This is a refreshed family travel post with tips for traveling with teens and older kids.
You will probably agree with me when I say that family travel can be challenging. As much as it can be fun, there are challenges to traveling with kids of any age.
Trips with babies can be difficult because there are so much equipment and other things you need to bring with you. Toddlers are so volatile, and you’ll never know when a screaming fit will erupt. Then, young kids have so many needs from snacks, entertainment, and frequent potty breaks. But then, there are teens and older kids.
Family travel with teens and older kids has its own challenges, but you shouldn’t let these deter you from taking a family vacation. Family travel has so many benefits and you don’t want to miss out on these great experiences.
In this post, you will find essential family travel tips for teens and older kids. Some of these ideas we have found successful in our own travels, but other ideas come from friends, family, and the good old internet.
Why Family Travel is Important
I have always enjoyed traveling. In college, I studied abroad in Spain and was able to visit many of the European countries. After college, I lived in Costa Rica for a few months to immerse myself in the culture and really learn Spanish.
I think it is so important for people to learn about other cultures and experience new places.
After having kids, I do not get to travel quite as much, but we still have been able to take many family vacations. My son was only 6 weeks old when we took him on his first flight to Tulsa.
Since then, our family has been on many flights, taken long road trips across the country, as well day trips to new places just outside of Austin.
The experience of traveling is wonderful for so many reasons. It creates a bond with family members and friends. Traveling is a learning experience that teaches planning and organization. We have seen so many interesting, beautiful, inspiring things on our trips.
In each case, we have had wonderful experiences in learning new things, seeing fun places, and spending quality time together as a family.
If you plan to take a road trip with the kids, then check out my 10 Tips for Happy Road Trips with Kids.
Tips for Family Travel with Teens and Older Kids
Now that our kids are getting older, in some ways travel is easier, but we face some new challenges as well. Now the kids voice their opinions about where to go and what to see. Instead of two people having to agree and make compromises, now there are four of us.
Here are some tips for family travel with teens and older kids that will hopefully help you and your family have a fun, stress-free vacation.
- Help with Travel Plans
- Document Memories with Photos, Videos, and Journals
- Learn Something New
- Do Something Good
- Have Hands-on Discovery
- Visit Parks and Trails
- Establish Electronic Boundaries
- Plan for Downtime
- Expect Post-Vacation Blues
If you have not chosen a destination yet, ask for the kids’ input on where they would like to go and why. Have teens help with travel plans. Encourage your child to research the places they would like to visit.
Then, set a budget and encourage your kid to help you book flights, hotel rooms, and more while staying within your budget. In addition, older children can use maps to help plan road trip stops, overnight stays, and interesting spots along the way.
Our kids love helping us choose houses to rent from Home Away or AirBnB as well as pick out hotels. The big kids and teens can even help you find coupon codes and discounts for your vacation.
When I take vacations, not only do I take lots of photos, I also like to keep a journal to help me remember everything we did. Older kids can document the vacation by taking photos, videos, or keeping a journal.
Depending on your child’s personality and interests, you can designate him or her as the family photographer or family secretary. Then, when you return home, turn those memories into a photo book with Shutterfly or another online printer.
We made a vacation book after our road trip from Austin to Philadelphia. It included lots of pictures and stories from our stops in Memphis, Gatlinburg, Williamsburg, and more.
Learning new things as a family is a great bonding experience and confidence booster. With your child’s input, find a new hobby or activity you can learn together while on vacation. Maybe you could learn to SCUBA, cook the local cuisine, make baskets, rock climb, and so on.
When we went to San Francisco a few years ago we were able to take the Alcatraz tour. It was amazing. We all learned so much about the history, but also society during that time. We still talk about that tour.
As your vacation or during your vacation find a way to give back and do something good. This not only helps places, people, or animals in need, but it teaches kids the importance of helping others.
This is a great opportunity to talk with your kids about your morals and values. If you are looking for ways to give back while on vacation, then you can find out more about volunteer vacations from Merrill Edge here. In addition, there is Hands Up Holidays, luxury family trips that give back.
Use this time to show your older kids that what they are learning in school is important and relevant. Together, you can learn more about where your ancestors came from. Visit Ellis Island and see if you can find a family member’s name on a ship manifest. We were able to find my great-grandparents!
In addition, there are so many wonderful science museums around the country. When we were in Memphis, we learned all about tornados in Tornado Alley during a trip to the Memphis Science Museum.
Now that our kids are older, we can take longer hikes and explore more parks on our vacations. Let your teen research area parks and help decide where to go and which trails to take. If you can, take advantage of free entrance days in the national parks.
In this day and age, we are surrounded by screens and digital devices. For many families, it’s unsettling to driving along a beautiful highway or sitting on a mountain top, only to look over and see the kids engrossed in their devices.
Some families leave all electronics at home. For others that choose to bring electronics on the family trip, it’s important to establish boundaries ahead of time. Decide when and where everyone (not just the kids) will be allowed to have screen time.
For kids that love technology, put the devices to good use. Have these kids make a family travel movie or digital photo album.
As much as it will be tempting to fit as much in on your trip, downtime is important for everyone, not just the kids. Older kids and teens need their space. Let them have some alone or quiet time.
As a family, you can sit by the pool, relax in a hammock, order room service, or watch some TV or movies.
It’s normal to return from a trip and have post-vacation blues. The reality hits. There are bags to unpack, clothes to wash, bills to pay. Although your teens and older kids probably won’t be paying bills, or even doing laundry for that matter – but one can hope. Kids can experience some after travel blues too.
Don’t be surprised if your kids isolate themselves from the family or even act out.
To help with post-vacation blues, reminisce with friends or other family members about the trip. Distractions are also helpful for the treatment of post-travel blues. Start planning the next vacation or focus on a new experience you and the kids can look forward to.
What are some of your tips for travel with teens and older kids?
Do you have any good tips or advice for traveling with teens and older kids? Where have you gone on family vacations?
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.