When your children are really little, going on holiday is hard work physically, but at least you know what makes them tick. Keep the ice cream flowing, car journeys to a minimum and abandon all hope from day one for doing anything that you actually want to do, and chances are that everything will go pretty smoothly.
Holidaying with teenagers is a little more complex.
Being a teenager can be heart-breakingly difficult – you can barely understand your own emotions from one day to the next, let alone anyone else’s. One minute they will be clinging to you, desperate for attention, and the next they will be mad with rage because you dared to suggest that they might like to hang out with you at the beach instead of spend all day in the hotel room on Snapchat.
It’s hard work for sure.
Much like toddlers though, if you plan ahead and cater for their needs, you CAN all have an amazing holiday, I promise. Their needs might be slightly different – they are far less likely to be bothered about whether you cut their sandwiches into squares or triangles for instance – but they should be easy to satisfy with a little pre-holiday preparation.
I started off by asking Belle, 14, about the things that were most important to her in a holiday, and whether there were any things that she absolutely couldn’t do without in her suitcase.
Villa Plus then chipped in to help me to come up with some tips to help you pack teenage essentials and choose a holiday destination that will hopefully minimise tantrums. (Yours AND theirs.) Villa Plus has over 30 years of experience when it comes to holidays, with handpicked villas in some rather gorgeous locations across Europe. Their aim to create your dream holiday – a time together as a family that you will ALL love, no matter what your individual needs. They have friendly, bi-lingual staff in each resort too, so peace of mind for you knowing there is someone experienced on hand should – heave forbid – the worse happen, and the wifi stops working.
Taking all of this research on board then, I’ve come up with my top 7 things to think about when going on holiday with teenagers. (Several of them will make you realise just how much teenagers have in common with toddlers.)
Treat them like teenagers
This might sound a bit obvious, but although they aren’t children any more, they aren’t adults yet either. They very likely WILL be sulky and unpredictable at times, but that’s okay. If I’ve learnt anything over the years it’s that teenagers really don’t like it when you say things like ‘I knew when you were being all silly and grumpy earlier that you’d want to come and play with us really!’
Just cut them a bit of slack, give them some space, but enjoy their company when they do want to join in. Chances are they will relax into things and end up loving their time away with you.
Is there wifi?
Sad but true – this could make or break your holiday. I’m not saying that it’s okay for your teenager to spend the entire day on Instagram, but I think we have to accept that if we want happy teenagers on holiday, they are going to want to spend a little bit of time every day keeping in touch with friends. Check before you go what’s included in your data plan and find out about wifi availability. Some places for example will say they have wifi but then when you get there it’s very expensive or limited to a certain number of devices. Villa Plus has good wifi throughout all its villas, so no concerns there.
Don’t over plan activities
Especially in the mornings. You might want to be up early enjoying the sunshine, but the chances are that your teenager’s idea of a break is NOT to be up at 7am for a tour of some ancient monuments – growing is tiring, so I’m told, so they may well want to spend a lot of their holiday asleep. You love museums, they love sleep – neither of you is wrong, so compromise to make sure you all get to do what you love.
Why not plan smaller excursions for later in the day to give everyone time to wake up and get ready at their own pace? Do some research as a family before you go too, to make sure you have identified some activities that you know you’re all going to enjoy. It’s very tedious to spend an entire morning going ‘What shall we DOOOO today?’ ‘I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?’
Have things to do when you’re not out and about
One of Belle’s favourite things to do when we are on holiday is to not go out. If we’re in a hotel, she wants to stay in the room, or if we are in a caravan or villa or something like that, she likes to just hang out in our accommodation. She loves it.
The couple of times we’ve been on villa holidays in Spain she has loved spending the entire time in the pool or hanging out inside, so make sure you do have a few non-internet related activities to keep everyone amused. Magazines and books are always good – perhaps take a trip to the library or download a few books to your e-reader before you leave? A lot of the Villa Plus villas have pools, and these normally include a good selection of inflatables.
Teenagers are not a fan of sun protection
Belle doesn’t like sun cream as she says it’s too greasy, especially on her face. Sun protection is not something you can afford to compromise on, but if you shop around there are some good non-greasy alternatives. We have some really cool sunscreen from a company called Frezyderm, which has a ‘velvet finish’, which means once it’s on you can’t feel it at all. It doesn’t make you sweaty or sticky at all. Top marks.
Keep plenty of snacks to hand
It’s not just toddlers who are fussy eaters. I’m pretty sure there are actually FEWER things that Belle will eat now than she would as a preschooler. She often struggles to find something she wants to eat in a restaurant and yet seems permanently hungry too. It’s a conundrum. Self-catering is brilliant for this as you can visit a local supermarket and stock up cheaply on food without having to fork out on hotel priced snacks, and it means that you can eat at home when you fancy it. If there is a particular food that’s your teenager’s favourite you could always think about packing some to bring with you to make them feel at home.
If you do fancy cooking at home, look out for a villa that comes with a BBQ and then you can make your own burgers. What teenagers doesn’t like a burger? (Belle actually – she apparently doesn’t like what she calls ‘shaped meat’, although she will happily eat a chicken nugget, so I’m not entirely clear on the definition.)
Also, I’ve been told that when Villa Plus knows children are coming, they leave Haribo in their villas. Score.
Make sure they have some personal space
We travel quite a bit as a family, especially within the UK, and one of the things we struggle with most is getting the balance right in terms of personal space. If we stay in a hotel for example, we always have a family room because Belle doesn’t like being totally separate in her own room, but she also isn’t keen on having to sleep and get changed in one big room. Another big tick in the box for self-catering here, as it gives you the option of being together when you want to, but also the chance for a bit of privacy.
In the mood for a holiday?
If I’ve set you off daydreaming about your dream holiday, (with or without teenagers), then you may be interested to know that Villa Plus has recently launched their 2018 holidays. You can secure your dream holiday now for just a 10% deposit and getting in early means you get the pick of the villas, so get on it! Find out more from Villa Plus here.
What are your top tips for travelling with teenagers?