We have always traveled as a family. Taking our three boys around the world was a commitment we made even before we were married. Last summer our family hit the road for two months of traveling with Niteo Tours to several destinations. We ventured through Thailand, Vietnam, Slovenia and Croatia and we left all the details in the hands of our capable team (no work for us on this one).
I will admit that it was a bittersweet time for us as we knew this would likely be the last opportunity our family unit would have to travel in this way again. With talk of marriage in the air and a second kid off to college soon, we were nearing the end of this short window (trust me, it’s short). These teen and young adult years for family travel are uniquely precious. Teens are able to engage with just about everything and contribute at so many levels, including carrying my bags!
Our Niteo partners and the local guides did a great job keeping our teens in mind while crafting an itinerary that was interesting, memorable and enjoyable! In addition to choosing the right travel company for our family group, we also employed some additional strategies for traveling with teens and that combination made this an incredible experience for everyone.
EIGHT Successful Strategies for Families Traveling with Teens
Give them your good camera. My middle son is an incredible artist, but more than that he has a unique perspective that is very unlike my own. He sees things I never do and what is important to him comes out in his photography. By giving him a camera, we all saw this trip in a more complete way (and he took home the memories that were meaningful to him).
Give them a hands-on learning experience. Engaging the senses through touch, taste, trying new skills, and physical activity takes what could be boring information to a level of incredible fun. Niteo arranged for our boys to paddle round boats, ride elephants, cook Thai food, hold enormous snakes, taste lime honey, and fire Vietnam era weaponry. They asked us ahead of time what our boys would like.
Give them an oral history. History comes alive when it is told by those who lived it. Niteo introduced us to people who experienced extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances and times. There is nothing more life-changing than putting flesh and bones to the text in social science books. Personal testimonies take out the politics and borders and introduce this age group to the reality that people are people, no matter where they live.
Give them adventure. Few things would be more painful for a teen than sitting on a bus looking out a window at a mountain they imagine themselves climbing. When this company crafts a tour with young people, they pay careful attention to adding in adrenaline rushes that include alpine hikes, snorkeling, zip lining, deep sea fishing, boating, whitewater rafting, and riding elephants.
Give them Wi-Fi. While travel is a great time to encourage your kids to unplug, young adults need to connect with their friends back home and be in the loop. Generally speaking, planning for a time each day when they can check their social media and text will keep them happy. Niteo made sure we had Wi Fi connection in every place we stayed.
Give them down time. Remember that teens appreciate having a few days on a trip where they don’t have to report early in the morning or go all day long. Let them have some breaks by the pool, a morning to sleep in late, or let them string up their hammock to read. They like to feel that they have some choices.
Give them opportunities to step outside their comfort zone. Of course we all like to stick with what we know is good and easy. But setting up opportunities for young adults to experience something new and even a little edgy gives them a sense of mastery and a story to tell throughout their whole lives that will always bring them back to the place where you made the memory for the first time. You might not want to try silk worm salad on crackers, but my kids did and will talk about it the rest of their lives!
Encourage them to keep a journal, blog or sketch book. An assignment like this helps your teen pay attention and apply what they are seeing and experiencing. It will also be a rare treasure that they can keep for a lifetime!
My sense that this was our last trip as an original family unit was on spot. While in Thailand our oldest son bought a beautiful engagement ring for the love of his life in the market and was married just months later. While we look forward to this next season of travel, nothing will replace the time we spent traveling with them as teens.