Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Traveling with Teens!

Yes, I know it will be a dozen years before I travel with my own teens, but before we had JD, Hubby and I traveled as chaperones on student tours of Europe.  On our last trip, we took 44 middle schoolers on a three-week bus tour through 6 countries.  

We were one, big, dysfunctional family by the end!
Here is what worked for us:

1. Do your homework and have them do theirs.  Spend time really researching the places you will be visiting.  We steered the kids towards research that they were interested in and then we all shared.  That way they learned about the destinations and about each other.  Teens hear research and think of German History or British Literature , but we let them have fun with it.  (Ex. French Fashion, Dutch Sports, Belgian Chocolate.)  Later, we were able to tap into that knowledge while trying a game of Korfball or touring a chocolate shop.  It can easily be done for international travel, or even for visiting a local city or state.
And while away, keep a journal.  The kids thought this was torture each night, but I'm sure they are happy they did it when they look back!  We also had them bring a glue stick so they could post their ticket stubs, post cards, etc. right in there.

Most of our students had just read The Diary of Ann Frank in school, so a stop at the Ann Frank Huis was a must.
Hubby organizing a game.
2. Let them have some control over the activities.  On our trips, most meals and events were locked down, but whenever we could, we let the kids make choices.  They were more agreeable to the things they had to do if they felt that we listened to what they wanted every once in a while.  

Wading in the water at Normandy. Great idea and an awesome memory!

3. Give them room to explore.  You know your kids and what they can handle, but you may be surprised.  We let the kids (ranging in age from 12-14) go off in groups for a couple hours in almost every city we visited.  (Amsterdam made me a little nervous.)  We laid out clear expectations and everyone knew what to do if they got lost. This allowed them to really interact with the local environment; they were not merely following the group and tuning out the tour guide.  A couple extra tips for this:

  • Everyone should have the business card of the hotel in their pocket.
  • Have someone in the group take a picture (on their phone or digital camera) of the meeting place.  That way it is a reminder, and they can show someone the picture if they forget how to get back.
  • Create a scavenger hunt or have a trivia game later that night based on what you saw.

4. Get out of the big cities!  We stayed in some small-town, family-run hotels and even with a local family for a few days, and it was in those places that we learned the most about different cultures.  Go to a local mall or grocery store.  Take walks.  Visit small parks.  Get out there and see things not in the text books!

This broom hanging outside of a farmhouse in Germany meant that we could throw a blanket down and be served dinner in their front yard.
Hubby is singing, "The hills are alive..."

5. Make it a budget lesson.  Decide on an amount for treats/souvenirs that they can spend how they chose.

6. Give back.  We spent a few hours one afternoon picking up garbage alongside a river.  It was gross, but it taught several lessons.  We had spent a lot of time with our students discussing others' opinions of Americans, and giving back was a way they could make an impact.

*We traveled through People to People Ambassador Program.  It is an excellent organization, and I highly recommend it to students and adults who want to see the world!  As soon as our kids are old enough, we hope to send them.  And as soon as they are out of the house, Hubby and I are going to chaperone again.  Free trips are the best trips!

1 comment:

  1. Some people say that it is difficult to travel with kids, but I don't agree. It is a pleasure to travel with children. They can provide people with unforgettable traveling experience. So, if a child wants to travel with parents they have to allow this.


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