Some of us love to travel (and we know who we are ~ we’d rather spend our savings on airfare than on a new dress or piece of unicorn decor!). My husband and I love to travel, and now that our children are awesome young adults, we decided to take a bucket-list trip to London. Here are a few of the strategies that made us all survive our multi-generational family adventure abroad:
1. Skip the alarm clock, at least sometimes. Let’s face it, pre-teens and teens generally don’t like waking up early in the mornings, but my husband and I do. Rather than steaming about later-than-we’d-like starts each morning, we used the early mornings to catch up over coffee and do additional research and planning. There were definitely days when we required our son and daughter wake up early to take advantage of special outings, but we also built in some valuable time for sleep -- and we were all the happier for it.
2. Involve your kids in trip-planning, to the extent they want to be. This may mean dinner at a Hard Rock Cafe when you’d rather enjoy an authentic local meal, but that’s okay if it rejuvenates your children for the next adventure.
3. Share your passions. Even if you don’t think your children are fired up about the same topics you are, share your interests, and they will remember the light in your eyes and energy in your voice. I know I risk boring my kids with my enthusiasm for all-things-World-War-II, but they enjoyed visiting the Cabinet War Rooms, and perhaps they’ll also find joy in history some day? You may be crazy about antiques or Indian food or ska music -- if you can find a way to work your passion into your vacation travels, you may just inspire your kids to be excited about their own interests.
4. Consider your kids’ interests, be creative, and plan a couple of memory-making experiences. This doesn’t mean you need to find an amusement park or video game arcade every day, but take time to research and find something each of your kids will really enjoy. A few years ago, we had a rollicking Easter egg hunt in Luxembourg Gardens in Paris (and we learned that was a decidedly American thing to do as the locals stared, pointed and smiled!). It's one of our most vivid memories from that trip. On our most recent trip, my husband researched interesting comic book stores and graffiti tunnels to break up the museum visits.
5. When you least expect it, expect it! You never know when and where your family will enjoy the most bonding experiences during your travels. On our recent vacation, one night my son and I stayed up late watching an irreverent television show, and we shared lots of laughs. My daughter and I happened upon a movie premier event where she got to see two of her favorite (like, ever!) movie stars. All unexpected and memory-making events which we’ll never forget!
6. Engage your kids in taking photos. Our son is fifteen, and he enjoyed taking creative photos during an otherwise heavy-on-history visit to Westminster Abbey. We love a particularly unique angle he took on photographing the windows in the cloister, and he enjoyed the perspective on design and architecture he gained from looking for great shots.
7. Plan for downtime. Whether it’s time to watch TV or Skype with friends back home, downtime is important for teens on the road. Plan to give them time and space to reconnect with their pals or favorite activities, and they’ll be rejuvenated and excited to get back to exploring.
8. Know there will be squabbling, especially between siblings. And know it will pass. Try to let it go and not dwell on disagreements or cranky comments; everyone will be the better for it.
Most of all, enjoy time with your precious family. Your kiddos will only be this age once, and there’s something beautiful about every stage! Put down that phone, close the laptop and appreciate the awesome, growing humans you’re raising.
(The author with her husband and two awesome teenagers on their recent trip to London.)