Holidays with teenagers are challenging for parents, so how do you ensure that the family trip of a lifetime is one to remember for all the right reasons? Here are some suggestions.
1. Treat them like an adult
‘I’m not a kid anymore’, they wail (while acting like a six year-old). So send them off on holiday on their own and see how they cope. If they think they’re old enough to smoke/drink/go to the roller disco, they're old enough to go on a volunteering holiday building stone walls in the Lake District. Which is probably not what they had in mind, but that’s the deal. Forget Ibiza, and stop whinging, you brat.
2. Treat them like a teenager
One minute they hate you because no-one else’s parents make them be home by midnight (it’s so unfair) and the next, they want their mum. Don’t expect them to behave like an adult. Don’t expect them to enjoy museums and archaeological sites. Don’t expect them to help you out when you are ineptly failing to book train tickets in French, even though they got an A for it at school. Their teenage years are heart-breakingly difficult enough, so let them mope about the apartment watching Breaking Dawn if they want to.
3. You can’t buy happiness
Despite all your efforts to buy them happiness with dream holidays in the sun, it won’t work. Telling them that you’ve worked hard all year to pay for this holiday just to put a smile on their face won’t make them appreciate your efforts. Family holiday fun? They’d prefer it if you left them alone in their hotel room to listen to Bullet For My Valentine. Yes, of course they could have that done at home, at a great deal less expense, but stop bugging them, ok.
4. Give them space
It may seem to make economic sense to just book one room and add an extra bed for your wee one, but it isn’t. There comes a time when your offspring become cumbersome in confined spaces, like an usurping cuckoo or a gawky, squawking pelican chick that has outgrown the nest but is still functionally useless. Beware growth spurts – a lot can happen between booking in January and going away in July.
5. Food is not necessarily glorious
You may love exotic food, and maybe your teens will want to show off to their mates that they ate scorpions in Bangkok, but many are a little picky in their eating habits. Choose restaurants where friendly foodstuffs like pizza are served under the same roof as the region’s specialities that you’ve been looking forward to since that series with Rick Stein. And don’t assume that a kids’ menu means chicken nuggets and chips – it might just mean a small serving of scorpions.
6. Master the art of travel
Getting to the airport on time, remembering to pack your hair straighteners… going on holiday can be stressful. Master the basics of art of travel before even thinking about throwing teenagers into the mix. Gen up with our advice on 10 ways to ruin your holiday
7. Sangria is the answer?
A purely medicinal pitcher or two of sangria may get you in the holiday mood, despite the best efforts of your moody offspring to make you think you should have put them into kennels for a fortnight. But don’t overdo it. It’s a balance between making it better and making a scene. At least when you’re on holiday there’s no shame in drinking before 11am.
8. Act your age?
The holiday spirit, and probably the aforementioned sangria, may loosen your inhibitions, but it’s a cardinal sin to act like a teenager in front of yours. So stay away from the hotel disco. However, in all probability they’ll be so embarrassed by your attempts to dance that they’ll never want to go on holiday with you again. Result!
9. Look to the future
Console yourself that soon you’ll be able to go on holiday without them. The empty nester’s grief is short-lived: you’ll get over it. Think of the money you’ll save by going outside the school holidays. Read those smug articles that say ‘Tuscany is at its peaceful best in September'. Look forward to blissful weekends wandering around museums in Vienna and being able to stay out ‘til 7am larging it big style in Berlin, without troublesome teens in tow.
10. Have a good time!
Consider the possibility that you might actually have a good time on holiday. Free from the pressures of their peers, it’s possible that your dear teens will actually resemble human beings. You could bond over a whitewater rafting experience, and earn their respect on the dancefloor. It’ll all be back to normal as soon as you get home/sober up, but they’ll thank you for it one day… when they understand what it’s like to be a parent. Until then, happy holidays!