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Ten trips for dads traveling with teenagers

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 22-05-2008

Traveling can be very stressful, and traveling with teens doubly so, for reasons that are completely different than for traveling with smaller children. Teens are developing their own interests and more than ever, you have to plan around how best to incorporate their needs, however exotic or seemingly selfish into the program. Here are ten ideas to help the trip go smoother this time.

  1. Remember who your fellow travelers are. Just as you wouldn’t take your sports-ambivalent wife to a week of baseball training camp, try to figure out destinations the whole family can enjoy. That doesn’t mean it has to be Disneyland or the least common denominator. Think instead, of places that will have real highlights for all members of the family. New York City for example, can satisfy many many different types of people with museums, sports legends, nightlife, theatre, and even great parks. But pick a single-interest destination, like say, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the entire family better be into rocking out, or have other reasons for being in Cleveland.
  2. Ask your teen to help plan. We like the City Walks cards series because you can spread them out and deal them like cards. Easier for everyone to see than passing out a book, the cards give everyone a chance to pick an itinerary and there will still likely be things of interest for the whole group. They also come in a more limited series for kids. Either way, have everyone look through the guide books or websites and choose at least one thing they really want to do, so no one feels like they are being dragged along an entire holiday.
  3. Try to stay near the center of your destination and activities. Nothing aggravates family dynamics and the fatigue factor like long car trips or transit. Even if it means cutting back elsewhere, a great location can really ease a lot of tension when a trip back to the hotel is easy.
  4. Consider an apartment rental or hotel apartment. Nowadays, there are many more options than having the whole family stay in a single room. That’s not a vacation for you or your teeen. Short stay apartment rentals give you more space for your dollar and feature a kitchen for more casual meals (pizza!) and cheaper breakfasts.
  5. Let your teen choose things “you didn’t come all this way to do.” Even if you’re in National Park and your teen wants to spend an hour in the hotel arcade, let him have a little break from the stuff you “should” do.
  6. Set up a vacation budget. It’s better to give out a fixed amount for souvenirs and extras before the trip starts. If you say that the money is theirs to spend as they see fit and they keep whatever they don’t spend, you’ll create a strong lesson in budgeting, but you’ll also be amazed at how many things now seem unnecessary for them.
  7. Let them bring a friend. Obviously this isn’t a possibility on all trips, but when it’s possible, it might make for a great solution for you to get some downtime. Of course, now you’re responsible not only for yours, but someone else’s, so take this advice with a grain of salt based on the personality of your child and his or her friend.
  8. Go easy on the “no iPod/no video games” rule. While you may not let your kids be constantly plugged in at home, vacation may the time to let them escape into their own little world during long car, train, or plane rides. It gives them a little privacy and a little down time that might make everyone a little less stressed out than if you make them interact with you at close quarters during the entire holiday.
  9. Check yourself before you speak. It’s easy to get caught up in slights and disappointments during a tirp and to keep bringing them up. Small little fights are likely inevitable, but you can short circuit a lot of longer fights by counting to ten or just saying to yourself what you’re tempted to say out loud.
  10. Pack light. With airlines finding new ways to charge for previously free services, a large added expense may be checked bags, which, at $15 each one way, can add up very fast for a small family. Packing simply will also save a lot on back-breaking lifting, which usually is dad’s job.