Do you own a pre-teen? Then you already know that they are pack animals. They don’t get dressed in the morning until they’ve all conferred on whether they are wearing side ponytails or using the hair straightener that day.
Separating your pre-teen from the pack for torture by family vacation is not always easy. Don’t be fooled in to thinking that just because you are taking them to Paris or some other fabulous locale that they will go willingly. After all, they might be missing a sleep over in someone’s basement that is SOOO much better than that stupid Eiffel Tower.
Being the proud owner of my very own 13 year old who has announced more than once that I’m “ruining her life with all this travel”. I can give you a few pointers on what’s worked for us to have memorable family vacations that everyone enjoyed. It is possible, and it doesn’t always involve bribery.
1. Include your children in the planning. Get out the momAgenda and make sure you’re not planning a trip over a best friend’s birthday or equally important event. That doesn’t mean you can’t go, it means you need to resort to bribery.
2. Have your children use the computer for something besides iChat. They can research the location and find activities that look interesting to them. It cuts down on your research time and gets them invested in the trip. The highlight for my daughter of our recent trip to London was getting a haircut by the same stylist who does Kate Middleton’s hair. It was a little more expensive than a cut at home, but the happiness (and non-sulkiness) were worth twice the price.
3. Go off the grid. Let them bring electronics for entertainment but not connectivity. There is nothing worse than being at Versailles thinking you are all enjoying the most magical of family moments only to have your pre-teen burst in to tears because her bestie just posted a picture to Facebook of everyone having fun WITHOUT HER.
4. This means mom and dad have to go off the grid too. This is not easy, but it’s worth it. Being a travel writer my entire job on a trip is to record and report it. But I find those days that I don’t tweet, FB or e-mail to be the days where I really hear what my children are saying. They know when we are engaged and when we’re not. I’m guilty of often missing the great moment because I’m too busy putting it up on some social media outlet.
5. Just do it. Don’t take no or a hunger strike for an answer, they will thank you later (or so I’m told).
One of the many reasons I’ve chosen to make family travel my “job” is that I can feel the years flying by. In no time at all I won’t have little ones to force on to torturous vacations where they have to spend time with me. I want to savor every moment, enjoy every minute and not regret that we should have done more when they were little. I have a saying “Family Travel is No Vacation”. I never expect to relax when traveling with my family, but I do expect to build memories that they will take with them for a lifetime. And sometimes, when you get them alone, away from the pack, they become just your little girl again, and that is priceless.
I am a member of the momAgenda Council of Media Moms, I am compensated for posts. I have been a momAgenda devotee since long before I started writing for them and no amount of money or free product could make me love them any more or less. All opinions are my own.