Last Updated 13/07/2021.
I have 2 teenagers now and we travel. We travel a lot, it’s our business and our joy and taking my teens to new places is my favourite thing to do. However, teens have a bad reputation in some circles as not the best travellers. We’ve not had any issues while travelling with teens so I think I should share a few tips, hacks and ideas for those of you wondering how to travel with teenagers. Not just how to travel with teenagers, how to travel with teens and enjoy it.
Tips On Travel With Teenagers
We’ve actually been travelling full time with our kids since they were 6 and 8 years old. As they metamorphosed from young children to tweens to teens things did change. They changed slightly and gradually.
We made the little video above to showcase some of our best travel with teens adventures.
No child just wakes up one day different. We’ve found that travel with teenagers is honestly, better than travelling with younger children. Teen travel seems to get better and better the older they get.
I guess we’ve had plenty of time to figure this thing out. Our best tips on travelling with teenagers are below. Remember no two teens are the same and I’m basing this on my teens, not yours.
Match The Destination to The Teenager
Know what your teens like and enjoy. Teens are just as entitled to likes, dislikes and preferences as you are and it’s your job as a parent to know what those likes are. For instance, one of mine loves scuba diving, the other doesn’t want to learn. See them, know them and don’t force anything. You may have to compromise and juggle ideas around until you come up with something the whole family will enjoy. Just talk, if you don’t know their likes already. Find out what they really want to do.
I managed to get both young teens to Everest Base Camp but one of them would jump at the chance of another big trek, the other not so much. So we’ll split up for any treks in future, a strategy for travel with teens we employ often.
Don’t Limit Their Internet or Screen Time
They need their online connections, their gaming, YouTubing, streaming and memes. They love them. Why take that away from them if it will make them unhappy? Yes, it bugs me too if they constantly have their phones glued to their hands, so just compromise, be fair. If somebody tried to cut your screen time would you be pleased? Sometimes we go to places where there is no internet connection. That is, in many ways, easier than limiting screen time or having a bad connection. Make sure your hotel, guest house or hostel ( and any of these accommodation options work just fine for teens) has free, unlimited wifi for multiple devices.
Try Challenging Destinations
My teens love to take on a challenge and test their new physical strength, stature and skills. This is absolutely my biggest tip for travel with teens, let them prove themselves and push themselves. You know how at home their chests puff out if you ask them to get something from a high shelf you can’t reach or do something that is beyond your strength? That, exactly that has given us huge pleasure in travelling with and living with teens.
Feed Them Well
Teens are all about food. I can barely get enough food into them their bodies are changing so fast. Any sort of trip, tour or vacation with huge mountains of food is a winner with my teens. They have a particular liking for buffets. Feed them well, let them eat well and consider food tours or cooking classes. Cooking classes with teens ( or tweens) are a double whammy of winning. Your teens get to be independently awesome, learn new skills, put them into practice and eat everything at the end.
Let Them Sleep
Teens need more sleep than their parents generally. That doesn’t mean they can’t get up early if they have to, but they do need sleep. Tired teenagers can be cranky.
Give Them Free Time
Much as we’ve enjoyed trips and tours where we’ve all been busy all day every day, a little downtime is good for them too. Mine sleep a lot, read a lot or check-in with the online world. Movies are good too. When we’re in Asia we’ll often make time to see a new movie at an awesome and cheap Asian cinema.
Do Teenagers Need Their Own Hotel Rooms?
No, they don’t. Mine don’t, anyway. When I travel with just one of my teens we share a twin room. When all four of us travel together we share twins, one adult one child in each. I would never put the two of them together in a twin room, there would be fights, little sleep, and safety would be a big concern.
Let Them Meet Interesting People
My elder teenager loves meeting cool people so group tours, social events and shared activities with new people usually go down well. It’s never mattered how old they are, they just have to be cool, interesting and fun. He digs talking to people. Others ( like me) are more reserved around new people. If you have teens more like me don’t push them into forced social events that could be outside their comfort zone. It comes back to knowing what they like and dislike.
Have An Adrenaline Adventure
Mummy, that’s me, does not like heights. Unfortunately for me, my kids do and the more terrifying the better. Teens love a bit of adrenaline so anything involving zip lines, rollercoasters, dangling from things and climbing up things is exactly what they want to do. Mum sits these adventures out and twiddles with her phone for a while trying not to think about her babies’ possible sticky end.
Split Up and Take One Child Only
This has been the secret sauce of our recent travels and has worked like a charm. My teens are starting to be quite clear in their likes and dislikes. One of them enjoys certain trips, the other doesn’t. We have, 7 times this year, split the family and taken separate trips. My husband got his dream minke whale trip, I took one child only to Bhutan, Vietnam, Borneo and The Northern Territory. One of my teens has taken father and son trips with a conservation group several times this year. It has worked brilliantly.
I’ve always found over our years and travel that divide and conquer is a great way to maintain travel harmony. The older they get the better it works. I know it’s not feasible for the average family taking a two-week annual vacation, but maybe you could split for a day or an afternoon to really focus on one child and that child’s needs. They enjoy it, you enjoy it, it’s win: win.
Volunteering With Teens
This is another element of travel with teens that has worked well for us of late. We’re all feeling the bite of climate change and teens want to be a part of the movement to fight it. We’ve packed our teen off three times this year on volunteering trips as well as taking part in single-day events. It’s part of their education, it’s a social activity and it’s just an awesome thing to do.
Let Them Take Control and Plan
Respond to their ideas. If they suggest going somewhere, go there. Ask them to research the places they’d like to see and the things they’d like to do. Let them take the reins and guide you around airports or cities. They’re learning to be fully independent adults, let them start to take on that role.
Places to Travel With Teenagers
So many different places work for destinations with teenagers. Everything is down to your teenagers’ interests and personality. Some ideas that work for our teens below.
- Destinations involving wildlife spotting. Komodo dragons and Africa are big wants for my teens.
- Destinations with snorkelling and/or scuba diving, ideally with sharks, manta rays, anything a bit cool and exciting.
- Winter snow destinations, skiing and snowboarding are great with teens and you can probably trust them to take off down the pistes without you. I love skiing with my kids.
- Any destination with bragging rights of any sort. ( eg. Everest Base Camp)
- Trekking, choose hot or cold based on their preferences. We’ve done both, we prefer cold.
- Destinations that align with their interests, be that the latest technology, Ancient Egypt or Harry Potter.
- Theme parks. That includes Disney, but Universal Studios is a winner. Disney remains popular with my two as they’ve been riding the big Disney rides since they were a fraction above the minimum height restriction.
- Anywhere with unlimited food ( buffets), possibly cooking and good wi-fi.
- Cycle tours, kayaking tours, wakeboarding, anything a bit adventuresome.
Family Vacations With Teens
I’m not you and you are not me. I’m coming at this travel with teenagers thing possibly from a place of advantage. My kids never went to school. As a result we’re well used to all being together and there’s rarely any issue with removing them from a circle of local friends. They’ve grown up with having friends and family scattered to the four corners of the globe, so we’re different, I know.
As a school child and teenager myself I well remember beach holidays as a youngish teen. I had no interest in beaches and wanted to be with my friends. Back then we didn’t have mobile phones. I remember having to use a public call box to phone my friends and stay connected. You have an advantage, your kids have phones and instant connections. Let them use their phones.
Making Travel With Teens More Affordable
Hostels start to become useful with teenagers. We would never and have never slept in a hostel dorm with our kids but now, I think I would if it was a cheaper option. With kids we always went for family rooms in hostels, hotels and guest houses. Do still check the rates on the private family rooms though, they could well still be cheaper than 4 dorm beds. Some hostels have age limits, check regulations.
Obviously self-catering cuts costs. We’re not fans of having to shop and cook for ourselves so we prefer to travel in Asia where you can eat out 3 times every day for under $5.
Transporting teens, by plane, bus and rail costs the same as taking two adults with you usually. We often find that paying for a taxi or private vehicle is cheaper than buying four adult tickets.
Group Tours and Active Holidays With Teens
I’ve just been in correspondence with Grasshopper Adventures and they’ve told me via e-mail that they will drop their minimum age cut off to include younger teens.
These are great opportunities for teens to try something different with one parent maybe, and get out there mingling. Active tours like these include cycling, kayaking, trekking, paddle boarding, anything and everything.
You can take a look at Grasshopper Adventures here, they are leaders in bike touring in Asia, and at GAdventures here, they cover just about anything and everything, worldwide.
Travel with Teens. Resources
- G Adventures – group adventure travel, teenagers are allowed with an adult. We visited Bhutan with them and had a great experience.
We hope our tips, destinations and ideas for travel with teenagers was useful to you. You can probably tell I’m pretty passionate about getting the teens out there, getting them involved in the adult world and allowing them to push their own limits. Travel has been wonderful for my teens, we hope you have similar outcomes. If you’re interested, we have a post on world schooling teenagers here. World schooling is education, minus school and it’s how we roll. So what do you think? Is travel awesome for teens or not? How do your teens feel about seeing the world? If you’re interested in getting your teen a drone – they are so good with them- we have a full post here.