With our two older daughters in college and off on their own life adventures, we have done some travelling these past few months with just our 12 year-old son. Although we miss being able to vacation as a family, it has also been great for us to travel with our son and cater our activities to his passions.
Going on a vacation with a tween is a lot different than going with a younger child or older teen. To minimize the whining and maximize the fun, here are some dos and don’ts for vacationing with tweens that we have learned during our recent adventures.
1. Let your tween be involved in the planning
Last summer we visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The hotel provided a long list of activity choices that were available in the area. I asked my son to read through the list along with me and we came up with a fun itinerary. One thing he wanted to do was try fly-fishing. It is not something I would have chosen had he not suggested it. It turned out to be a lot of fun for all of us.
2. Be open minded
During our trip to Montreal, I suggested heading to the Museum of Fine Arts. My son gave me an eye roll along with an exaggerated yawn of impending boredom. But the museum had a visiting exhibit on life in Pompeii that turned out to be incredibly cool. Before saying “no way” to an activity – do a little research. Ask the concierge what is going on or check local websites.
3. Allow for downtime
When I am in a new place I just want to go, go. I am always worried we are going to miss something or not have time to see every amazing sight. But this type of pace does not work for tweens. Endless walking with no down time is a recipe for crankiness. Go back to the hotel at some point during the day and hit the pool. Or if your tween wants to just watch a little TV or play on their phone let them stay in the room for an hour while you go downstairs and have coffee in the lobby.
4. Make fun food stops
We are a foodie family and love to partake in local cuisine wherever we go. I let my son take the lead on this – giving him suggestions but ultimately letting him choose where we eat. Eating fun foods really gives tweens a taste of the local flavor. From Montreal bagels to a South Carolina nasty biscuit to New Orleans beignets, what we have eaten are some of my tween son’s strongest memories of our travels.
5. Get outside
When my son was little, we used to rent a tandem bike for him and my husband. Now he is old enough to ride on his own. Biking is a great way for families to spend time outdoors on vacation. It keeps you fit and allows you to see a lot of sites. We have biked with tour guides and on our own, depending on the area. Check out Trip Advisor for bike tour companies that have a good reputation. Hiking and kayaking are also great outdoor activities for families with tweens.
6. Set limits on electronics
It can be hard to pry away the phone or iPod from a tween on vacation. During travel (car rides, airport waiting, etc.) we let our son use his electronics with no limitations. We also have some downtime/phone time during the day. But when sightseeing and having family meals, he can only use his phone for photos. We explain that these trips are a time for us to connect with each other and it is really okay if snapchats are not answered for a few hours. By setting the rules in advance, we avoid arguments during the trip.
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About Randi Mazzella
Randi Mazzella is a mother three and freelance writer. Her work has been published in many print and online publications including She-Knows, Teen Life, Club Mid and About.com. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @rmazz90210.