Taking the teens on vacation
First published 27th September, 2009
Suggesting travel to a family with a teenager often results in a less-than-eager response. Take a teenager to a foreign country? With no iPod? No Wii? No text messaging? Sure, not everyone will think it's the most fun they've ever had, but give it a try. Parent and teen may find the experience better than they could have ever imagined. This is part seven of a ten-part series on travelling with kids in Southeast Asia. A new story will appear on Travelfish every Monday with a new installment.
I first took my children abroad when they were 14 and 9 years old. Nearly everyone thought it was a kamikaze mission: one mum, a teen boy and a nearly tween girl. Over the next six months in Vietnam, we made shifts in the way we functioned as a family and I learned to let the tethers loose a little. By the time we made our second trip to Vietnam in the summer of 2009, I had two highly-independent 16-year-old boys to deal with (my son and his friend), in addition to an inordinately wilful 11-year-old girl. Everything we'd learned on that first trip had to be put to use, then altered to fit our new situation. Between fights over meals and movies, while I was getting the silent treatment and before the sun woke the kids, this is what I came up with to keep the peace and get us through our four weeks with all our sanity and affections intact.
Give them a say
There's nothing like a teen to give a fresh perspective on just about anything, including travel plans. For every destination, there are more things to see or do than can be accomplished in one trip, so why not let them have some of the responsibility for choosing? For my son, this was by far the most important consideration -- having his opinion count. Most teens love having their way; if you can finagle the itinerary to include what they want to do it can make the entire trip more enjoyable. Make a list of the places to see and give them a vote. This includes younger kids, too. See what they want to do and work together to incorporate everyone's interests. No one person makes the decision and everyone feels like their voice is important in the decision-making process.
If your travel itinerary isn't set in stone, ask for their ideas on where you should go and what they'd like to see. While, as a parent, I wanted to show my kids all the historical sights that I could, it didn't take too long before they began complaining that if you'd seen one pagoda, you'd seen 'em all. And truth be told, when we varied the destinations, we all had more fun.
Give them space
Travelling cramps everyone's space, especially a teenager who can never seem to get enough. Restaurants are noisy. The streets are non-stop people and traffic. Parents monologue often. No matter what, there will be a point when life abroad with your family just feels too crowded and everyone needs some room for being alone. This is especially critical for teens.
The good news is that it's fairly cheap and easy to give them the space they need. Hotels all over Southeast Asia offer single rooms that are super cheap (some for less than US$10). Get the kid (or two, as in my case) a room of her own. I gave the two boys their own room several times and while it is an added cost, the joy of not having to argue over what to watch, who's sleeping where and what time to turn off the light more than made up for it.
This need for some space doesn't just mean sleeping, either. Let the kids sit at a different table or wander down the beach. It's amazing how the bickering nearly stops when everyone has some breathing room.
Give them time
People need time apart or we tend toward ideas of injury; this is ten-fold for teens. So to keep everyone on the sane side, you'll need some time apart. Trust me. The easiest way to manage it, I found, was to get the kid a phone in addition to my own phone. He could go for a walk and if he got lost, he'd call me. If I needed him back, I'd call him. It worked especially well in areas that we already knew fairly well, but even after a day in most cities he knew the area surrounding the hotel well enough to go out. On our third day in Nha Trang, the boys were hungry before my daughter and I, so off they went to an eatery we knew near the hotel. By the time the two of us passed by nearly an hour later, they were happily munching on a pizza.
Teens have a bad reputation, one that I'm sure I influenced a couple decades ago, but when you give them a chance and trust them just enough and allow them the freedom to grow, you may just find they make pretty good travel companions.
Teresa Coates is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's travelled through Vietnam, China, Thailand and Malaysia with her two children and, periodically, a friend or two. You can find out more about her work at www.teresacoates.com or visit her travel advice site at www.vietnamwithkids.com.
Story by Teresa Coates
Related readingPhuket for Kids
How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
Great destinations to take kids in Asia
Ten kid-friendly activities in Asia
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma ()
- Cambodia (9)
- Indonesia (4)
- Laos ()
- Malaysia (1)
- Singapore ()
- Thailand (38)
- All stories
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Great Thai food blogs
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- Trekking in Thailand
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (5)
- Accommodation guides (3)
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (17)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (7)
- Cycling Asia (12)
- Health and safety (5)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (4)
- Photo essay ()
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.