Tips for Traveling with Teens

Tips for Traveling with TeensMy husband and I don’t have kids, so we’ve never done any traveling with children in the traditional sense, but we have been host parents to foreign exchange students, so we’ve learned a bit about traveling with teenagers. Teens are at an interesting stage in their lives — they’re old enough to be independent but still need supervision and guidance to a certain extent. And though there is the possibility that they may be mortified to be seen with their parents (or host parents), chances are they’ll appreciate the value of the traveling experience if not today, at least at some point in the future.

If you’re debating about whether to travel with teens, the very best advice I can provide is YES, DO IT! But if you need some help working out the nitty gritty details on how to make it work, here are our best tips:

> Involve them in the planning process. Ask your teenager where he or she wants to go and what he wants to do. This can be a very broad question, and the response ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t care’ is likely, so it may be better to narrow down the destination or type of trip and then provide options. While planning a trip, find out what kind of activities your teen is interested in (i.e. camping, hunkering down in a vacation rental, doing more adventurous activities). Once you’ve narrowed down what type of trip you’d like to take, ask what your teen would like to do and provide options instead of leaving the question open ended. When we had a free day during our Spring Break trip to Southern California, we didn’t just ask our student and her friend what they wanted to do, we provided them with options. In the end, your teen has input within the confines of a trip that you ultimately plan.

> Invite a friend. When I was in high school, I was invited on a week-long summer trip with a friend’s family, and I remember enjoying it because we not only got to have a vacation but because it was like an extended sleepover. There’s only so much a teenager can talk about when hanging out with Mom and Dad, so let your teen invite a friend. This has many advantages: Teens are more likely to be interested in the trip if they have a friend with whom to enjoy it. If your teen wants some alone time to explore, you’ll feel better knowing there are two of them together. If you tag team with a few other sets of parents, your teen can travel and you don’t always have to spend money to send yourself too.

Tips for Traveling with Teens> Give your teen free time. Don’t try to cram too much into a day. Running your kids (teenagers or not) ragged will only create a cranky family dynamic. Let your teens sleep late on a couple days of your vacation, and feel free to take an afternoon off. Also, if you feel comfortable, let your teen explore on his or her own, and agree on a meeting time and place in advance. Confined spaces like theme parks are good places for this kind of arrangement. Plan on checking in every few hours, even if it is for a headcount and to make sure everyone is doing well before going your separate ways again.

> Encourage creativity to capture the trip. Some teens like to write, some like to draw. Whatever your teen likes to do, encourage the behavior as a way to capture the trip in order to revisit it later. Buy a fresh journal for him or her, or help set up a blog. The students we’ve traveled with like to take photos, which is probably one of the most popular ways to capture the essence of a vacation. Take the time to slow down and let your teens do what they need to in order to remember the moments they’re experiencing.

> Choose family-friendly accommodations. Let your teen have his or her own room, if appropriate. Even better, look into snagging a vacation rental so everyone can have a little more space. If you’re stuck at a hotel, choose one that has a pool, ping pong tables, lounge space or some other kind of diversion built in to it. Bonus points if you’re within walking distance to a movie theater or mini golf course.

> Take advantage of student discounts. Make sure your teen packs his or her school identification and ask about discounts for students or teens everywhere you go. Every little bit of money you can save on entrance fees will be well spent to feed your growing teenagers at lunchtime!

> Have fun. Don’t take the trip too seriously. Your kids are older now, so there’s no reason to be helicopter parents or treat them like young children. Enjoy leisurely conversations over dinner. Encourage them to try new things. Be mindful that they’re still kids in a sense, but they’re growing up fast. You won’t be able to have travel experiences like these for very long, so take advantage of them while you can.

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Tips for Traveling with Teens
JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with big dreams and a desire to touch all seven continents. You can also find JoAnna at and at The 52 Letters Project.
Tips for Traveling with Teens

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14 Responses

  1. GoNOLA says:

    Awesome post on traveling with teens! That can be a bit difficult. New Orleans is a great place for the entire family and our site features a weekly “5 Things to do this Weekend in New Orleans” to help families find fun activities!


  2. JoAnna says:

    Thanks for your suggestions about family activities in New Orleans. It’s a great city, and I’d love to take teens there to explore its history and culture.

  3. We have just entered the realm of holidays with a teenager and your list looks good. Giving each other space is a key one although ice cream still seems to solve most problems even for a teenager :)

  4. Cheryl says:

    Great tips. Vacation rentals are the #1 best idea for traveling with teens! They get their own space, plus [subtle] supervision by being in the same home. Then gather for family time in the kitchen & living room…perfect!

  5. Sally says:

    Some great tips in here.

    I think it really helps if they are involved in the planning. They are then more likely to enjoy rather than sulk.

  6. Abby says:

    You guys are probably some of the best host parents a student can ask for! When I was a teenager, I never wanted to travel alone with my family — letting them invite a friend I bet endears you to them forever.

  7. JoAnna says:

    Food always helps. It’s shocking to me how far a snack can go in helping a teenager feel a little less cranky.

  8. JoAnna says:

    We’re getting ready to book our next domestic vacation with a new foreign exchange student, and we never even considered booking a hotel room. We’re going with a vacation rental all the way!

  9. JoAnna says:

    I also think people should give teenagers more credit. They are interested in doing certain things and they have opinions about the options available to them. I think parents should hear teens out; they may have great ideas and reasons for wanting to do particular activities.

  10. JoAnna says:

    Ahhh, thanks Abby. I like to think we’re good host parents, but you’d have to ask our students how they *really* feel. :)

  11. These are some great tips — can’t even imagine what it would be like travelling with a teenager. I think getting them involved with the planning is one of the best. Thanks for sharing.

  12. JoAnna says:

    We never anticipated traveling with teenagers either, but it turns out that we love it, especially with foreign exchange students. We’ve had a chance to revisit some of our favorite places with a new sense of wide-eyed wonder.

  13. Adam Sommer says:

    Great tips! We have also had great luck with involving kids in the planning process & inviting friends. Especially for weekend getaways, having a frioend along seems to make it much more exciting, and provides free entertainment :)

  14. JoAnna says:

    The teens we’ve traveled with have been such good kids, it would never dawn on me not to let them invite a friend. Why not? It’s a win-win for everyone.

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