How To Travel With Teenagers Who May Not Want to Travel With You

Teens or tweens unenthused about traveling with mom and dad? Here's how to turn that attitude around

By Mary Campbell August 11, 2020

I loved the thrill of just picking up at a moment’s notice and heading out to travel and explore when we were newly married. Then babies came. Our travel style had to change to revolve around sleep schedules and feedings. As they got older, our trips continued to evolve.

Now, as we enter the tween/teen years, we are finding a new challenge we need to overcome: our son's unenthusiastic attitude about traveling with us.  

It turns out there will come a day where your child will prefer time with friends over time with you. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a strong feeling for teens. Anytime my son lifts his phone and sees pictures of what his friends are doing back at home, he makes it clear that he wishes he were there instead. 

Teen FOMO can definitely make going on a family vacation challenging … but we have found ways to get him on board with traveling with us:

Involve your teen in the planning

“Not another hike,” he sighed, accompanied by a major eye roll. This is the reaction we got when we told our tween we were headed to Yosemite this past weekend. In all fairness, this would be our fourth National Park of the summer and the kids were getting a little tired of all the hiking. So we turned the tables and put the ball in his court. We made a list of all the excursions available in Yosemite that we were willing to do and we let him pick.

Giving him the ultimate decision-making power changed his whole perspective on the trip, and we had a memorable day riding electric scooters around the park and swimming in the river. 

Letting our son choose our plans made him much more willing to go. So for your next trip, make a list of acceptable locations or trip ideas and let your teen make the call! 

Involve your teen or tween in trip planning so they know they'll have things to look forward to on vacation.

Book a trip with other families

I’m coming to accept the fact that my tween does not always want to hang out with just our family on vacation. Planning a trip that includes other families we know or trips where there is a teen hangout area (like on a cruise or a resort) is ideal. 

Hanging out by the pool with other kids his age and letting him have some independence during the day makes the family time in the evenings more enjoyable (and he shares with us about his new friends).  

On our last trip to Palm Springs, my son made friends with some kids from across the country, and even a family from Australia. I loved hearing all the things he'd learned about his new friends and their hometowns. Planning a trip where your teen can hang out with other teens adds a fun element of new friendship and culture. 

Planning a trip with other families with kids of similar ages is a good way to get teens excited about traveling with you.

Jump into adventure

Most teens think they are invincible and they love to push the limits. My boys especially love when they can freak me out by making me push those limits with them. Mountain rollercoasters, zip lining, white water rafting … these extreme adventures get my tween excited for a vacation, so be sure to add a few little adventures into the mix! Sharing in adventures and completing something difficult creates a lifelong memory.

Push the limits on vacation by being willing to jump into unique adventures.

Invite a friend 

FOMO is real ... but your teen will be the one creating it if you invite a friend to come along on your trip! I was touring a destination hotel earlier this year and I was surprised to see the hotel had numerous multi-bedroom suites. The tour guide said they are seeing more and more families bringing kids' friends along on vacations and these types of rooms are very popular for that kind of multi-family travel. Allowing my son to bring a friend also gives me the opportunity to get to know his friends better and create a lasting connection with them. 

Letting your teen invite a friend on vacation can be a great way to keep everyone happy.

Learn through experience

On our recent trip to Washington D.C., I learned very quickly that what I had planned was not a hit with my tween. He spends 9 months of the year in a classroom and the last thing he wanted to do on vacation is take a field trip to a museum. After a quick internet search, he found the interactive International Spy Museum. We took on a secret identity and completed missions throughout the exhibit. While pretending to be spies, we learned all about real spy missions throughout history … learning through experience! Other fun learning experiences could involve a cultural cooking class or adventure tour. Just because a city you’re visiting has a great museum, doesn’t mean it’s a “must-do” for a trip with your teen. 

Find learning experiences that don't make tweens and teens feel like they're back in school.

As you look to planning new trips, involve your teen, incorporate some adventure, and bring a friend along! Happy travels!