Teenagers often get a bad reputation for being moody, friend-obsessed or lazy, but they are also the ones who can make or break a family vacation. No parent wants to leave their teen behind and you don't have to. More often than not, they're up for having a good time with the family -- it might just take a group effort. Follow our tips for traveling with your teenager and you'll be well on your way to having a happy and peaceful family getaway.
Before You Go
Ask for your teen's input. When you're in the planning stages of your vacation, sit down with everyone and figure out what kind of vacation each person wants. Finding a vacation that suits everyone isn't just wishful thinking. If you let your teen help plan the trip, he or she will feel more involved and the family vacation will start out on the right foot.
Choose your destination wisely. If you want to relax on the beach but your teen wants to hang out in an arcade, maybe this is the year for a cruise. If your teen wants an adventure vacation but you're concerned about costs, consider a national park. You get the idea. If you think outside the box and explore each possible destination in depth before you choose, chances are, everyone's vacation expectations will be met.
Find the right hotel. While staying on the outskirts of town might save you a few bucks, having lots of attractions near your hotel might save you some aggravation. Not only will you cut down on the travel between sights, but your teen can also take some time to explore the area around the hotel when you all need a break.
Set a budget. On vacation, it's easy to blow your budget by buying all sorts of mementos to keep the kids happy. But if you give your teen a budget and even let him or her keep any leftover money, they'll be less likely to spend all of it on souvenirs you'll find under his or her bed a week after you get home. Plus, having a budget might allow for a few unexpected activities that will make the whole family happy!
Give your teen space. If possible, try and book adjoining hotel rooms or rooms adjacent to one another. If you rent a vacation home, make sure your teen has his or her own bedroom. Teens love their privacy, and feel more like the adults they want to be when they have their own space.
Bring a friend. Traveling with another family has its pros and cons -- on the one hand, you can enjoy adult time while the kids keep each other company, but on the other, you have to adjust to another family's idea of fun. Another possibility is letting your teen bring along a friend. If it isn't too cost-prohibitive and the friend's parents are on board, having your teen bring a friend just might mean more downtime for you.
In the Air
Don't dwell. When fights occur and meltdowns happen (and they will), try and move on as quickly as possible. Hopefully, the less you dwell, the less your teen will, too.
Have lots of snacks handy. You might be worried that your little ones will get hungry quickly while traveling, but your teens are the ones who will remain calm if their stomachs are full. Bring a few protein bars, bags of trail mix and maybe a few sweet treats on the plane or in the car. You're 15-year-old will thank you.
Give them responsibilities. Teens might not initially want to take on responsibilities, but when it comes down to it, they're growing into adults and are ready to help. Ask your teen to do an important task such as take their younger brother or sister to the bathroom. If they're old enough, ask them to drive a part of your road trip. The responsibility will give your teen something to do before they get bored. Plus, it'll make them feel like more of an adult.
On the Ground
Bend the rules. Yes, your teen needs discipline. But if keeping the peace means more dessert than dinner, more movies than museums or letting him or her sleep in while you visit the ninth church on your list, just go along with it. Remember that keeping the peace will make your vacation that much more enjoyable.
Let your teen choose an activity. Even if the only thing your teen wants to do is ride bumper cars, let him do it. After days of visiting museums and churches, the only thing kids might want to do is hang out at a local carnival. Let them. They'll reminisce about the night on the bumper cars more often than the exhibits they saw in the museums.
Skip the alarm. Of course you want to make the most of your vacation, but to your teen, sleeping in might be all the vacation he or she needs. Don't set an alarm for the whole family to wake up to. Allow your teens to sleep a little later in the mornings. Use the time that they're still in bed to visit the spa, revisit an attraction you felt rushed at the day before, or do a little souvenir shopping.
For more ideas for traveling with a teen, check out:
Traveling with teens? Visit our Top 10 Resorts for Teens article and Traveling with Tweens & Teens Forum!
This article has been updated as of December 30, 2013.