Tips for Traveling with Teens

Three tips from K.K., a single mom, who travels regularly with her daughter:

1) I try not to schedule anything for too early in the morning. Teens stay up late at night and they are not their best early in the AM so if possible we don’t do anything before 9 AM.

2) We have done cruising, which relieves me of having to find something for her to do 24/7. Because I am a single mom the only requirement I have is that she joins me for dinner every evening – we always do late seating to give us time to enjoy the ports and then relax again once back on board – after dinner she is free to do whatever she wants and as long as we do not have an early excursion (sometimes it is unavoidable if time in port is short) she can stay up as late as she wants). I have to admit that sometimes I am lonely but as far as a happy teen it is a win/win.

3) In the past I have tried not to schedule vacations that would include too much driving/sightseeing but recently she has expressed a desire to see certain places (Northern California), which will require us to drive and she is fine with that – possibly because she suggested it. The result remains to be seen – we leave for our California vacation in July. My daughter and I do everything together and I am really going to miss her when she is not my traveling companion.

F.W. in Austin, is the single parent dad of two girls, ages eight and fourteen. By the time he was 21 he had visited 45 of the U.S. states, jumped out of airplanes, cliff climbed, etc.

He writes: For a lot of reasons, my daughters don’t have the expanded world view, sense of adventure, or open-mindedness that I wish they had. My remedy (other than trying to influence them as I can during my time with them) is to ensure that our vacations have an element of adventure. When we went to Cancun, I made sure we shopped at a local grocery store, looked at the mystery meats, and took the city bus back to the hotel; we took the people’s ferry rather than a tour boat to Isla Mujeres. In Acapulco, we wandered the local market and hiked all over town in search of a concertina (didn’t find one, but saw plenty of interesting sites along the way). We drove to Taxco and at least once stopped at a roadside diner and ordered food using my pitiful Spanish and hand shadows on the wall.

This summer we’re heading to Hawaii and staying at a friend’s organic coffee farm. In between the hamburger and pizzas they insist on, I try to make small inroads. Much smaller inroads than I wish, but I feel at least an image is planted in their minds that not everyone in the world lives like we do.

His Tips:

Plan a mission.
It’s hard for me to get my teenager to want to do much as she is paralyzed by the fear as to whether it is different, strange, someone will look at her, she’ll be embarrassed, etc. But if there is a goal we must accomplish, she’ll come along and we have a good time along the way. With me, it’s usually something odd like searching for a magic shop, or trying to find antique root beer bottles, or looking for foreign-language restroom signs in local hardware stores. She rolls her eyes and ridicules me, but comes along, and we always have a laugh along the way.

Let them do grown-up things.
While my younger daughter was at camp, I took a long weekend camping with my 14-year-old daughter on the national seashore south of Padre Island. I let her drive the car on the beach. She logged about 50 miles of driving experience, and we both had fun. She was incredulous that she was allowed to drive and was very proud (and no doubt feeling very cool) that she did so well.

Do nothing.
Even if you’re in paradise, it’s ok to sit in the hotel room and watch a movie. It’s time together, relaxing, and shows that you value time with your kid over seeing sights or accomplishing a task. Not exactly my preference, but it works. Thanks to K.K. and J.W. for sharing their experiences.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Single Parent Travel at 888-2-SPT-KIDS. Visit their website at or send an e-mail to John Frenaye, Chief Single Dad!

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