A Family Adventure with Teens
No matter how far you venture from home, there are a few tactics to ensure you have successful family adventures with your teenagers. This list of 7 tips for success follows after a bunch of trial and error, a few missteps and several victories. As always, we hope this helps your family enjoy the adventure and look forward to the possibilities…even with teenagers!
Involve Your Teens in the Adventure Planning
One of the best ways to get buy-in from your teenagers is to involve them in the process. To begin, have everyone come up with a BIG DREAM bucket list of destinations that sound fascinating and exciting. Keep those lists going, occasionally crossing things off that no longer work for teen adventure, or trips already conquered and get checked off! Have discussions about adventure activities they would like to do or try for the first time and then we research the heck out of it. Include your teenagers in the research and get them excited about what’s to come. Now you’ve got buy-in.
Don’t Over-plan Your Activities for Teens
Adventuring in a new place often times translates to squeezing out every minute of fun that’s possible. Resist. That nagging voice in your head that says, “this is once in a lifetime so we must…” is feeding you a standard that is impossible to reach. There is no way you can DO everything in every destination even with unlimited funds. Allow for plenty of wiggle room in your itinerary to compensate for lost time waiting in lines or lunch taking longer than planned. Do not try to control the angsty teenager that is done. Teenagers need downtime even during an adventure.
An easy way to cure the over-plan is to have one big activity/tour a day and then a few others depending on how long the activity is. For example, Shep and I wanted to go canyoneering in Costa Rica, but we were still tired from our travel the day before. We chose an afternoon tour that lasted 3 hours which gave us time to chill in the hot springs in the morning. Create space for downtime for teenagers can relax/nap, check their phones and veg out for a bit. If you don’t create it, you will naturally fill it with something else. From the early days we learned to communicate when those down times would be so the kids knew to push through even if their feet were ready to give out (like in Washington D.C.).
Space for your Teenagers
You know your family. When you make decisions about accommodations or car rentals I urge you to choose wisely. Space becomes a thing with teenagers. At home it’s likely they each have their own space to retreat, so it’s good for kids to know that sharing beds and sacrificing some space for a great experience is worth it. If the accommodation has limited beds consider rotating who gets the comfy one each night. Also, we have made the grave mistake of trying to stuff everyone into a compact SUV (along with our luggage) in order to save money. NOT a good idea if it’s a trip you plan to use the rental car a lot. Long trips that require lots of family adventuring together will go more smoothly if you can make space for everyone.
Everyone Has a Responsibility
This tip can really help with the squabbling amongst family members. When each person has their own responsibility on the trip they can focus on that instead of everyone else. It’s not foolproof, but it gives everybody some ownership in the tasks of travel. For us, John is the driver and I am the navigator. Rowan is the luggage handler and car packer, Shep is in charge of snacks and the cooler and Holland does the music and is in charge of keeping us on our activities schedule. You can start this well before they become teens. Get creative- music playlists, packing the cooler, setting up chairs at the campsite, collecting firewood, and more are all ideas.
Honestly this one can be tough to adjust to. Fight the urge to say no. It does seem unreasonable to say yes to ice cream right before dinner and it doesn’t always fit into the schedule to stop off at a viewpoint for one more photo. BUT, this is about successful adventures with your teenagers so who cares. You are not going to ruin your teens or the experience or the budget by doing this. The memories will be heightened and the family will be more amiable. Say yes to the kids jumping in the lake with their clothes on. Say yes to getting up at sunrise so your teenager can get an epic photo. Say yes to one more round of s’mores. This is what building up your family is all about!
Keep small surprises along the way to really add to the joyful experience of the adventure. Hiking isn’t always a favorite, but if you keep a surprise for them at the end of the hike they will remember it forever. It’s up to you if you want to dangle the surprise or not. You know your people and how they will deal with that. Just don’t talk it up too much or they may be disappointed! With teens you can really boost the trip by holding out on one big adventure activity they had their eye on and saving it. Watching their reaction is so rewarding.
Something for Everyone
This is the key to successful family adventures. Every trip we take we make sure we all have one thing or one day that is each individual’s choice. Not everything we do makes everyone happy or fulfilled, but if you really want to ensure a successful adventure with your teenagers you need to take into account personalities and desires.
On a weekend mountain trip we did zip-lining, which Holland really wanted to do. Shep had done it in Costa Rica and was uninterested. No worries because later that day we went looking for a sliding rock/swimming hole and he was ecstatic. On the Big Island in Hawaii John absolutely did not want to miss visiting a coffee farm. The kids were bored out of their minds, but it was only 1.5 hours. John was delighted and had been waiting for that coffee farm visit the whole trip. Mission accomplished and everyone survived. Make sure on each trip that there is something for everyone! Dare I say that these are necessary affirmations for teenagers anyway?
Cheers to Your Next Family Adventure
Adventures are the best gifts for teenagers and having a few tips and tricks in your back pocket will help to make it a successful and memorable experience. Now, go DREAM BIG and start planning your next adventure!