Teen Travel Challenges I Didn’t See Coming

Apr 11, 2019

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As kids get older, the logistics of travel get easier. However, with my kids now 12 and 15, travel planning has simultaneously become a lot harder. One reason I saw coming; the others I didn’t.

The Challenge I Saw Coming

The older kids get, the harder it is to travel during the school year. I got a taste of this in a nasty-gram the school sent regarding my son’s two-day absence to visit his grandparents. Did I mention that he was in kindergarten? I’ve since learned how to navigate the school system more effectively. Even the elementary school office takes note of days my kids are not there. Once I resorted to telling the school my kids had “an appointment,” failing to mention that the appointment was with United Airlines.

Depending on your kid, pulling kids from class in middle school is tough and by high school it’s pretty much out of the question as homework and school activities fill up the time. This year, my high school sophomore son faced eight hours of homework after missing four days for illness. I’m blown away by the pressure these kids are under — or maybe I’ve blocked out my high school days from the ’80s.

(Photo by Kyle Gregory/Unsplash)
(Photo by Kyle Gregory/Unsplash)

The Challenges I Didn’t See Coming

In addition to the intense pressures of school work, another challenge I didn’t see coming is not all kids like to travel. It started when my son was 10. I was ready for him to ask all sorts of questions, but I was not prepared for: “Mom, can we stay home for spring break this year?”

I confess that one hit me hard. As someone who lives, breathes and works travel, his request to stay home felt a little like rejection. Tears may or may not have been shed. (Yes, first world problems I know.)

In the five years since, I’ve come to accept that my son just doesn’t love travel the way I do, and that’s OK.  He doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t have my wanderer gene. I do what I can to make travel easier for his age group and I get his input on destination choices, both of which help. I’ve learned that he prefers natural wonders to man-made ones: Iguazu Falls was a huge hit.

Iguazu Falls from the Sendero Verde. Photo by Dia Adams
Iguazu Falls from the Sendero Verde. (Photo by Dia Adams / The Points Guy)

However, no matter what I do, he’s never going to be an AVGeek. I recognize that his lack of wanderlust is just who he is and, more and more, I see the outside pressures he and his teenage friends confront.

Extracurricular activities like sports and band often plan practice sessions during the summer and over school breaks. A friend of mine, whose son is in band, lost the entire month of August last year to band practices. When you are constricted by the school calendar, finding award availability for a family trip can be hard. When you are further constricted by activities during school breaks, you can get into needle-in-a-haystack territory. If you are in this situation, start stalking awards the minute they become available the way your kid might stalk Troye Sivan tickets. (If you don’t know who Troye Sivan is, you probably don’t have a tween girl in your house.)

(Photo by Goh Rhy Yan/Unsplash)
(Photo by Goh Rhy Yan/Unsplash)

Another travel challenge I didn’t see coming arrived the summer before ninth grade: dating. No ancient ruin, majestic mountain range or museum masterpiece will compete with the blush of first love. This one I remember from my own adolescence, but back in my day, we suffered through the separation with an occasional long-distance phone call. With FaceTime, kids can be half a world apart but still in constant contact. I’ve confiscated electronics more than once on vacation to be sure my teen’s attention is on the world around him rather than the one on his screen.

(Photo by Djim Loic/Unsplash)
(Photo by Djim Loic/Unsplash)

Bottom Line

If you’re the parent of a young child, you might be counting the days until travel with kids gets less stressful. I’m sorry to tell you that you might just trade one type of stress for another. As the kids’ lives get more complex, so do their schedules, interests and demands. You might find yourself wishing for the good old days of strollers and car seats.

Here are some more teen travel resources:

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