Budget-Friendly Trips & Tips: Traveling with Tweens and Teens
Let’s face it – tweens and teens are sometimes the most difficult family members to please on a vacation. Your toddler may eventually quiet down with a nap, but your 10-17 year-old will immediately and repeatedly let you know what he or she thinks.
When they’re unhappy, tweens and teens complain incessantly… making every movement from grabbing a hamburger to hitting tennis balls… an apt occasion to remind you of your dotty decision to book such a loser of a destination or resort. I know. I’ve been there. But now I’m smarter. After years of traveling with tweens and teens, I’ve discovered some ground rules and some budget-friendly getaways for these painfully hard-to-please offspring.
I’ve also come to value these getaways. Over doughnuts in the airport lounge, or dinner at the highway stop, you might just find out why your high-schooler skips history or what it really feels like to come in third in the swim meet.
1. Explore Big Cities
Toronto makes the most of its waterfront. In the summer at Harbourfront Centre you can watch free evening movies, canoe on the pond, rent sailboats and powerboats, and sun yourself on the man-made beach. For the city’s indoor fun, view the impressive collection of dinosaurs and First Nations artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum and get hands-on at the Ontario Science Center. Visit seetorontonow.com/.
Washington, D.C, an exciting city, is also a great budget stretcher. The 17 Smithsonian Museums in town are free. Tours of the Capitol and the White House (reserve ahead) are free too. In the museums you can touch a moon rock, feed a tarantula, or solve a spy crisis. Check out destinationdc.com.
Photo © Candyce H Stapen
Tip: On weekends many city hotels drop their prices.
2. Discover National Parks
The entrance fees for many national parks are modest, but the views are world-class. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, try the 5-mile round-trip hike to Abrams Falls. www.nps.gov.
Photo © Candyce H Stapen
Towering peaks, verdant valleys, glaciers and emerald green lakes reward visitors to Banff National Park in Canada. Paddle a canoe around Lake Louise and take a four-mile hike to the Tea House for panoramic views. banfflakelouise.com.
Photo Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Tip: Many national parks offer moderately priced lodging and camp sites.
3. Time Travel
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is re-created 1770’s capitol where you can practice musket drills with the militia, watch shoemakers craft footwear, or chat with Thomas Jefferson. history.org.
Photo © Alissa Kempler
Explore five recreated 1800s areas in Conner Prairie, IN, outside Indianapolis. Chat with an 1836 innkeeper, fly high in a tethered balloon, or volunteer to help the troops in the recently opened 1863 Civil War area. connerprairie.org.
Tip: Save money by checking for hotel packages that come with breakfast and/or admission passes.
4. Learning Vacations
You and your budding astronaut, age 7-12, can work together at the U.S Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL. On the 3 or 6-day program, spin in a multi-axis trainer to simulate tumbling weightless, bounce in a microgravity chair to simulate walking on the moon, and see if you can successfully execute a space mission. spacecamp.com.
Photo © Randa Bishop
Become a prairie pioneer on a covered wagon trip across Nebraska’s grasslands as you travel in the footsteps of the 1850’s hopefuls headed to California. On the overnight trek, enjoy campfire cook-outs, tall tales, and sleeping under the stars. oregontrailwagontrain.com.
5. Combine a Beach with an Eco-Adventure
Along with miles of shoreline and golf, Kiawah Island Resort offers acres of Low Country landscape—lagoons, marshes and forests of pine, palmetto and live oak trees. Kayak the creeks to see ibis, paddle in the ocean to spot dolphins and go in search of alligator on land. These are just three of the scores of nature outings on the 10,000-acre barrier island off the South Carolina coast, 21 miles from Charleston. kiawahresort.com.
Off Nantucket, a famed whaling port in the 18th and 19th centuries, take a wind-in-your-hair boat outing in search of minke, finback and humpback whales. On land, explore the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, home to the Great Point Lighthouse and snowy egrets, terns and oyster catchers. nantucketchamber.org.
More Travel Tips
Involve tweens & teens in the decision-making.
Ask what they want. Skip the remote beach house far away from pizza and parties—perfect for you and your spouse, but “bo-rring” for them. Save yourself the angst.
Choose places where there are likely to be other tweens or teens.
Tweens and teens need other tweens and teens around even if they are just going to “hang out.”
Make sure activities are scheduled at the “right” time.
Tween and teens like to sleep in, so plan family outings for late mornings or early afternoons to avoid nagging your grumpy tween or teen to get out of bed.
Indulge in a favorite sport.
Build camaraderie by using the vacation to play tennis, golf, horseback riding, skiing or other sports.
Share a goal.
Create a focus for your trip. Try a weekend city safari to troll comedy clubs, trace your family’s roots, or improve driving skills.
Look for packages.
An all-inclusive resort or plan covering activities and food prevents you from having to play “the bad guy” by saying “no” to another waterskiing session at “only $150.”
Opt for as much space as possible.
Teens are great people and terrifying roommates. To give them (and yourself) some privacy, consider condos or junior suites that have a sleep sofa in the sitting area or a second bedroom.
Before you leave home, establish how much money you will contribute toward extras such as souvenir T-shirts and gifts for friends back home. Then, let your teen spend his or her money. Such pre-planning eliminates constant haggling.
Originally posted at Our Mom Spot, July 26, 2011