We escaped the rock this summer and headed west to the USA, en famille, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Mr W had popped the question 21 years ago on a paddle steamer in New Orleans (after too much cold beer!) and we wanted to go back there to celebrate our nuptial anniversary with the boys. Nearly a month of travelling with teens presented some itinerary challenges.
Travelling with teens
We had to find a happy balance between sightseeing, shopping, museum/gallery/theatre outings and chilling by the pool if we were going to enjoy the ride and not fall out. But teenagers are difficult. They are old enough to stay up at night but too young to go to a bar with; old enough to have an opinion (on everything) but too young to be let loose to escape on their own for a few hours. They revolt at the thought of too much culture but, if done well and for the right amount of time, get excited when they discover something new.
What a teenager wants from a holiday
After hours of researching, planning and booking we escaped. We had three and a half incredible weeks; packed to the gunnels with activities and experiences we will never forget. Sitting at the airport for our overnight flight home, I asked the boys what advice would they give to parents planning a similar trip. Here are their answers…. hope you find them useful next time you are travelling with teens.
Ones that you can engage with rather than walking round like zombies looking at stuffy boring cases of exhibits. The Boston Science Museum is a brilliant example with live lightening displays, contests to build things that reinforce scientific principles but in a non-learning way (yes, they succeeded in balancing a bowling ball on a paper cone held together with rubber bands and paper clips!), and loads of things you can push, pull, destruct and construct.
Plan in at least one rest day or lie in day
They need sleep. Whether we like it or not they are programmed to go to bed later and wake up later than us so booting them out of bed early, day after day, will simply result in meltdown and sulking. It’s just not worth it.
Throw in a surprise
Don’t share all the plans with them before you go. In Paris we’d booked tickets to see the France v Russia pre-Euro cup warm-up match at the Stade de France. The first they knew about it was in the taxi on the way to the stadium. In New York, I’d booked tickets to the Book of Mormon. I deliberately hadn’t told them about it because I knew they would groan at the thought of going to see a musical. But when it is a musical written by the creators of South Park that is littered with swearing, profanity and downright weirdness, you’re on to a winner. After, my thirteen year old voted it one of the best things we did and he would NEVER have chosen to do it given the option beforehand.
Travel business class!
Yes, this one is wholly unrealistic if you’re a normal person working on a budget which we normally are (this holiday was a blowout treat exception to the rule). But if once in a blue moon you can indulge and escape the cheap seats it is worth every penny, especially if you’ve got a long haul overnight flight to contend with. And the Avios points you accumulate are a brucey bonus.
If the sat nav doesn’t work, don’t flip out and shout the house down because all that happens is everybody gets tense and embarrassed and it ruins the day. If things don’t go to plan, go with the flow. Travelling with teens has really taught me that it just isn’t worth the aggro kicking off. I haven’t mastered it but I’m working on it.
Don’t fly United Airlines
They cancel on you with no warning, they put you on hold forever when you try to sort out alternative flights and when you do finally fly they have a face like the back of a bus and their service is sh*t.
Hit the outlets
Give them the opportunity to make their spending money go further, especially if they are into sport and fashion like mine are. Research the outlets before you go though to make sure they have a good selection of brands you are after. We only went to one and all came away happy shoppers – Citadel Outlets, Los Angeles.
Do things you can’t do at home
Five favourites on our trip included:
- The swamp tour to see alligators close up. Really really close up! Book a small boat so you reach parts others can’t reach.
- Yankee stadium to watch the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays.
- Discovering San Francisco by GPS navigated GoCar tours
- Book of Mormon show on Broadway (totally teen-friendly swearing and rudeness)
- Overnight Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans. Seeing a huge chunk of the country by land, not air.
Understand what teenagers are in to
If they are like mine and into fashion, lifestyle, sport and music then hitting the boutiques in Lower Manhattan (Bathing Ape, Diamond, Stussy, Huf and Supreme all favourites) is worth doing. Queuing to get in to their favourite store earns you brownie points that can be exchanged for an art gallery tour! Knowing what they are in to, you can go off piste and do something that is new for all of you. We booked a fantastic Manhattan Street Art Tour with the superb Free Tours By Foot company (you tip the guide what you think it was worth). Learning about this art form and the influence it has had on fashion and music was enlightening and just a damned good three hours out of our precious day.
Book a hotel with a pool and a gym
Even if it means they hit the pool at 11pm when you finally get back to the hotel from a day of touring, having the option to cool down and let off steam is good for them.
Got any more tips for travelling with teens? If you have, please share them.