I won’t pretend that every family holiday we’ve had has been perfect. There were the times when the crowds and burning heat of Sardinia in August became too much, the days of camping in the rain in Asturias in Northern Spain when we realised how the region earned it’s nickname of ‘Green Spain’. I’ve learned that no matter how carefully you select the accommodation or research the location, you’ll never please everyone.
Now my children are teenagers our needs have changed from those of a family with young children and gradually, by trial and error, I’m finding the best formula to suit them. By the time I’ve got it just right, they’ll be off travelling on their own, but hopefully with a love of travel and a thirst for adventure instilled on these family holidays. Fly the nest, my little birds, but not too soon!
Here are my tips for planning a happy holiday with teenagers;
No early starts
Most teenagers will stay up late and sleep until lunch-time given half a chance. And I don’t mind catching up on my sleep on holiday after getting up for work every day at home. Now I pass on any activities with a 9 o’clock start. A leisurely breakfast from 10am and then starting the day’s activities after 11am is about right for us.
Give them some space
The days of us being packed into a single family room are now over – I always book separate bedrooms, preferrably with own bathroom. Teenagers want their independence from their parents and being increasingly body conscious like some privacy to shower and change. If they have their own room they can make make a lovely mess with clothes all over the floor and you won’t have to see it – it’ll soon be packed up soon enough when you move on.
This is a rule that holds good for all travellers but is sometimes difficult to enforce with teenage girls who like to have an outfit for every eventuality. We manage to travel light as a family by giving everyone their own small suitcase that meets the size requirements for carry on luggage. Each member of the family has to fit what they bring into their own case, pack and unpack it and carry it themself. If we are going for more than a few days, I’ll add a larger family case that gets checked in for bulky items and overflow, but generally we try and go hand luggage only.
Bring a friend
On thing that teenagers hate is being parted from their friends. Even if all their friends are also on holiday, they’re convinced there’s a party happening back home that they’re missing out on. On shorter trips we often plan to include their friends – teenage bliss is to bring all your friends on holiday with you.
Choose accommodation where they’ll feel at home
If you can’t always bring their friends along, you can choose accommodation where you’ll be more likely to find other like-minded travellers to connect with. If I’m choosing an appartment, I’ll look for one that’s part of a complex, with communal pools and perhaps a bar or cafe where other teenagers are hanging out. We often stay in family friendly hostels, mingling with back-packers, although we look for an en suite private room rather than a dorm. For hotels I’ll look for smaller, boutique hotels that have a young and friendly feel.
Stay connected on the Internet
Staying in touch with friends is really important for teenagers and ours are the internet native generation. An hour a day on Facebook will make them a lot happier, so I always look for accommodation with free internet access, which tends to steer us to the places that younger travellers will be staying. On everything but the shortest trips I’ll bring my lap-top along and use the free wifi but there’s usually a computer terminal in the places we stay that my teens can use from time to time.
Activities rather than sightseeing
I love nothing better than looking around a beautiful church or and interesting museum, but my children will roll their eyes with boredom at the thought, so we have to compromise. Activities such as swimming or cycling are always good and I look for accommodation with a pool or access to other swimming by the coast or a lake. Castles are better than baroque palaces and museums can be acceptable if they’re small, quirky and capture our childrens’ interests. Activities such as hanging out in a park, watching the world go by in a street cafe, riding the old trams or wandering through a flea market are fun things to do in cities.
A relaxed pace with plenty of stops
As with all family holidays, it’s no good keeping up a punishing pace to tick off all those must-see sights. We focus on one thing to see in the day and then go with the flow for the rest of the time. We leave late after a leisurely breakfast and come back early to relax, read or swim and in between have lots of breaks to sit in a park, have an ice cream and try the local street food. Although I’d like to look around those landmark sites, I sometimes have to be content with admiring them from the cafe across the road.
If you travel with teenagers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy holiday….
Teenage friendly places we loved staying
Valencia – Home Rooms Deluxe Hostel – a boutique hostel where all the en suite rooms are individually designed by different artists, with apartments to rent in the same building.
Budapest – Mandragora Boutique Hostel – Friendly, Indian style hostel in an old apartment building that’s well placed for a city break
Budapest – Art’Otel – Modern, stylish 4 star hotel filled with artworks to treat yourself with a view of the Danube and a stroll up to the castle district.
Hungary, Lake Balaton – Hullam Hostel – Relaxed and family friendly hostel close to the lake with a few private rooms, occasional live music and Hungarian stew cooked over the open fire.
Cornwall, England – Treyarnon Hostel -The perfect seaside hostel with beaches, cliff walks and surfing on the doorstep and some en-suite and family rooms.
Berlin – Circus Hotel – A budget boutique hotel in the trendy Mitte district with rooms and apartments and wonderful staff. Their sister Circus Hostel is just across the road.
Croatia – Hotel Laguna Molindrio in Plava Laguna – a stylish, modern 4 star resort hotel with 2 pools, rocky coastal swimming and endless sports possibilities nearby
More family travel articles to enjoy
If you’re a coinesseur of the historic monuments and beautiful churches of Croatia, you’ll enjoy the Unesco World Heritage site of the Basilica of Euphrasius that we visited this summer while staying near Poreč in the province of Istria in Croatia.
You’ll find the Basilica set in the pedestrianised narrow streets of the old town, which is not so large that you’ll have any difficulty finding it. The old town of Poreč is surrounded on three sides by water and is a great place to wander around for a few hours, soaking up the atmosphers, taking a seat in any small squares or bars you come across and stocking up on gelato and souvenirs.
The main claim to fame of the Basilica of Euphrasius in Poreč, Croatia is the beautifully decorated dome at the back of the church, covered with golden mosaics of Christ surrounded by his apostles and saints as well as Bishop Euphrasius who built the church in the 6th century (well if you went to all that trouble, you’d want to make sure you were remembered, wouldn’t you?) As well as the mosaics, I loved the beautifully carved stone arches, running down each side of the church, each with a slightly different motif. There are classical concerts held at the Basilica on summer evenings and while we were visiting in the afternoon, we were lucky enough to hear a concert pianist rehearsing for the evening performance. You can hear the music on my Podcast about our visit to Istria.
There are other courtyards to visit within the Basilica complex and a bell-tower to climb, although I wasn’t able to stay long enough to see them, as my kids were more interested in an ice cream and getting back to the hotel pool than checking out an old church. But I did take a look at the remains of the original mosaic floor close to the entrance. Although the walls of the Basilica of Euphrsius are now quite plain, I believe they must have originally been covered by frescos, of which you can see fragments here and there.
When you’ve looked around the Basilica, take a stroll around the perimeter of the old town of Poreč and the back streets and lanes. As is typical on much of the coast of Croatia, one minute you’ll find a rocky place with locals swimming, the next you’ll be staring at a swish hotel and glossy, expensive yachts in the marina. There are plenty of places selling boat trips from the harbour, including the clear water of the Limski Kanal, an inlet that’s famous for farming oysters where we had a great seafood meal. On Sundays there’s a flea market under the trees by the bus station as well as lots of souvenir stands around the harbour. We loved our few days in Istria, there seems to be something for everything, whether you like a bit of history like me, or you’d rather be eating gelato and swimming like my kids!
Other Posts to enjoy from Istria in Croatia
My Guest post today is from Anja Mutic, a travel writer who also blogs at Everthenomad and takes us to one of the gorgeous islands off the coast of her native Croatia.
Today’s memory takes me back to the five-day solo hideaway on Šipan Island near Dubrovnik in Croatia that I took two summers ago. I had heard about the island through several friends who all brought it up as one of the least spoiled spots along the Adriatic coast. So I decided to see for myself.
During the peak summer season – July and August – sailboats and yachts dock here and tourists from afar drop by for a holiday. Still, the island, which is part of the Elaphite archipelago, has managed to ward off big-scale tourism and keep its authenticity and magic.
Šipan can be easily visited on a day trip from Dubrovnik, as the boat ride is a quick one-hour jaunt. However, I highly recommend an overnight stay in one of two fishing villages – Šipanska Luka or Suđurađ. If you really want to hide away, renting a private room or apartment is the best thing to do. Those are quite affordable but few so book in advance; the tourist office on the island has details (call 020-758 084). The only two hotels on the island, Hotel Šipan in Šipanska Luka and Hotel Božica in Suđurađ are for those with some cash to splash.
Things I loved about Šipan in Croatia: Renaissance villas, fragrant winds (the island is famous for its herbs), clean seas, coastal paths, fishermen weaving their nets and colorful sunsets. Things I could have done without: a tourist or two (was expecting a half-deserted place), the aggressive wasps (the island swarms with them when it hasn’t rained for a while) and the sea urchins (although it’s a sign the sea is clean, watch out for those when getting in and out of water!).
I imagine staying in Šipanska Luka out of season (in late September/early October) and feeling like I’ve stumbled straight into Macondo from One Hundred Years of Solitude. Šipanska is a mythical type of place, full of legends, crazy winds, interesting characters, a long history… If you tune out the chatter and tune into the island’s natural rhythms, you can still feel it.
Many Thanks to Anja for sharing with us some sunshine moments from her homeland of Croatia – do check out Everthenomad for more travel stories.