It might seem like vacationing with your teenage children would be a lark, a breeze, perhaps even one of those golden moments in time when your joyous week of togetherness manifest into familial bonding heretofore only dreamt of or seen on your fakest friend’s Facebook or Instragram feed.
I mean how hard could it be? You’re passed the diaper years, the toddler tantrums, the preschool meltdowns, and the elementary school “Are we there yet?” mentality. You finally made it to the milestone of traveling with almost adults. Yippee! Right?
Yeah, I’d hold off on that yippee because it’s more like a yip. I have found that nothing causes a teenager (or their parents) to regress in behavior or temperament like being trapped, held hostage, (pick the kidnapping verb of your choice) with their family for days on end.
This is why I feel duty bound to share with other parents this helpful Teen Vacay Truth Guide for what to expect when you travel with your teenagers.
The fundamental truth of teens is that they stink.
Male or female there is some reek going on. You may not notice the extent of this stench in your roomy, well ventilated home. You will notice it after hour six in the sealed metal capsule that is your car. Every parent should enforce a strict “no shoes off ever” rule as it pertains to vehicular travel.
On my family’s last trip to Colorado the inside of our car was engulfed with a noxious fume so potent I felt woozy and nauseous. Even my travel size Gain Febreze spray couldn’t make a dent in eradicating the odor. As I was losing consciousness I wondered if this was the end. Was Interstate 70 in Western Kansas the epicenter for a terrorist chemical warfare attack? I believe my last words before almost passing out were, “May God have mercy on us all.”
It turns out it was chemical warfare all right. My son had placed his tennis shoes right under an a/c vent thus constantly re-circulating the reek of teen boy feet throughout the car. To this day he is not allowed to remove his shoes unless he’s outside and at least 500 yards away from any mammal with active olfactory glands.
You will cry at least one time during your family vacation.
My preferred place to sob with abandon is while taking a shower and using a Hilton Garden Inn washcloth to muffle my weeping. It’s not that I have grown to hate my family or that my family is bad. It’s just that when you’re on day five of sharing a 325 square foot room with hormonally challenged life forms whose emotions are more mercurial than the 450 mile per hour winds blowing on Neptune and who eat Cheetos in the hotel bed, then wipe their day glow, Finding Nemo orange, Cheeto encrusted hands on the sheets and the last clean wash cloth you were saving for your upcoming bathroom boo hoo, well, it’s almost more than most mortals can endure.
Beware of the social or eco “conscious” that will magically appear during your vacation.
There’s nothing that ruins your vacay buzz like a teen deciding this is the time they are going to choose to change their life. I had a friend whose daughter last year, day two into the vacation, declare she was a lacto ovo vegetarian. She shared that she would not be eating meat, fish, and poultry including eggs and anything made with eggs.
Did I mention they were spending 12 hours a day at Disney World? The kid lived on frozen bananas dipped in chocolate from the Storybook treats cart in Fantasy Land. Oh, and of course, as soon as they got to the airport the daughter ditched her new “food life plan” and wanted Burger King.
In the but wait there’s more department, my 15 year-old-niece, while on a beach vacation in Florida, had an epiphany that humans were bad for the ocean and refused to partake in any sand or salt water activities. Sigh.
Do not attempt a tech free vacation.
Listen and listen well my friends. The tech free family vacation is a trap. If anyone shares with you that they had a life changing tech free trip with their teens please note that the only reason they are telling you this is because they hate you. I, because I’m not crazy, have never willingly attempted a tech free sojourn with my teens.
Two years ago, though, my family was trapped in the Sierra Nevada’s with nary a Wi-Fi or 4G signal for miles. And by trapped I don’t mean we were stranded on a mountain summit wrestling bears with our bare hands and contemplating which family member we would eat first if it came to someone making the ultimate sustenance sacrifice. No, we were at a very nice lodge that just happened to be at an elevation that rendered cell phones and other electronics useless. (Sadly, they did not share this little nugget of information in any of their marketing information.)
By hour five without contact from the outside world I feared for my family’s safety. I was going to kill them all, most especially my husband. He was reading aloud to us from a 1998 American Cowboy magazine that he found in the bathroom. I was this close to covering his clothes in bacon grease and suggesting he take a nice, long, solo hike right up to Grizzly Point.
You will think every member of your family age 13 or over suffers from some sort mental illness.
There are so many wonderful things about family togetherness. One of them is discovering new dimensions to each of your loved ones personality. Sadly, some of these discoveries will scare you. Two weeks spent driving around the East coast with my husband highlighted a latent tendency for hoarding. He couldn’t throw any food item away. Two lonely, ragged, cheese nips left in a box must not be tossed in the trash because “someone might get hungry on the road.”
My son frightened all of us with his Rain Man-esque quality for reciting great moments in early American history. He would not or could not shut up about battles, forts or the many moods of George Washington. I was this close to breaking out the Benadryl to take the edge off (I meant for me just in case you were confused).
My daughter completed the trifecta of crazy by insisting that we stop at every cupcake shop on the Eastern seaboard. Her obsession with buttercream still haunts me to this day.
So brave parents of teens stay stalwart in your everlasting dedication to the family summer vacation. You’ve got this. You’re now well-informed and remember it’s all worth it because you’re making memories that will last a lifetime. Okay, cancel that. That is way too much pressure. Let’s just say you’re going to survive it and the whole family will learn that there is no place like home where everyone can go to their rooms and ignore each another.
*Attention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon. It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. I hope you like it! :)