I’ve been globetrotting with my children since they were 6 months old: first international trip to Mexico when the oldest was 6 months old, next trip to India at 18 months, Poland at 3 years, then to France, the UK and back to India at 5 years and many more world adventures since….
Now my children are teenagers, almost ready for college and traveling with them presents completely different joys and challenges. The biggest challenge: getting them off their phones and inspiring them to be interested in the fantastic destination (in my opinion!) we’re headed to.
I’m still trying to figure out my fullproof “Travel with Teens” formula, but here are a few strategies I’ve had success with so far:
#1 Pay attention to THEIR interests. Long gone are the days when my interests drove the agenda and the kids happily tagged along for the ride! Now I need to figure out what THEY like and find a link to our destination:
#2 Food is a big incentive! Most kids like to eat, and ALL kids need to eat. When traveling, food tours are the best - a great way to enjoy food AND learn a lot of cultural tidbits from a local. Frying Pan Food Adventures is a great example in Dubai. Even if you don’t have a food tour experience, just going to a local restaurant can be a great cultural experience. Do your research beforehand on which local restaurants provide an authentic experience and avoid tourist traps. It’s helpful to identify some of the traditional dishes you might like to try before you go.
It's also fun for teens to check out well known international food franchises like Starbucks and Mcdonalds when they travel. Teens will appreciate the brand familiarity, but they might also be exposed to some differences: the menu, the prices, the architecture (the most beautiful Mcdonalds I ever went to was in Budapest – old style European with tall ceilings and chandeliers!). This may not be a “local” experience, but it will have been "localized", and can also be a great way for teens to people-watch and see what their local peers look like and do in another country.
#3 Give them options and let them choose! Teens don’t like having things imposed on them, so it helps to research a few options ahead of time (or best is when teens are inspired to research themselves). Shortlist a few and let them pick their favorites to visit. You might end up on a tour of a country’s most Instagramable Spots (which could be great for you too!)
There are some real gems out there in the world that teens can enjoy, and I am discovering that my teens preferences are uncovering destinations and experiences I would otherwise not have have discovered! I just have to work in a different way to unearth them.
Ambika Anand Prokop is a globetrotting teacher, environmental planner and mom. She loves creating fun, interesting, meaningful and educational opportunities for children to engage with the many fantastic cultures and landscapes of our planet. Ambika has lived and traveled with her family in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.