him/her feel more responsible for the outcome of the trip and he/she will strive to enjoy the trip more.

If you already know where you are going, have your teen plan out a day trip or the family’s daily itinerary. Give him/her resources to help with the choices they have, either online or with a printed guide book. The trick is to commit to do whatever your teen has chosen. If he/she wants to sleep in until 10 a.m. before starting the day, then that is what you should let him do. The only way you should change anything is if it wouldn’t work dynamically. For example, at Disney you can’t get from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom in 5 minutes. You’ll need to point these facts out to your teen and allow him/her to make the adjustments.

Here are some resources online for your family to use:

  • MapQuest is one of the best online tools I have ever used for road trip planning.
  • More travel videos can be found at TravelVideo.TV.
  • Be sure to get the weather forecast at Weather.com.

Give your teen the responsibility of having his/her own money to spend.

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Making a family vacation budget is a good idea that many families are in the habit of doing. This is also a perfect time to talk to your teen about budgeting and allowing him/her to practice with his/her own money. This could be money that he/she has earned or money that you will give him/her for the trip.

Have your teen write down his/her priorities for his/her money during the vacation, like an area t-shirt for example. Then have him/her research how much each of these priorities will cost. Subtract these things from the total amount he/she will have. If there is more money, have him/her think through some ideas on how to use it, but there is no need to cement those ideas. If the priorities are more money than your teen has, perhaps he/she could rethink his/her priorities or plan ideas on how to make some more money. Either way, you are teaching an important budgeting skill.

More on Money and Teens:

  • The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens
  • Give an Allowance That Includes Financial Responsibility
  • Money Management for Teens Who Have Jobs
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    Give your teen the responsibilities of his/her own personal items.

    Brooklyn Photo Group / Getty Images

    Help your teen make a packing list of what he/she needs to bring on vacation and then let him/her do it. Having the responsibility of getting ready to go away as early as 13-years-old is an excellent habit to impart to your teen. Here’s how:

    1. Start by getting your teen to write everything he/she wants and needs on the vacation.
    2. Go over the list with him/her. Add items you know he/she will need. Suggest other items that you think your teen may want to bring. If you see an item on your teen’s list that you are unsure of, ask your teen why it is there. If you are still unsure, talk to your teen more about it and compromise.
    3. Talk to your teen about what luggage he/she wants to use.
    4. Set a time that the packing will be completed and ready for you to check. Be sure that you still have a full day or two before the vacation, just incase your teen will need it. If it is not done by that time, use fair and firm discipline and ask that your teen do nothing else until his/her packing is completed.
    5. Praise your teen for getting it done.

    Once your teen has this good habit, you will find that giving him/her the responsibility very rewarding.

    Set the rules and limits up before you leave.

    Is swimming alone allowed? Spell out the limits to your teen before you go on vacation. Stock Exchange

    Vacations are times for families to relax, have fun and create good memories. To be confident that your trip will go as you plan, you will need to begin with clear communication between you and your teen about your expectations of his/her behavior. This is best done as a family talk, either during dinner and/or at a family meeting. Expectations should be for the whole family and everyone needs to have input on what is expected. If there will be other teens going on vacation with your family, you will need to include them in this discussion.

    Here are a few points to make clear with your teen:

  • Times your teen will be able to be on his/her own.
  • Will there be a curfew?
  • What time will the family need to be ready to go in the morning?
  • All family rules apply. (no smoking, no drinking, no swearing or fighting with your siblings, etc.)
  • Take care of yourself, as mom is on vacation too.(pick up your own clothes, pack your own bag, etc.)

    You should stress to the entire family that as long as everyone does their part and follows the limits and rules, your family vacation will be a blast. Also mention that you don’t expect that everyone will be perfect the entire time, you are hoping that everyone sees following the rules as a goal to have fun and be happy.

    On a side note, having fun on vacation can be hard to do when your teen isn’t cooperating or has been in some trouble not long before the vacation has begun. While discipline needs to be consistent, vacations can offer an opportunity for a parent and teen to strengthen their bond and allow the teen to regain trust. Talk to your teen and compromise where you feel comfortable during the trip.

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    Planning a road trip? Let your teen do some of the driving.

    Ryan McVay / Getty Images

    Experience is often the best tutor. This is especially true when your teen is learning to drive or has recently gotten his/her license. Long road trips give parents an opportunity to allow their teen to drive in areas that are new to them. A teen from the city could get experience on hilly country roads and vice-versa. Model good driving habits and hand over the wheel to set your teen up for successful roads trips later in his/her life.

    More Teen Driving Resources:

  • Parenting Contract for Teen Driving
  • How to Set the Limits on Driving
  • Tips for New Teen Drivers
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    Keep the peace.

    These brothers are very happy! I wonder how they were ten minutes before the picture? No matter, you'll get more smiles out of all of your children on vacation when you try to keep the peace. stock exchange

    While ignoring your teen when he/she does something majorly wrong is never a good idea, do try not to be nit-picky during your family vacation. If your teen forgets his/her table manners during dinner, let it slide. Keeping the peace will help everyone stay in a good mood and enjoy the family vacation.

    Part of keeping the peace with your teen may be that you have to fall back and regroup before the vacation begins. Take an assessment of how you are getting along with each other. Are there problems you can fix before the vacation? Have you spend time with your teen talking and seeing how their life is going right now? Opening the lines of communication with your teen before the family vacation will aid you in keeping the peace.

    If a meltdown happens, with you or with his/her siblings, get to the heart of the matter and move past it. Do not dwell on any negative behavior as this will hinder the entire family’s fun. Family vacation is a time when parents can let down their guard just a bit. If something really bothers you, save it for a talk when you get home.

    Let your teen bring a friend.

    Allowing a friend to come along on a family vacation is often a quandary parents of teens face. It is a tough decision that depends on who the friend is. Parents are obviously more comfortable with someone their teen has known for awhile rather than someone they don’t know as well. But this can be taken as a opportunity to get to know your teen’s friends. Either way, here are tips that will help you be comfortable with taking your teen’s friend on your family vacation:

    • Set up a time to talk to the parents of the other teen. Talking to the parents of the other teen will allow them to decide whether or not their teen can go with your family. Talking to them first will make the situation more comfortable all the way around.
    • Bring the other teen in on family discussions about the vacation. Discussions on where you will be going and what everyone is allowed to do should involve all members of the vacation party.
    • Be clear with your teen’s friend and his/her family about what is expected in funds, packing, behavior, etc.
    • Exchange contact information with the other family. Give them an itinerary so that they will be able to contact you in case of an emergency and vice-versa.

    Vacation separately, but together.

    Girls at Disney
    Kids activities at Disney's Epcot World Christmas Showcase. Denise D. Witmer

    Family cruises and family resorts are perfect vacations for a fun time together and separately. They have schedules with activities just for the kids that give parents a much needed break . These trips work so well because the planning is done by the resort, just stop in at the desk and ask for the schedules.

    Amusement parks, hiking trails and many other vacation activities do not need to be done as a group. If your teens want to be independent, let them. Of course, you need to establish some safety rules, like always having a buddy and a check-in time. But there is no reason a teenagers need to stick to mom and dad’s side.

    If you will be visiting family for your vacation, call ahead and see if there is an activity your teen can attend for a day or two in their town. A day pass at a town pool, roaming through a galleria with cousins or anything that is different from your teen’s normal routine. This will make the vacation more exciting for your teen thereby less stressful for you.

    Remember that this is your vacation too.

    You need time away from the daily grind of life, career and family. You need a break. It will make you better at what you do. It will help you remember who you are. Be sure that your yearly vacation fits that bill even though you need to plan for everyone else too. This is possible, the trick is in the planning. Here are some tips:

    • Don’t over schedule the daily plans. This makes the kids and you tired which in turn, makes everyone grumpy.
    • Plan out relaxing activities, like sitting by the pool or beach.
    • Enlist the help of your teen with younger children.
    • Enlist the help of your significant other or other family members. Take turns spending some time alone.

    The top priority when taking some time alone during the family vacation is to not feel guilty. You will benefit by being a better parent after some down time. Enjoy it!

    Enjoy your teen's company and create some fun memories.

    Photodisc / Getty Images

    Know that you will never pass this way again. Your teen will never be this age again. Treasure your time together and be sure to get lots of pictures and/or journaling about the trip. Keep a daily journal and pen handy. Put it where you will see it and use it. Got a five minute drive home from the beach? Jot down some notes and ask your teen what he/she thought of the view or water? Did he/she like water-skiing?

    While having a digital camera is nice, you can purchase disposables for everyone and get lots of candid shots of the vacation. Different types of cameras are fun too, like an underwater one if your group will be swimming or snorkeling or a disposable video camera for action shots. An added bonus with these are the fact that losing a disposable camera will not break the bank.

    Plan to use these things, pictures and journaling – the week after you get back. Family time together one night putting all of the pictures in an album or making a computer slide show is fun and you can talk about the trip and future vacations too.

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