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Tips for Traveling with a Teen or Tween for a Happy Family Vacation

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As a mom who has traveled to destinations around the world with a teen and tween, I’ve gathered some useful info along the way that has made our vacations much more enjoyable for the whole family. If your kid weren’t strung out on hormones and freaked about leaving their friends for a getaway with the family, then they might give you the following advice. Follow these teen travel tips to improve your family’s next vacation.

Teen Travel Tips

Follow these teen travel tips for happy travels! (Photo credit: tan4ikk, Depositphotos.com)

1. Ask teens and tweens for input.

Teens want to look at the guidebook and the web and tell you at least one or two places they want to go. This gives them a feeling of ownership of the vacation. They will be happier and more pleasant if you let them share their vacation wishes…and you listen to them!

Let teens help you research travel destinations and activities

Let teens help you research travel destinations and activities (Photo credit: Vadymvdrobot, Depositphotos.com)

2. Don’t plan to sightsee the day of arrival. 

Teens just want to get settled into the place when you arrive at your vacation destination. Keep in mind that the further the distance you’ve traveled and the bigger the difference in time zones, the longer it will take to get over jet lag. Plan a mellow activity for your first full day of vacation. Get something to eat, walk around a bit, and maybe take a dip in the hotel swimming pool. The same goes for transition vacation days when moving from one location to another. 

Plan a mellow beach or pool day for your first vacation day with teens

Plan a mellow activity like beach or pool time for your first vacation day (Photo credit: GalinaZhigalova, Depositphotos.com)

3. Let big kids sleep in.

Keep in mind that teens need more sleep than their parents. This is due to growth and natural sleep cycles. Rather than starting your vacation days bright and early, consider getting up later and enjoying late night activities instead like a beach bonfire, fireworks at a theme park or family game night at your hotel.

Teens need lots of sleep, even when traveling

Teens need lots of sleep, especially when traveling (Photo credit: Kruchenkova, Depositphotos.com)

4. Encourage kids to document their travels.

Most kids have smartphones with cameras nowadays. Teens and tweens may want to take photos or create videos to share with their friends via social media. Encourage them by agreeing to pause so they can get the best shot and praising their pics. But don’t push too much or your teen could see this as pressure and give up documenting the trip altogether. An elegant travel journal might inspire kids to write about their travels, too.

Encourage your teen to take travel photos

Encourage your teen to take travel photos, including selfies (Photo credit: pavel_kolotenko, Depositphotos.com)

5. Give teens time to connect with friends.

Friendships are super important to teenagers. Give teens a set amount of time each day to let them text, call, email or share their travel adventures via social media. Encourage kids to send a post card home to a different friend from each destination, too. This will help them remember the vacation and feel less homesick. 

Teens like to connect with friends, even when traveling

Teens like to connect with friends, even when on family vacation (Photo credit: carballo, Depositphotos.com)

6. Plan exciting vacation activities.

Teens need action! Walking around a city to the next museum or church doesn’t count, either. Plan a surfing lesson, zip-lining adventure, or ATV tour instead to keep teens engaged.

Sand Hallow State Park ATV tour with teen and tween

My teen and tween on our Sand Hallow State Park ATV tour in Utah (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

7. Allow big kids to explore on their own.

Teens like independence. Give them some freedom to explore on their own. How far and how long you let them out of sight will depend on the safety of your destination and age of your children, of course. Set up a meeting time and lay out safety rules in advance.

Teens exploring Disney World

Allow teen and tween siblings explore theme parks together (Photo credit: Disney)

8. Listening to guides in a big group is b-o-r-i-n-g.

Typically, teens don’t like big tours geared toward grown-ups. Instead, choose tours that are designed for kids their ages. Teens often prefer active tours on bicycles or Segways instead. Guides-on-tape and scavenger hunts are also a good idea for independent-minded tweens and teens. 

Family bicycle tour of Buenos Aires with teen and tween

Our family’s bicycle tour of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

9. Set a budget for souvenirs.

Meaningful souvenirs make travel more interesting. Give kids a set amount of money to spend on souvenirs during the vacation. This will give them autonomy and teach the importance of budgeting, too. 

Souvenir hunting is fun for tweens and teens

Souvenir hunting is fun for tweens and teens (Photo credit: makALEX, Depositphotos.com)

10. Let teens wander into offbeat stores or museums.

Big kids may have interest in wacky shops and attractions that aren’t appealing to parents. That’s okay. You can choose to accompany them or sit outside and rest your feet while they wander. Say yes at least once every day when your teen asks if your family can explore a unique-looking street, park, or whatever.

Family exploring the Market Theater Gum Wall in Seattle on vacation

You may not be interested in the Market Theater Gum Wall in downtown Seattle, but I bet your tween or teen would be! (Photo credit: f11photo)

11. Encourage teens to try the local cuisine.

Tasting local cuisine is an amazing way to experience a destination. Encourage your tween or teen to take a bite of new dishes. Don’t get on their case, though, if they want to eat the same, safe dish three days in a row. It’s really not worth the argument. When teens eat, they’re less grumpy.

Teen eating dumplings in the China Pavilion at Epcot

My teen eating dumplings in the China Pavilion at Epcot (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Allow some time on technology.

Of course, you want your kids to live in the present moment and appreciate their vacation destination. But allowing teens a set, limited amount of time to play video games or watch their favorite YouTube stars helps them to relax after a long day of touring. Technology can be a great distraction during long flights or drives, too.

Tween watching movie on a long airplane flight

My tween son watching movies on a flight home from Morocco (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn more teen travel tips!

Keep teens content during the journey with these travel toys for all ages and these travel games for children and teens.

Big kids love Disney just as much as little kids. Read our Disney World with teens tips and our Disneyland with teens tips.

For a tropical paradise vacation, consider a trip to Fiji with teens and tweens. Or, take a look at our tips for visiting Atlantis Bahamas Resort with kids and teens.

Teen Travel Tips for a Stress-Free Family Vacation

Save these tips for traveling with teens and tweens!

For future reference, be sure to save these teen travel tips. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have teen travel tips or questions to share? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Matt Taylor says

    Those are all great tips for traveling with tweens and teens. One way to keep them from saying “Are we there yet?” every five minutes, is to give them an ipad…lol Of course when you get to your destination, probably don’t want the kids glued to their ipads the whole time. I definitely like the idea of getting their input, of activities they would like to do while there.

  2. These are all really great tips. As parents, we tend to forget that our teens need a bit more excitement than we do. They also are unimpressed by the things that blew their minds when they were children.

  3. This post is so exciting for me! I’m pregnant for the first time, and I’m looking forward to having to figure out how to keep my child excited about our travels when he or she eventually becomes a teen.

  4. Steven Morrissette says

    Great tips that I will surely keep in mind next time I travel with my teens.

  5. These are excellent tips. I have a tween, and things are definitely different than when she was a kid.

  6. It’s always nice to have input in a vacation that you’ll be taking, regardless of the age you’re travelling! I think these are all great ideas.

  7. Autumn Murray says

    Excellent advice! My daughter is 15 and my son is 13 and they can’t wait to start traveling the world again. They need to do more than take photos of their travels and document more as you suggest.

  8. Teens definitely need their “me” time when they travel with their parents. All excellent tips for traveling families.

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