How to Travel With Your Sullen Teenager (And Keep Them Off the iPhone)
It is not easy to get a teenager to part with her phone. (Photo: Thinkstock)
It inevitably happens to every parent who loves to travel with their kids: those once-docile young children become teenagers, and, when they’re away from home, suddenly become moody, irritable, opinionated, and glum. (Come to think of it, that’s the way most adolescents are at home a lot of the time, too.)
The realization for me—the parent of a teenager who has grown up traveling with her mom—came late last year, when a sunny winter week in Miami was marred by my daughter sulking indoors, attached to her computer, grimacing at the prospect of even a little beach time, a stroll along Lincoln Road, or an afternoon at the Bass Museum.
Since then, I’ve come up with a handful of strategies to keep us both happy, even as adolescent angst has set in. Here are my sanity-saving pointers—all learned the hard way.
Far apart, right next to one another. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Pack the Right Gear: Traveling often includes planes without Internet, television channels that aren’t in English, and train and car rides without cell-phone signals or other kids to hang out with. Just as you’d bring snacks and crayons for a younger child, make sure your teen has plenty of distractions: movies and television shows downloaded into a tablet or computer, books (to plow through summer reading assignments), sturdy headphones, plus age-appropriate munchies (in my daughter’s case, granola bars and small bags of popcorn). And as mature as your 13-year-old may be, candy still goes a long way to make kids of all ages smile.
Keep in Touch: If your teenager’s anything like mine, at home he or she is glued to the cellphone for what seems like 25 hours a day. When we’re traveling, we earmark a time every day—the only time every day—for smartphone or computer use. For us, it’s one hour, strategically chosen to coincide with the time I tend to need a breather from sightseeing, or simply have an energy dip from jet lag (it’s usually mid-afternoon in Europe, late afternoon on beach vacations, early evening on a visit to the Napa Valley). Sometimes we take this break at our hotel, but often—particularly in Europe, where wireless charges can be pricey—we’ll simply pop into a Starbucks or local cafe. Otherwise, her phone is turned off, saving roaming charges and the temptation to spend the day immersed in a group chat instead of absorbing the destination at hand.