Holidays with teenagers – 8 tips for happy travels!

Boat trip on Zakynthos, Greece

I won’t pretend that all of our holidays with teenagers have 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 its 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.

Boat trip on Zakynthos, Greece

Boat trip on Zakynthos, Greece

Now my children are older our needs have changed from those of a family with young children and gradually, by trial and error, I’m finding the best formula for travelling with teenagers. 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 holidays with teenagers;

1. 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 10 am and then starting the day’s activities after 11am is about right for us.

2. Give them some space

The days of us being packed into a single family room are now over – I always book separate bedrooms, preferably 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.

3. Packing light

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 themselves. 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.

At Hullam Hostel, Lake Ballaton, Hungary

At Hullam Hostel, Lake Balaton, Hungary

4. 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.

5. 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 apartment, 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 backpackers, 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.

6. 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 laptop 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.

On holiday at Lake Balaton, Hungary

On holiday at Lake Balaton, Hungary

7. 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 children’s 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.

8. 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

Travelling with the teens – in Valencia
A cycle in the Turia gardens – in Valencia
01 Family Travel with Hospitality Club – Podcast Episode 1

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com

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  • Reply
    August 24, 2010 at 5:33 am

    […] Travelling with teenagers – how to have a happy holiday from Heather on her travels […]

  • Reply
    August 24, 2010 at 11:39 am

    What a wonderful post! Our kids are not teenagers yet and we’re trying to make the best of it while traveling. We have a big road trip planned for next summer and I wonder if it’s the last one we’ll have in family rooms.

  • Reply
    Make it back
    August 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    great article. it can be v tough with teens on holiday!

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    August 26, 2010 at 9:13 am

    SUPER advice – loved this post Heather! Will be passing along to my sister and brother!

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    August 31, 2010 at 1:51 pm

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    May 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    lol I can image how I must have made my parents feel as a teenager on holiday… I hope my kids arent like that!

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