5 tips for making family trips with teens more fun

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 7:02 am •  Published: July 15, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Family travel falls into three distinct phases. First, there's the exhausting period of travel with crying babies who need diapers, bottles, strollers, car seats and naps. Then come the golden years, when kids can handle long rides and long walks, when they actually think scavenger hunts are fun, and when they bask in their family's love and attention.

But that's followed by the teenage years, which can be nearly as challenging as the toddler years — because to a teenager, any place a parent wants to go is by definition uncool.

It's tempting to fantasize about leaving them home (surely they can take care of themselves!), but they might throw wild parties in your absence, so you'll have to bring them along. Here are five strategies — crowd-sourced and from personal experience — to help you survive. It may not be cool for teenagers to travel with their parents, but you can definitely make it more fun.

FIND APPEALING ACTIVITIES

Teenage brains crave danger. Parental brains crave security. Fortunately, many activities are both thrilling and basically safe, like zip-lining, whitewater rafting and roller coasters.

Teens also like trying new things. Let them try surfing, stand-up paddleboards or snorkeling. No reason mom and dad can't sit that stuff out, by the way — the kids will surely learn faster than you, and you wouldn't want to be humiliated.

If activities involve spending money, discuss limits ahead of time. And if shopping's on the itinerary, don't forget thrift shops as fun, bargain alternatives to malls and brand-name stores. Like the song says, "Is that your grandma's coat?"

LET THEM EXPLORE

Let teens explore on their own as much as possible, whether the setting is a theme park, mall, beach, festival or neighborhood. If everyone has cellphones, it's easy to keep track of their whereabouts, but you can also plan the old-fashioned way: "See you at 4 p.m. at the fountain (or the car or the hotel room)." Casually add that you're prone to panic and will call the cops, have their names broadcast over public address systems, or write "WHERE ARE YOU?" in shouty-caps on their Facebook pages if they're late.

BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT ITINERARIES

I like museums, gardens and historic sites. My husband likes 6 a.m. sunrise hikes, preferably up steep mountain trails. Guess what? Our kids sometimes rebel and we sometimes compromise. Being flexible about itineraries and letting kids help plan is critical to family travel happiness.

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