While my young adult children may call me a fire breathing dragon behind my back, they have thanked me for teaching them how to pack a suitcase and instilling a sense of confidence in them when they travel solo. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know what to do in many travel situations, but I do know how to handle drunk teenagers or wayward explorers. Be warned, this isn’t a blog post on tips for traveling with children; instead I give you my best tips for traveling with teens and surviving!
I knew I had an independent traveler on my hands when I got a call from the third grade counselor at summer camp. My daughter’s friend was homesick and had left camp after the first night. The counselor felt the need to notify me of this situation. Here’s how the phone conversation with my daughter played out. “How do you like camp?” I asked. “It’s great, but Robyn didn’t like it that much. Please tell me that I don’t have to come home?”
Picture yourself traveling in a Honda minivan for 10 hours with six teenagers. I know, not a pretty sight now, is it? If you want a car load of happy campers remember to pack the snacks for your road trip. While choosy mothers chose jif, I chose a balance of healthy snacks and snacks that taste good – if they happen to be on sale at the grocery store, that’s even better!
Don’t forget to pack water bottles for everyone. I have a boat load of branded water bottles in my cupboards because I’m a travel writer who specializes in equine travel – in other words, I review a lot of dude ranches and cowgirls need their own water bottle. I come off like a hero when I give every kid in the car their own water bottle to keep. It’s also helpful that each water bottle is unique so each teen is able to remember what their bottle looks like.
If you are traveling with other people’s children, make sure to have a copy of their insurance card and have the parent’s sign a medical waiver giving you permission to treat their child at a doctor’s office or hospital if necessary. If you’ll be staying in one location, look up the nearest hospital, urgent care center and dental office in the area. Silly me, I had to call my California dentist to get a recommendation for an Oregon dentist when my kids collided with one another on their bikes – one broke her collar bone, the other had a concussion and chipped a front tooth! Ya, sh!t happens when you are on vacation. Be prepared.
Pack your sense of humor
Kids keep us young, teenagers give us gray hair. Always keep your guard up when chaperoning a group of teenagers. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open when you have teenagers trapped in a cabin, car, hotel room or on a houseboat. Eventually, these self-centered young adults will forget that you are in the room – they might be discussing members of the opposite sex, how to purchase alcohol while on vacation or the benefits of vaping over bong hits. For you parents sleeping with blindfolds, electronic cigarettes are the two-to-one favorite of teenagers because the room doesn’t smell like marijuana when they blaze, that’s code for “light up” for us old folks.
Now don’t go crazy in the comments section telling me what a bad parent I am. I don’t support underage drinking or drug use, but I do recommend that some parent’s pull their head out of the sand and get real about teenagers and their recreational choices. Let’s be honest, my husband and I went to college where Animal House was filmed. Nuff said.
Have passport, will travel
If you can afford it, get your kid a passport. Even if you have no intention of international travel, your teenager may be presented with an opportunity to participate in a mission trip, join a friend on vacation, sail with Semester at Sea, or travel abroad for school or summer employment. Once teenagers reach the age of 16 and older, passports are valid for 10 years. A passport is a gift you give your child, setting them on a path with no boundaries. What a trip!
What are your insider tips for traveling with teens? Please leave a comment below.
Article and photos by travel writer, empty nester and baby boomer Nancy D. Brown. No teenagers were harmed in the writing of this blog post.