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.
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.
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?