Tips and tricks for traveling with a teen

Our Principle Program Manager, Don Flaherty, recently traveled through Europe with his 14-year old daughter, and learned a few tricks along the way that he agreed to share with us.

Let’s face it, for most teenagers, spending massive amounts of time with their parents is about as fun as being locked in a closet without their phone. But I decided to give it a shot anyway.  This summer, my 14-year old daughter and I visited London, Budapest, and Vienna – all in the course of 10 days.   Here are some things I tried (and learned) that made the journey easier for both of us.

The Golden Rule of Travel. Explain to your teen, and follow, what I call “The Golden Rule of Travel”: Only one person can freak out at a time.  Travel can sometimes be a bit stressful but if one person is losing their mind over something, the rest of the party is obliged to keep their cool.

Control and Responsibility. I think it’s really important to give your children, especially your teen, a sense that they are responsible and have some control.  A few things worked in this area for us during this trip:

  • Planning – for this trip we each got an equal number of days to plan something and direct the day’s activities.  This gave my daughter a sense of control by allowing her to pick what we were going to do on her assigned days and she was more co-operative when I chose things that may not have been appealing to her on mine. Another upside to this was that she couldn’t complain about the activities she planned!
  • Navigation responsibility – Learning how to get around in a new city is an important part of travel. With my support, I asked my daughter to navigate the subways and airports. She used problem solving to get around and it definitely gave her a sense of accomplishment when we arrived at our destinations.  Hint: Don’t try this when you are in a hurry (see the Golden Rule of Travel above).

A few other tips that worked for us during our trip:

Don’t battle too hard on electronics.  Get a data plan so they can stay connected with their friends, but set limits on their usage so they don’t tune out completely.

“One earbud” rule.  This was actually my daughter’s pre-emptive strike.  She didn’t want to give up her music but knew I would grow annoyed if she tuned out completely, so she promised to only use one earbud.  It wasn’t perfect, but was a good compromise (see the Control tip).

Photo quota.  I don’t know if this applies to all teenagers, but for a kid who can take a dozen snap chats in as many minutes – my daughter was remarkably uninterested in being the subject of MY photos.  We negotiated a daily quota, thus avoiding every photo request requiring cajoling or being a profile of teen despair.

And lastly, even teen-agers still aren’t great at understanding their food and water needs.  Always have water and healthy snacks and offer them frequently.

We had a great time, and an added bonus from some of these tips allowed me to really enjoy the trip even more seeing my daughter in charge.  On some of “her days”, I could even relax and just be along for the ride (well, sort of). Happy travels!

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