They may have been the best of times, or even the worst of times.  But, traveling with teens and tweens is always memorable!

Some memories include the time(s) we:

  • Stopped in a buffalo traffic jam.
  • Urinated on bats (We wondered what the squeaky noises were in the outhouse “toilet!”).
  • Imagined other bats urinating on us in revenge while cave tubing.
  • Vomited in cars, planes, and ships.
  • Laughed at sea lions, whales, dolphins, bears, mountain goats, and a host of other animals in the wild.
  • Zip lined across mountains and waterfalls.
  • Fainted.
  • Discovered bear paw prints on our vehicle.
  • Developed new friendships.

Our girls have traveled since they’ve been little.  As they have grown, our travel has gone from car trips, camping, and hikes to planes, foreign countries, and building homes.

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9 Tips for Traveling with Teens / Tweens on your family vacation!

9 Surefire Tips for Traveling with Teens/Tweens

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #1:

Have a Code Word or Phrase

Traveling is exhausting and can lead the best of spirits into a spiral of grumpiness!  On a long trip that involved both sets of grandparents, we knew that we wanted to minimize the irritation with each other.  Whenever one of us acted grouchy beyond a single comment or two, we placed our hands on his/her shoulders, looked him/her in the eyes, and said: “I love you.”

There was something about the position and words that conveyed that we are “choosing to love you even though you are being difficult right now.”  As the receiver, it is hard to accept that your actions are making others unhappy, but hearing the words “I love you” softened our hearts.  Periodically, one of us would respond with “I’m not being grumpy!”  We’d all giggle and the tension would be relieved.

Traveling with Teens/Teens? Have a code word or phrase! See how we used our code! Click To Tweet

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #2:

Pack a Sense of Humor

Our attitudes can determine the course of our day/week/trip.

When on family vacations, we find that being silly together makes certain activities such as hiking, tours, and serving others so much more fun for our girls!  Teens are enjoyable to be around with their sharp wit.  And, if nothing else, we make up “piggyback songs.”  The song can be as absurd as singing about hiking to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,”  or making up our own tune to a song about “Dangerous Curves.” Just for the sake of your teen, please don’t sing when other people are around!

When experiencing stress, a sense of humor also relieves tension.

We determined our youngest daughter suffers from air sickness when she vomited on the plane and then immediately in the rental car.  She was crying because she felt awful, our oldest was crying because she was sitting next to the vomit, and I was laughing/crying due to the stress.  The Man’s response, “This is SUCH a girl car right now,” diffused the situation and made all of us laugh through our tears.  And, sometimes these stressful situations become family stories that live on!

Traveling with Teens/Tweens Tip #3:  Focus on Flexibility 

You knew flexibility must be on this list, didn’t you?!  Sometimes we travel with vague plans and are naturally flexible. Sometimes we follow a set itinerary.  Not once has everything gone according to our plans.  And, sometimes people get sick!

For those of us with Type A personalities, being flexible with food choices and bedtimes helps everyone enjoy the trip better.  Our girls still need boundaries, but we allow “Unlimited Treat Days” on long tours.  When traveling with teens, we also pack twice as many snacks as we think we’ll need.  We have been forced to skip a meal occasionally.  Filling protein bars (that also taste good to adolescents!) such as *CLIF Whey Protein Bars and *Oatmega Bars fill in the gap.  (Although, the girls still moan about the time we skipped lunch on a tour!) Our daughters are not malnourished from a week or two of vacation eating.  We just bring vitamins and probiotics for a little insurance!

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #4:

Embrace the Electronics

Encourage interaction with people and the experience through electronics.

We download multiplayer games on our electronics. Our girls can pass the tablet to each other, friends, or other family members. Or, they can use Bluetooth to connect to one another’s phones.  As a bonus, there are not little game pieces to lose!

Promote teen created photos and videos.

Our daughters connect more with an experience when they are involved in making the memories. The Man and I authentically praise their creations. Check out our tween’s picture of a Lokai Bracelet in front of the Dead Sea (below).  The black bead holds mud from the Dead Sea!  (The white bead holds water from Mount Everest.)

Allow teens to teach others.

On a tour with a large mixed-age group, our daughters taught *less electronically inclined* people how to access different tools on their phones and tablets, crop photos, AirDrop pictures, etc.  Surprising friendships developed, new inside jokes started, and lots of laughter occurred!

Embrace Electronics - Teen Travel - Creative Photos

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #5:

Give Your Teen Responsibility

Compromise is an important relational skill.  Our daughters are so much more agreeable to certain activities when they’ve had an opportunity to make plans and research places to eat and things to do.  By researching activities in our budget range, they see why we sometimes choose to hike and go to a nice restaurant, and other times make sandwiches and rent a boat on family vacations.

Adolescents are also capable of packing their own bags.  We brainstorm together things we might need on a trip.  One daughter will make her own list, and the other wings it.  Important items such as charger cords, books, and shoes are double checked to be sure that they are packed.  However, if enough underwear is not packed, then that child finds herself hand-washing them in the sink.  We have worked around missing items on family vacations.  Yes, everyone survived.  And, those items were not forgotten on future trips!

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #6:

Be Adventurous

Go zip lining, snorkeling, paddle boarding, horseback riding, etc. At the very least, everyone will be so focused and active that they will be exhausted at night.  If the activity is something you’ve never done, you are also modeling a growth mindset as you learn, struggle, possibly fail, and keep trying.

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #7:

Plan for downtime.

The Man and I have found that scheduling downtime is important for recovery and connection on family vacations.  We rent places with Wifi so that electronics can be used in common areas.  Additionally, we often have separate rooms for retreat, watch movies at local theaters, and even just sit around and play card games.  Adolescent brains and bodies are growing and changing so fast it is exhausting for them.  Sometimes, they just need a low key day to recharge.  And in complete honesty, our aging bodies need more rest as well!

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #8:

Travel with Others

Whether you travel with extended family, friends, or a tour group, we find that other people lessen friction with teens.  As their brains develop, the changes are physically and emotionally exhausting.  At home, your teens can be physically separate from you.  When you travel with others, they can still have separation by being around other people.

Once, as a part of an Israel trip with our church, I looked across the 60 people and saw The Man preparing to lead our group, one daughter sitting with a fun loving widow, and the other daughter sitting with a nearly retired couple who pour love into our family.  We were traveling as a family, but we created new relationships on that trip!

Traveling With Teens/Tweens Tip #9:

Travel is expensive.  Think outside-the-box to make it more affordable.  

Volunteer in foreign countries.

Our church covers Youth expenses so that they can participate in mission trips.  Our experience is that our family connects with locals as we serve them.  We also develop a new “family” with other church members due to our shared experiences. As a bonus, we include fun days such as kayaking in a lake surrounded by volcanoes, cave tubing, snorkeling over reefs, and ziplining across waterfalls.

Do a search for “volunteer abroad.”  Different organizations offer scholarships and affordable programs for volunteering in other countries.

Lead educational tours.

Often the leader can bring a free traveler for every “X” number of additional travelers.

Make a Budget

Yes, the word “budget” sounds “un-fun,” but it creates boundaries, priorities, and peace.  Save money to pay for the family vacation ahead of time.  Our daughters love to research activities and restaurants.  By determining the approximate cost, we know how much to save and our girls are much more agreeable to activities they’ve helped plan.

Parents, what have you learned about traveling with teens (and tweens)?  Please scroll (waaaaay down!) and share your experiences with us!

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Navigating the Years


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