We asked Kate Wickers, author of new travel memoir ‘Shape of a Boy: My Family and Other Adventures’, and mother of three boys, now aged 21, 20 and 16, to share her travel advice and experience. Kate’s mantra is ‘have kids, will travel’.

You’ve been through the hard years of travelling with babies and young kids and now you have teenagers, which makes life easier in so many ways. However, now there are new challenges such as battles over independence and the worry over them striking out in foreign locations alone.

Truth is, family travels are rarely plain sailing, but, with some careful planning, they can be a whole lot of fun, think riding with cowboys in Cuba, cycling in Vietnam, and bathing in Budapest’s hot springs for a start.

Hotel vs holiday rental

While a holiday rental gives you the opportunity to suit yourself, a hotel provides a safe environment for the independence teenagers so often crave.

I think one of the coolest teen clubs around is Sani Beach Resort, Halkidiki, Greece. Here, the boys loved the dedicated Ozone Teen Club, with its hip-hop and DJing sessions, mock-cocktail making classes, X-Box lounge, and time away from grown ups.

Plan your trip together

Don’t just book a holiday, get your teens involved. Suggest that they plan the itinerary for a day or two, then go with the flow. You could get them involved in the budgeting, a fun way for them to learn about financial management.

With the teens involved in booking, I’ve experienced so many enjoyable activities, from visiting graffiti exhibitions and film museums, to going to basketball games and on adrenalin-inducing waterpark slides.

Pack light

Teens always want control over their own luggage but you should insist on dividing a few essential items between bags in case any go astray. My oldest son, then aged 15, learned this lesson after a trip to Kenya when his luggage went to Rwanda. For three days, he had to wear his two younger brothers’ clothes.


Be happy that your teens are on holiday with you and resist the urge to pester about screen time. FOMO (fear of missing out) is what fuels their desire to check in on Instagram and Snapchat and enables them to keep up with friends. A game of cards works wonders to bring everyone back together.

Travel money abroad

For peace of mind while on the move, a top tip is to use Starling’s debit card. It offers a great exchange rate and won’t charge you for using foreign cash machines or making payments.

Also good to know, for you and the kids, is that Starling has a product called Kite, an actual debit card for children 6-15, and for older teens 16-17 there is a specific teen account. Both these cards carry no Starling fees on withdrawing or spending money abroad. Having their own card or account helps make for independence.


Many cities have days when entry to museums is free. Check if places offer combination tickets that will save you money. To cut down on the expense of eating in restaurants, graze on street food or visit food halls and markets. Shopping for beach clothes and flip-flops in local markets, which may be cheaper than buying at home, is a fun cultural experience, and supports the local economy.

Best countries

My pick of four favourite family and budget-friendly destinations:


This vibrant, music-filled island was a big hit with my boys, then aged 18, 17, and 13, and in the coolness stakes, riding with Cuban cowboys in Parque Nacional Vinales still takes some beating. The classic cars in Havana were another huge draw. What teenager wouldn’t want to explore in a tail-fined, yellow 1950s Oldsmobile?

Cuban cowboy


Here, the laid-back Aussie outlook on life, rubbed off on us all. “No worries if yer run into strife, but try not to,” was the advice from the guy at the 4WD hire on K’Gari, the world’s largest sand island.

We spent three days bumping along these sandy lanes, with scenery that inspired us to play the Jurassic Park theme tune on a loop. Then we headed north to the coastal town of Port Douglas, gateway for trips out to The Great Barrier Reef, where we snorkelled among shoals of angel, butterfly, and triggerfish.

K’gari also known as Fraser island


In the Mekong Delta, we boated along narrow tributaries and cycled pot-holed lanes. The up-and-coming beach resort of Mui Ne (location for world class kitesurfing and yes, we all had a go) is just a three-hour train journey from Saigon. Travelling by boat, bike, and train, in this eco-friendly way, felt like a real adventure.


Visiting Budapest in December is magical, with Christmas markets to explore. A tradition since Roman times, we bathed in outdoor hot springs at the Szechenyi Baths, while catching snowflakes on our tongues. Another day we skated on the frozen boating lake in Varosliget Park, providing us with many laughs as we attempted to stay upright on its uneven surface.

How Starling’s debit card can help you travel

  • Pay on card or withdraw cash abroad, with no fees from us
  • We pass Mastercard’s real exchange rate onto you, so you’ll get more for your money
  • Set holiday money aside, with Saving Spaces
  • Lost your card? Lock it with a tap
  • 24/7 support, whatever the time zone

And remember…

Be in the moment with your teenagers. They’ll have flown the nest before you know it. So, take your mental pictures first before reaching for your camera, particularly as teens hate posing for endless family photos anyway!

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