Holidaying when your kids are small is a fairly straightforward process – they go where you want to go, and in turn you make sure that the destination is equipped for small people.
You’re not thinking of How To Holiday With Teens. You’re thinking of kids clubs in beach resorts, or you might be checking that a remote cottage has stairgates and a highchair – but it’s pretty simple thing.
And then your kids grow up a bit. And all of a sudden your suggestion for this summer’s break is met with a disdainful lip curl, a sigh or a flat out “I’m not going there.”
Even if there’s a ‘kids club’ type set up for teenagers, teens do not wish to join them. They can think of nothing worse than enforced joint activity with a bunch of other (probably younger) kids.
Teens also resent any kind of decisions which are thrust upon them – they want to be considered and consulted, not merely told. Of course they still want to join the family holiday – but they’re complex creatures. Whilst they yearn for the safe, fun holidays of their childhood, they also require something more adult which acknowledges their almost-adult status.
And then there’s you. Wondering How To Holiday With Teens. Suddenly aware that you have just a small handful of holidays left with your babies before they choose to head to Ibiza with their mates rather than to France with their parents this year.
When they’re no longer at the whim of an entire summer off, suddenly have work and a boss and are having to carefully select where they spend their meagre four weeks of holiday allowance, and with whom (and we parents are never at the top of that ‘with whom’ list for the summer – we get Christmas, after all).
So how do you pick a holiday for you all, which will continue building amazing memories of wonderful times together – and not leave you all feeling stabby and desperate to get home again? Keep a few things in mind, and you’re guaranteed to have a ball…
Teenagers love to do stuff.
Even if they raise a cynical eyebrow when you suggest it, get them in the kayak or hanging off the rope or striding across a mountain at sunrise and they are genuinely having a blast. In my experience, teens love that sense of accomplishment – in a time when their lives are so filled digitally, achieving something they never thought they could or would do makes them hold their head high and births a new unshakeable confidence within them. And of course they love it twice as much when they get to share it on social with their mates afterwards.
So for an adrenaline-high trip, why not look at booking an activity holiday this year? It doesn’t have to be three weeks canoeing up the Amazon – don’t be scared. Even the least-active parents will enjoy cycling in the Alps. And when you have busy days, the evenings spent chatting over a meal are all the more relaxed and fun.
The current crop of teenagers are a cohort that have grown up fast, who take life seriously and who live with very real, large fears about the world around them. Showing them how to face something that scares them, to take on a challenge, to overcome it and to succeed may just be an invaluable life skill – as well as a brilliantly fun way to share a week together.
Teenagers love the bright lights
City breaks are made for teenagers. They’ll be giddy at the sights and sounds of a strange new land; who doesn’t want to go to New York or Paris?
In a city there’s something for every teen – theatre, music gigs, restaurants form a gazillion types of cuisine, museums and art galleries… plan your itinerary together to cover the things you’ll all enjoy doing.
Teens are amazing at research, so ask their advice and listen to where they want to go – ours have turned up some amazing hints and tricks to getting around, finding spots off the tourist trail and money-saving tips from experienced travellers they’ve discovered on YouTube.
TripSavvy have some fabulous suggestions for things to do in New York with Teenagers (top of my list would be the immersive theatre and The Ride), and Wanderlust’s guide to Paris for Jaded Teenagers is an eye-opener (frankly I want to do them all myself). there’s loads of info out there – do some research together on your chosen city and get planning!
Embrace the Big Adventure
It’s tricky doing the ‘big’ holidays with younger kids – you”re restricted on where you can go and what you can do (and what food is provided!). But once you have teenagers with you, the world is literally your oyster. It’s time to really say yes to the big stuff – you actually can do that once-in-a-lifetime- horse riding safari in Kenya. Kayaking in the wilderness looking for bears in Canada is a joint adventure rather than hard work for you and boring for the small people. Cycling through Vietnam is something I’ve never even considered – and yet now I know about it, I really really want to go do it.
The thing to remember is that your teens are amazing company. At home you can get stuck in that rut of parent/child communication of you-tell-them / they-sulk-and-resist. But break out; go somewhere new and do something bigly fun – rediscover just how awesome your kids are, how much fun they are to be around, discover the smart and fabulous adults they’re growing into.
Take on an adventure together and you won’t be shepherding your kids through their day; you’ll be sharing your day with these amazing people, confounding yourself with the ‘I made these people!’ thoughts daily.
I love this list of dramatic adventures to do with you teens – oh to have the budget to work through them all.
I know, this one sounds a bit counter-intuitive.
But you spend your entire life dragging your teen through their lives – get out of bed, do your homework, get a Saturday job, tidy your room, load the dishwasher, do your laundry… Can you imagine living with yourself. Awful. And yes you can, because we all remember being teenagers, and that incessant nagging that came with it.
So give them a holiday. Really, actually let them take time off. We’ve done this the last few years – rented a holiday property (must have decent wifi, a private pool, and no neighbours) and removed all expectations beyond showing up for lunch and dinner. And then we sit back and relax ourselves – and watch the teens… relax. First they sleep. A lot. Dear gods teenagers can sleep, can’t they?
But within a couple of days they begin emerging earlier in the day. They slow into the rhythm of a holiday, they begin to enjoy the freedom, and they start to trust the lack of concern over their behaviour.
When does a teen really get to just switch off? No demands on them, space just to stretch out and read/nap/sun bathe. No social worries about who they look, or who they’re impressing. Just time to be them, with the people who knew them when they were a thumb-sucking bedwetting 3yr old.
And they shake off their every day stresses and concerns, and begin to play. They chat more, smile more, eat more… and are such good company as they find themselves, free of any judgements from when they wake to when they sleep. Hell they may even help to clear the table without being asked!